Red Gerard, a mellow teenager from Silverthorne, Colorado was our last hope for a medal in the men’s snowboard slopestyle. We held our breath as Red stared downhill before his third and final run. He was dead last in the standings.
After nailing an awesome run, Red won the first U.S. gold medal at the winter Olympics. It was thrilling. But the announcer’s commentary was foreign to us. As Red was set to drop in, we heard phrases like, he looked kinda “video-gamesque,” or, he did a “tail slide to a 270 out,” then “tapped his nose,” and "unleashed a triple cork 1440...” We had to watch Red’s run multiple times to figure out what they were talking about.
In many firms, we hear presentations where the language is no less opaque. Whether you’re a specialist in a sport or profession, consider your audience. Don’t dumb it down, because your explanation will still be vague and imprecise. Instead, use concrete, descriptive language. And when you do use jargon, make sure anyone outside your field can track with you by providing a snapshot or brief definition of your term. Audiences love to be on the inside, but require you as their guide to feel engaged and up to speed. Grab some crippler air.