Back to our professor from yesterday. During his presentation, he was stopped at least three times and asked to explain a word he used. That’s a sure cue that you aren’t speaking their language (undoubtedly, others had additional questions that weren’t asked). Rule #1 is alive and well in our vocabulary.The problem with speaking a language the audience understands is deprogramming. If we study or live in a world non-stop, the language becomes second nature. Trying to spit things out in layman’s terms can be very difficult — we may not have spoken that way ourselves in years. I had this trouble when I was a math teacher — after coming out of intensive graduate study, putting things back in terms of freshmen students was a challenge. But for them to “get it”, it’s a challenge that any speaker who wishes to communicate clearly MUST be up for.A few months ago, I was at a professional presentation where a Ph.D.-turned-consultant addressed this issue. He actually had written in his handouts (I paraphrase, but the meaning is there): “Using jargon for the professional is very important. It lets the audience know that they aren’t on your level. If you use words they understand, they might think they understand what you’re talking about when they don’t, and have a false sense of accomplishment.“So let me get this straight. We should confuse our audience to the point of making sure they don’t understand us, for fear that they might think they understand when they don’t? Let’s just say simply I don’t share his viewpoint. I can’t ever condone delivering a message where the audience’s understanding is not as clear as possible. (Possible exceptions might include an explanation of solving Fermat’s Last Theorem). If we can’t deliver a message our audience can grasp, I have to question if we should be speaking.
Use simple and clear words to make the message simple and clear. Use only words your audience understands.