Don’t use jargon. It is usually nonsensical and a boring way to talk. It is precisely why the British – who generally have excellent word choice – find Americans to be lazy speakers. Think before you speak. You will have better word choice. Less jargon.
Beware of industry speak. Industry veterans fall in the habit of speaking in acronyms that those outside the industry would find baffling. Just a few examples from my previous projects, gives you an idea how disorienting it can be for outsiders.
- REVPAR (revenue per available room): hotel industry
- BTO (build to order): manufacturing
- ALOS (average length of stay): hospital
- SOHO (small office, home office): retail
At the very least, spell out the acronym in your presentations and documents before you start using it. Be respectful of the audience and make it easy to understand.
Sadly, you need to know jargon. It’s a part of the colloquial (albeit, not literary) part of the English language. When you hear it in the office, it’s best that you have a sense of the meaning. Don’t want to be “that guy” who does not get the joke.
If you want to see jargon, take a look at the Office Life, a website that lists 900+ business jargon words and their approximate meaning.
Yes, there is so much consulting jargon that I found 9 just related to animals.
- Dog and pony show: An elaborate presentation (often with little substance) that is meant to impress. (e.g., investor presentations, employee town hall meetings)
- Best-of-breed: The best product within a category; often used to describe a niche application that is somehow better than its larger competitors (e.g., Ariba vs. SAP)
- The dog won’t hunt: A Southern expression that means the plan is no good. Like a hunting dog that cannot hunt. . . . it is no good
- Eat your own dog food: Take your own advice. Consultants could be accused of this, if they don’t do the things they recommend to clients (e.g., expense control).
- Herding cats: Getting strong-willed people to agree on something. This is often the job of consultants to serve as corporate marriage counselors.
- Tiger teams: Corporate-speak for a project team. Rather than calling it simply a team, the phrase gives a ninja-like, paramilitary, or SWAT team feel.
- Get your ducks in a row: Get organized. Preparing everything well, presumably, for inspection by your boss or a customer.
- Sacred cow: Something considered off-limits, sacred or almost taboo within a culture. Clearly an off-color remark for those who are Hindu. Don’t use.
- Elephant in the room: The obvious (and yet unspoken) issue that is being avoided in the conversation. This happens in Corporate America ALL the TIME.