Jargonese Makes You Sound Pretentious
I was listening to a speaker the other day and just about dozed off in boredom. The topic she was discussing was very important and she was making some valid points. But for some reason she tried to impress everyone by overusing jargon and technical terms. She also latched on to the one technical expert in room and traded terms back and forth with him that no one else present understood. Mind you, the presentation was meant to educate and persuade those present. What a totally missed opportunity.
Recently I read a magazine interview with an analyst who had been asked about his forecast for technology spending by a sprawling medical complex in 2009. His reply: "Expect commoditized processes to be optimized and varying instances to be consolidated and standardized on middleware platforms." Words like "optimized," "commoditized," and "standards" are buzzwords that mean nothing to most listeners, but the use of such language does serve a purpose-to elevate a person in his own mind!
Wikipedia says "buzzwords are typically intended to impress one's audience with the pretense of knowledge."
When individuals hear jargon their eyes glaze over, they don't see how the topic affects them personally and they assume the speaker is a showoff.
Imagine trying to promote server virtualization throughout a company by saying, "Server virtualization is the masking of server resources, including the number and identity of individual physical servers, processors, and operating systems, from server users." That's a technically accurate definition but so full of jargon that it is meaningless to most people.
Now imagine if the IT professional told the CEO, "I'd like to show you how we can save money on our energy bills by consolidating our sprawling server farms into fewer pieces of hardware."
What's the difference? The simple version is easy to understand and clearly answers the question, What's in it for me? (in this case, for the CEO and the company).
Jargon is not just overused when speaking to those outside the profession. Sometimes those in medicine or clinical lab sciences try to show "breadth of knowledge" by pretending to be experts in other areas like business, technology or computer science. They think they are impressing their peers, when they are just boring them.
Your goal as a speaker should always be to help listeners follow your message, not to impress them with your knowledge; and certainly not to leave them more confused.