In every industry, there are words used that only members of that industry truly understand. This is the everyday lingo exchanged between employees to describe ideas, products or procedures. These words are often referred to as “buzzwords.” While some of these words are industry-specific, others are used across all types of businesses.
A survey conducted by The Creative Group identified that one of the most frequently-used buzzwords (or, in this case, buzzphrase) is “outside the box.” “The big idea” and “synergy” were other terms found on the overused buzzword list, says Kimberly Walker, Chicago division director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service providing marketing, advertising, creative and Web professionals on a project basis.
It is important for professionals to be cognizant of their use of buzzwords. If used in moderation, buzzwords can be an effective way to send a meaningful message to co-workers, colleagues or those in the same industry, says Walker.
Smart Business spoke with Walker about the effects of overusing buzzwords and how to deliver your message effectively.
What are some risks of using buzzwords?
Buzzwords and industry jargon are a form of shorthand used by people within a particular company or profession. While they can make communication more efficient, they also can be confusing, annoying or seem exclusionary to individuals outside that organization or field.
Buzzwords are called buzzwords because they are so prevalent. But when words become overused, they lose their impact and meaning. People may often try to display their industry expertise by using buzzwords. When done incorrectly or at an inappropriate time, people can react negatively to buzzwords, especially if they’re used haphazardly or appear to lack substance.
What are the potential consequences of overusing buzzwords?
They can be ambiguous, and as a result, the recipients of the message may lose interest. It is important to take stock of your audience before using buzzwords or industry jargon. Even though the terms may be clear to you, other people must understand them if you hope to communicate your point effectively.
Regardless of industry, communication is extremely important in the workplace. Speaking clearly and using concrete terms may be more effective in helping you persuade and motivate colleagues or clients. This ensures that your audience comprehends the message as it was intended.
How can people communicate more effectively?
First, do your homework and make sure you understand the topic you are discussing. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to convey confidence and credibility. You’ll also be in a stronger position to defend your ideas should questions arise.
Second, take some time to organize your thoughts. Tailor your message to the knowledge level of the audience. Use straightforward terms, and avoid buzzwords or acronyms unless they’re understood by everyone.
Lastly, get to the point. The goal is to capture your audience’s attention immediately so they will continue listening to your message.
Keep in mind that good communicators are passionate about what they’re saying. Test your communication ability by listening to questions and feedback after delivering the message. You should be able to tell if the message was understood.
How can buzzwords help enhance a message or be used effectively?
Buzzwords create emphasis by appealing to a group of people who are familiar with the word’s meaning. They can provide a sense of community and help co-workers or members of a specific industry feel like they are part of a select group.
Buzzwords may also mystify those who don’t know their meaning, which can create a sense of intrigue. However, this can easily backfire into frustration if the word is used too frequently or never fully explained in context.
If delivered in the right context, buzzwords may help showcase a person’s industry expertise. But it’s better to use industry jargon for this purpose rather than a trendy buzzword.
How do you introduce new employees to the buzzwords used in the office?
Buzzwords and industry jargon can actually help new employees become more acclimated to their new company. Once they feel comfortable enough to start using them, buzzwords can help new employees feel like part of the group and more in the know.
Most new employees will pick up on buzzwords just by listening to them. Some companies may have company jargon and acronyms listed on their company intranet or in a handbook. Usually, however, buzzwords change too frequently to be listed.
KIMBERLY WALKER is the division director of The Creative Group in Chicago. A division of Robert Half International, The Creative Group has offices in major markets throughout the U.S. and Canada, and offers online job search services at www.creativegroup.com. Reach Walker at (312) 616-8200 or email@example.com.