“We need to dialogue about the strategic imperatives of your business portfolio so we can facilitate the introduction of any change initiatives”.
If this sentence sounds familiar then you are a victim of Consultant Speak. If you understand it, you are probably the perpetrator.
In Australia there is a wonderful game played by staff whose boss likes to talk like a consultant or who wants to show off their knowledge of the latest buzz words. It has various names, the most polite of which is “Wally Word Bingo”.
It works like this; one person writes a collection of Consultant Speak words, like those in the opening sentence, on a grid. Then, as the boss does their presentation, you cross off the words as they arise and if you are the first to achieve a whole line of “Wally Words”, you win.
Clearly the people who are engaged in this pastime are paying little attention to the content of the presentation. They are just keeping themselves amused, albeit cynically making fun of their boss at the same time.
We all have a way of communicating. We all have favourite expressions, words and mannerisms that have become part of our speech patterns and it is not unreasonable to view these as normal. But when these idiosyncrasies become distracting, or are viewed as a means for you to show-off, then it is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Fixing this habit is easy if you have some close colleagues, friends or family members who have been given permission by you to pull you into line when you venture into Consultant Speak.
Next time you use the word “dialoguing” they immediately correct you by saying “Do you mean talking”.
This is not about dumbing down the language you use - simply using plain English to express the ideas you want to convey.
Only the people who really understand a topic can explain it in simple language. Those who are still coming to grips with the subtleties of the content (or who want to show-off themselves or embarrass someone else) need to use complex phrases to express themselves.
If you are trying to help your staff understand why you are making a change, then clear, simple words will always succeed better than detailed jargon.
One small step in the next 24 hours
Before giving your next presentation, get some feedback from a trusted friend or colleague, preferably someone who knows nothing about the topic.
Ask them to comment on the flow, language and key messages in the presentation. Ask them to pay particular attention to any “Wally Words” which they either don’t understand or are not part of your normal way of speaking.
If you are feeling especially brave, invite everyone in your team to suggest some words for your own grid of “Wally Words” so you can have some fun catching each other out when any of you stray into Consultant Speak.