I like jargon.
Let me state that right up front.
When I’m talking journalism or TV production there’s nothing I like more than a bit of:
“It’ll be a 3 + 1 in the studio plus one person down the line from Washington.”
“We’ll need three incoming feeds, reverse vision and 2-way talkback.”
That may well sound like gobbledegook to the general public listening into conversations between a TV producer and director.
But if you know the industry it all makes perfect sense.
And it’s handy, it’s an easy short-hand, everyone knows what they are talking about without the need for a long explanation and without the risk of misunderstandings.
And every industry has its own jargon, acronyms and language, whether you’re a civil engineer working on a major new infrastructure development, a scientist using your expertise to come up with new solutions to the problems of climate change, or a researcher who has written a report into the changes to the education system.
However, there are particular problems if you use that handy short-hand when you are talking to journalists, whether they work in print or broadcasting.
Here are five reasons to avoid jargon in media interviews
1. Those outside of your industry won’t instantly understand you in the same way as your peers, so they’ll be struggling to work out what you mean and missing what you say next (and if its a print journalist they may not want to seem stupid or out of the loop by asking.)
2. If your language is too dense and working out your meaning is too hard, they may just switch off and not bother to even try to understand.
3. It’s alienating.
4. There is a danger of misunderstanding. A phrase or expression that means one thing within your industry may have a totally different meaning to the general public, so they’ll get completely the wrong end of the stick. In one media training session with a civil engineering client, a delegate talked continually about pipeline. He meant the pipeline of upcoming projects, but this could be misconstrued as a pipeline delivering gas or water.
5. Often you use phrases so regularly that their initial meaning becomes lost by the constant repetition.
If you do work in a jargon-rich sector, come up with alternative explanations to the most common jargon before your interview.
Do a sense check on some expressions with someone outside your industry – your son or daughter, your mum, your PR consultant (or your media trainer).
And if there is no way to avoid jargon in an interview, give an immediate explanation.
One of the favourite parts of our media training courses is spotting the jargon and working out alternatives – and we always quote Einstein:
‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well’