Jenny couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get any interest in her work.
She was at yet another conference, talking to Ashanti, a writer for the local paper, as well as a well-known podcaster.
Now was Jenny’s chance to get a story about her important research published!
“So, what do you do?” asked Ashanti.
“I study Didymosphenia geminate, an invasive rivernine species that impairs the recreational and ecological values of waterways,”* said Jenny.
She waited for Ashanti to ask for more info, maybe ask for her card, but instead, all she got was a glazed stare and a distracted nod.
Before she knew it, Ashanti had excused herself to refill her drink, and Jenny was standing alone again.
Jenny may have been alone at the conference, but she’s not alone in struggling to communicate her message in a way that helps audiences connect to the ideas.
Part of Jenny’s problem, which may be an issue for you as well, is that she suffers from the curse of expertise.
The more familiar you become with a subject, the harder it is to remember what it’s like to encounter the subject for the first time.
Words and phrases like “Didymosphenia geminate,” “invasive rivernine species,” and “recreational and ecological values” and “waterways” are day-to-day terms for a scientist like Jenny.
But to most folks? It just sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook.
No wonder Ashanti slipped off to the bar!
In fact, even if Ashanti had been a fellow scientist, if her expertise was in a different scientific field she might not immediately understand Jenny’s statement.
Thankfully, Jenny figured out she needed a more accessible research summary statement.
She knew it was important:
✳️ to describe her work in a way that is vivid and clear
✳️ to distill the central message to help nonscientific audiences to connect to the ideas.
She also used her statement as an opportunity to exchange some of her “expert’s power and status” for a shared interaction of humor with the audience.
Her revised statement?
“I study rock snot, a kind of alga that forms brown, oozing masses that look like a sewage spill. These get so big that they block rivers and kill fish.”*
The next time Jenny met a journalist, you can bet there were no glazed eyes and excuses to head back to the bar!
In fact, now that Jenny is no longer “Jargon Jenny,” she’s been able to get media attention on her research!
Jenny’s journey is a great example of what I call Concision — one of the five key ingredients you need to master in order to be a winning presenter.
Whether you’re trying to pitch a product, or sell an idea, until you ditch the jargon, and learn to distill your message to its essential points — in language that’s accessible to your audience — you’ll be in danger of losing your audience’s attention.
Concision is one of the skills I teach in my Winning Presenter Process™, using my F.U.N. Method™.
If you’re ready to uplevel your client presentations (or help your team communicate for influence and impact, even if they’re not delivering client presentations), let’s set up a 15-minute clarity call to discuss if and how I can help.
Click here to reach me via my contact form and my assistant will help schedule a time for us to have a chat, so I can learn more about you/your team.
Let’s help rid the world of Jargon Jennys!
*Hat tip to Applied Improvisation, edited by Theresa Robbins Dudeck and Caitlin McClure, for this quote, originally from the Alda Center for Communicating Science.
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