Can You Talk the Business Talk?
There’s a language of business and it changes depending on the industry
People judge you by the way you talk. In business, the way we speak is often how others determine if we are part of the club or not. There’s a language of business, and it changes depending on the industry we find ourselves in.
Meaningless strings of corporate jargon have produced an untold number of eye-rolls in the business world.
From “authentic consumer-led storytelling” to “brand love” to “needing to dive deeper in order to drill down and move the needle”, business cliches have blessed meetings and emails since men and women first donned suits and sat behind a desk.
Yet, these business expressions offer fascinating insight into how we determine our industry in-groups.
In my own career through marketing, tech, entertainment, and finance, I’ve straddled 4 different business clubs with individual language barriers.
Each industry carries words, phrases, and idioms that replace commonly used words in the English language and are specific to that field.
These industry specific words and phrases are often derived from the history of that business’ evolution and learned over the course of your time in it.
When you walk into a finance meeting do you know the difference between a security and a bond? On set, can you help the gaffer find the crafty station? In marketing, what should your CPM be in order to achieve ROI? On a scrum call, can you open a ticket for that hotfix? Put plainly, the way you speak determines if you are in the industry club or are you out.
Despite your best intent or general level of intelligence, if you cannot speak the industry language, you will be labeled an outsider or worse, incompetent.
Your vocabulary needs will include specific words, knowledge of industry titles, and a litany of extensively used acronyms. By doing your homework, researching the words an industry uses, and applying them in the right context, you will appear competent and worthy of participating in the industry you are in.
When I moved from the talent agency WME to the advertising world, I was barraged with an entirely new vocabulary to master.
Flights, impressions, media mix models, creative, pixels, CPVs, CPEs, ROIs, banners, mastheads, were flung at me faster than a programmatic ad buy. Mastery, as we’ve spoken before, requires interest and hours. Learning the language of your industry is required.
The best way to learn a language is study and repetition. Whether you are in the medical, computer science, entertainment, or any other field — make a plan to learn the language.
Learn how one business language differs from another. Memorize what the acronyms stand for. Become fluent in the business your in.
When I’m learning a new business language, I like to make lists of important words to remember. As you become more fluent with repetition, your glossary will expand and go deeper.
The more you learn the better. Below is a sample to get you started. Feel free to make your own from this Google doc. Give yourself the gift of industry gab.