When jargon in your presentation is really a problem

Sometimes you use a jargon word during your presentation that overshadows all other words. It’s a word that renders your entire presentation meaningless. And that’s something you really have to avoid.

Blahblahblah jargon

Imagine you’re attending a presentation and the speaker fires one jargon word after another at you. Usually that’s not really a problem: you attempt to deduce the meaning of the entire phrase by examining the context and other words in the sentence. That allows you to follow the presentation without having to understand each complex term.

For example, when a researcher talks about a “stochastic approximation algorithm,” your brain simply replaces that jumble of words with “algorithm,” allowing you to understand the sentence and seamlessly continue to follow the presentation.

But sometimes things go wrong.

Beware of that one jargon word that dominates everything

At times, you may use a word that is crucial for your audience to comprehend, in order to follow the rest of your presentation. This word may be a part of your everyday vocabulary, making it easy for you to overlook the fact that others may not be familiar with it. Those terms may be so ingrained in your vocabulary that it would almost feel patronizing to explain them to your audience.

However, it is imperative that you take the time to explain it.

Two examples

Our first example focuses on ways to reflect on the design of a hospital’s oncology department.

The researcher says:

“We should consider applying a biophilic design approach to the oncology department, given the successful application of a biophilic design approach in other environments such as offices and other healthcare disciplines.”

After which the researcher proceeds to use the term ‘biophilic design approach’ throughout his entire presentation, without providing a single explanation of it.

And that creates a significant issue. This is not just about one jargon word. This is one word to rule them all. By not being familiar with the term “biophilic design approach,” you won’t understand any part of the presentation.

Our second example comes from the field of teacher training

The researcher says:

“Team teaching is a model that introduces trainee teachers to different teaching competencies.”

After which the researcher continues to discuss the benefits of team teaching, without delving deeper into what exactly it is.

Again: if your audience is unfamiliar with the concept of team teaching, there is a risk of losing their attention completely. I may venture a guess that team teaching involves teaching each other, but it could just as well refer to preparing a lesson together, which would be an altogether different approach.

You often miss seeing it yourself

Determine if you possibly use words that render all other words useless. Like the following examples:

  • ‘3D-PC’ and ‘3D-CP’ (example from a researcher who was convinced I knew the difference between the two).
  • A ‘cornerstone species’
  • ‘Game-based learning’

Don’t allow a single jargon word to compromise the clarity and coherence of your entire presentation. Take the time to explain it. No matter how mundane the explanation may appear to you.

The explanation doesn’t have to be long.

  • Say: ‘we look at how nature builds things and try to mimic that, we call that a biophilic design approach’
  • Say: ‘team teaching is a technique where we have students prepare a lesson together,..’
  • Say ‘3D printed cement’ instead of ‘3D PC’

By not explaining that one jargon word that your entire presentation is hinged on, you could lose up to 80% of your audience. All that effort you put into your presentation, all your pre-work, …. all for nothing. Because of one silly word making all the others useless.

So explain. That way everyone is on board and your audience has no problem following the rest of your presentation.

Translation: Leslie Van Ael