Why do business people speak like idiots?
It’s not me saying this, it’s Brain Fugere in his excellent book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots. If you think about it, he’s not wrong at all. In companies of all kinds (especially in big corporates) people often use an abstract language. They use acronyms for anything which no one understands. And this happens not only internally, but also when they speak with clients, which is even worse.
For example, a while ago I read an article on the internet where an expert on Artificial Intelligence was asked to explain to a general audience what artificial intelligence is about. Here’s what he said:
“The goal of artificial intelligence is to understand how intelligent behaviour works and how it can be implemented in technological platforms. The key aspects to achieving this are machine learning, knowledge representation and logical reasoning. These aspects can be used alone or together to carry out specific activities, or as part of a system that can interact independently from its surroundings through a cycle of sense - plan - act.”
I’m not sure about you, but I didn't understand anything. Why? Because this expert used an abstract language – which may be fine in his world, in his circle of AI experts – but if the goal is to reach a general audience, that is, people who don’t know about this topic, we have to use a more concrete language. How can we do that?
For example, I could explain artificial intelligence to you by saying this:
Take your sat nav. How does it work today? If whenever you come home from work you always take the same shortcut in order to avoid traffic, without artificial intelligence the sat nav doesn’t understand that that’s the route you prefer rather than the standard route. Adding artificial intelligence means taking an object that is fundamentally stupid (like a sat nav) and making it smart, so that if I take a shortcut once, I take it twice, I take it three times, the fourth time the sat nav understands my preferences and as I approach that path it tells me "Hey Andrea, look at that! Here’s your favourite shortcut and there is also less traffic over there, would you like to go that way"? That’s artificial intelligence.
Do you agree that explaining it this way is much easier to understand? The explanation may not be as precise as the one above, but if the goal is to get to people who don’t know this topic, the only possible language is concrete language.
And it’s not about trivializing certain topics. It's about finding a universal language that everybody understands.
If you'd like to learn more about how to make better presentations, download my report Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Creating Business Presentations.