A number of Internet sites have emerged in recent months around the concept of “Buzzword Bingo.” They feature printable cards on which the squares are occupied not by numbers, but by overused pieces of business “jargon” and corporate-speak. It’s already been the focus of TV commercials.
Kind of fun-but it made me start to think about buzzwords, especially since they seem so prevalent in the realm of B2B marketing and sales. Why do we use them so often? And when, exactly, do they lose effectiveness and become candidates for audience eye-rolls and Buzzword Bingo.
First of all, buzzwords do have value. They can communicate quickly to get everyone on the same page (oops, sorry—there’s one now). No need to stop and explain every reference in sentences and paragraphs when a buzzword can accomplish the same thing.
It might take lots of words to fully explain what a “SWOT analysis” or “core competency” is. And I’ll wager that, although no reading this has ever actually attended a real “dog and pony show,” we all somehow get the drift.
I think buzzwords get a bad reputation for several reasons. One is insincerity. In some cases, the word seems pompous or judgmental, or the motives behind it mildly suspect. Such words can be:
Needless formal or flowery. “Conceptualize” doesn’t add anything but extra letters to “think of.” And “multi-tasking” is usually presented as a heroic feat; but I’ll take the added focus of “uni-tasking” every time-especially while driving.
Psuedo-heroic, like all those terms borrowed from sports. Obviously supposed to make business seem like more fun, and to help executives pretend they are comparable to athletic heroes. So what’s Dave’s “game plan?” Did you “touch base” with John? Is Larry going to “champion” the project? I don’t know, but I hope they’re all “team players.”
Diversionary. Trust me, “rightsizing” and “outplacement assistance” are fooling no one.
Other buzzwords have simply been left in service long past their expiration dates. Will someone please, please, please put “lean and mean” out of its misery, and tell “cutting edge” that it’s over. And in my opinion, people who still use the phrase “think outside the box” today are instantly labeling themselves as unable to do so.
Lastly, buzzwords suffer when a writer or speaker just uses too many of them in rapid succession. If buzzwords are supposed to streamline knowledge that most people already have, then a speech that simply hops from one to another like lily pads must have little substance in between.
So choose buzzwords carefully, and use them sparingly. I hope this information reaches you Just in Time.