Why Dumbing Down Your Message Isn't Dumb
Bono, the U2 frontman and uber-ambassador to Africa, once was asked how he manages to hold his own in conversations with economists and heads of state when discussing debt relief and financial plans for Africa. He replied, “If someone can’t explain to me very quickly what this particular theory is, I’m not coming up to the conclusion that I’m stupid and they’re smarter than me. I’m just saying, ‘You’re not very good at explaining, try it again.’” This same philosophy holds true for entrepreneurs.
No one -- and we mean no one -- outside of your business cares about your “optimized processes,” “monetized solutions,” or self-anointed “leading provider” status. Using this sort of jargon, fancy words or contrived language is not the way to move your company forward with people outside your company. And don’t come back at us with the “but everybody talks that way” excuse. That’s a cop-out, and it’s dangerous. If you’re using the same words as everyone else, you’re not differentiating yourself from the competition: You’re just using commodity language to describe your commodity service.
Which brings us to two terms common in the business world that are a big no-no: “dumbing it down” and “high level.” There’s nothing dumb about making complex theory, technology, or business plans clear and simple to understand. And there is nothing spectacular or impressive about speaking a language no one can comprehend.
You need to get to the heart of the matter with a description that anyone and everyone can understand. It actually takes a lot more work and intelligence to pull off. Yet, some senior executives don't always think this way. They tend to say things like, “Oh, I don’t want to dumb it down” or “I want to keep it high level” because it’s easier to use abstractions and jargon than it is to communicate and deliver a core message with conviction and credibility. But by you may isolate the end user -- be it a customer, employee or vendor.The fix is simple is to start with a clear, simple core message so you reach everyone in the audience. Then you can dive into complexity.
The phrase “high level” needs to get out of your vocabulary too. It typically leads to abstract, esoteric, and indecipherable drive. Translate the high-level concept into a meaning simple meaning your audience will understand. Illustrate it with stories and clear, concrete language that describes why your audience will care.
So to get your point across, it is best to focus clarity, concreteness and “low-level” communication.