The Language of Business by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Director, Ovation Global DMC
Hilton has recently launched a really interesting app connected with its Garden Inn product. Called Bizwords it’s a combination game / educational resource pivoting around the acronyms and buzz words which, increasingly, punctuate our daily business discourse. Naturally Hilton slips a little self promotion into the app as well as tools to facilitate contact with its brand.
The app features all the typical words and phrases that we use in our business lives – low hanging fruit, quick kills, ball park figures etc. There’s also a facility to load up phrases or acronyms that aren’t already on the list. Hilton keeps it all clean by monitoring these for “good taste” and you accumulate extra points for any new definitions you upload. It’s a fun app and I like it very much.
I mention all of this in the context of a reflection around the language of business and how, like so many industries, the Meetings and Events Industry is so often guilty of talking exclusively to itself and creating its own parallel universe. And, of course, the tendency to create parallel worlds is not a mere by product of 21st century business realities. The Greek philosopher Plato identified this as a core human instinct over 2500 years ago in his famous allegory of the Cave.
So, as an industry, are we reaching out into the mainstream business world, narrating our success stories in a language that is communicative, compelling and, above all, comprehensible? Or are we simply talking to ourselves, introspective and narcissistic? I believe we are quite isolated as an industry.
At the heart of our isolation is an inherent inability to express our value proposition in language that speaks convincingly to the business world. We tend to define our value by what we do rather than by the outcomes we achieve. Thus, when asked “what do you do?” we tend to reply “I’m a conference organiser” or “I manage a venue”. What would the impact be, if, for example, we were to say “I help companies or associations communicate effectively with their audiences in a live setting” or “I provide a unique historical context for firms to stage motivational events”.
While this may be akin to the ridiculously pompous description of beans on toast as a “cascade of pulses in a tomato coulis arranged on a cruton” such descriptions are certain to evoke further questions and create the foundation for meaningful dialogue. And this is really where it all starts.
All language, including the language of business, is about establishing dialogue. It’s a two way process involving, variously, speakers and listeners. It’s most effective when the speaker speaks clearly and the listener listens attentively. To be successful in business we have to be both. We must communicate our message in such terms as to stimulate attentive listening in our customers and then, once they have engaged in the communication process, we must listen attentively to what they tell us.
So let there be less talk about RevPar and Yield Management. Let’s abandon acronyms such as MICE and FIT. Let there be no further mention of seamless execution and wow experiences. Instead let’s ask great questions that challenge our customers to articulate what success looks like for them. Let’s listen attentively and provide our response in the powerful, impactful language of business.