Book Reveiw: Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

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Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky

“If your heart is set on informing and not impressing people, you’ll avoid the Obscurity Trap – jargon and evasive language – without trying. If you have a message in your heard that you really care about, you won’t get caught in the Anonymity Trap and settle for some dull, overpolished presentation in the usual anonymous template. If you really have something valuable to say, you’ll avoid the Hard-Sell Trap and let your audience draw its own conclusion. And if you care enough about your audience to want to entertain instead of just getting it over with, your stories will keep you out of the Tedium Trap.

(excerpt from Why Business People Speak Like Idiots)

Of all the books I have listened to and/or read, Why Business People Speak like Idiots espouses a philosophy that just rings true in today’s climate. I suggest listening to this book as it is read with such enthusiasm that you just cannot help but smile and realize that the message is truly relevant. Even though many of us will admit that the truths set forth in this book make sense, it is still difficult to overcome our habits. For this reason, I suggest that you listen to or read this book at least once ever 4-6 months to reinvigorate your enthusiasm.  The quote at the top of this page is a great summary of the book.

Like Rework, which I reviewed earlier, the authors of Why Business People Speak like Idiots have a great understanding of the what goes on in business meetings and client encounters. The book describes four “traps”:

  • The Obscurity Trap, with chapter titles such as “The Smartest People Use the Dumbest Words” and “It Depends on What the Meaning of “Is” Is”.

The authors describe how our use of language, particularly jargon and acronyms, serves to confuse our message and make it more obscure. The only ones impressed by the fancy words and gobbledygook are the originators of the words.

  • The Anonymity Trap, with chapter titles such as “You’ve Been Templatized” and “Pick Up The Damn Phone”.

In this trap, the authors encourage readers not to follow standard presentation formats, template, and what I like to call “proven approaches”. How many times have you sat through PowerPoint presentations that follow a standard (and boring) template? And how about those weekly status meetings with a fixed agenda to “discuss” top priorities? And let’s not forget the approved corporate collateral that assures that everyone gets the same message, regardless of what they want to know. As the authors state, you need to stand out: quit using templates for your presentations; use graphics that mean something; and show some excitement for what you are doing.

  • The Hard-Sell Trap,with chapter titles such as “The Non-Sell Sell” and “Kick the Happy-Messenger Habit”.

The chapters in this section merit close attention. Too many persons believe that you have to “sell” a customer, that is convince them they need your product. I am a proponent that business is developed by understanding your customers requirements and building a solution to specifically address their needs. We often associate the hard-sell with auto sales and appliance store, but it exists at all levels.  Nothing turns off a customer more than the hard-sell.  I will write more on this topic later, but recommend reading this section of the book at least twice.

  • The Tedium Trap,with chapter title such as “Make Your Point by Making Theirs” and “The Substance of Style”.

How do you make yourself interesting, keep the audience engaged, and make your message relevant? That is the topic of this section of the book. To me, this is the icing on the cake. It brings a lot of concepts together and describes how to stand out and be interesting.

What I Took Away From This Book

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots strikes at the heart of much of the corporate world, even more so for those of us who deal with the Federal Government Here are a few of the takeaways from this book:

  1. Develop your own style. You don’t need to be a clone of the corporate élite.
  2. Throw away the templates and standard processes. There is no repeatable formula that guarantees success. Treat each situation uniquely – see my blogs on personality.
  3. Do not succumb to the “sales pitch”. This includes memorized elevator speeches and other canned messages. If you cannot spend a little time learning about your audience, especially in this age of the internet, then you do not deserve their business.
  4. Get a sense of humor. Humor sells, seriousness repels.
  5. It’s about THEM, not ME. Use the language of the audience, even if it conflicts with your “corporate message”. Do not introduce clever concepts unless they fit what your audience wants to hear. If your message does not resonate, their snoring will.

I hope you will read this book (or have read it). Please post your comments below to let me know what you think.


Posted on October 27, 2011, in Attention to Detail, Balance, Banned Expressions, Book Review, Communications, General Topics, Strategic Planning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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