What If The Gettysburg Address Was Given In Buzz-Speak

lincoln-gettysburg-address-speech-analysisI think the Gettysburg Address is a brilliant speech – no arguments there. In fact, over 200 years later, it still invokes President Lincoln’s passion.

But what if it were given today? I started thinking about his eloquent words and how the speech would sound if corporate buzzwords replaced his words.  So here it is, my buzzword version.

Fourscore and seven years ago our “stakeholders” brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the “value proposition” that all men are created on a “net net basis.”

Now we are “operating in the space” of a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can “add value” while “moving forward.” “The game changer” came we are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. “It is what it is” that we should do this.

But, in a “10,000 foot view”, we cannot dedicate-we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The “big picture” will little note, nor long “mis-remember” what we say here, but it can never “literally” forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be “robust while moving forward” here to the unfinished “new paradigm” work which “pushed the envelope” they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. “At the end of the day” it is rather for us to be here “content” to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take “win-win” to that cause for which they gave “110%” of the last full measure of devotion-that we here “pro-actively” resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall see “the glass as half full” and have a new “out-of-the-box” freedom-and that “intellectual capital” of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Art of Accounting

Your firm’s fee structure should make sense to everyone at the firm. That’s the easy part. Much more difficult is having it make sense to your clients. If you have received feedback that your fees are too high the problem may not be the fees. More likely, your clients cannot see, feel, hear or touch the added value you bring to them. The problem is communication.

I read an article online, Art of Accounting: I Lost a Client to an Accounting Firm with Cheaper Fees, that addresses that very problem. In that case, the firm partner realized that client perceptions didn’t match up with the added value the firm offered all clients. Fees were, he thought, fairly structured. The reality was he and his team were not very good at effectively communicating the value to their clients.

If you have lost clients because they perceive your fees are too high, don’t immediately restructure fees, but do take action.

The ability to communicate your firm’s value in a manner that the client can understand, completely understand, is the key to retaining clients.  If your associates are using too many accounting acronyms and jargon, along with empty words, then they are not communicating (read my blog post about Buzzwords).

Effective communication is about making a connection with another person and building long-term, sustainable relationships.

What Are You Doing?

Conference CallDoes your company schedule conference calls routinely? Maybe every week with remote offices or with staff who travel, or maybe even with large client groups. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a conference call my guess is that you have left that virtual “meeting” on several occasions. Whether you check out mentally or physically, most of us have learned how and when to be a conference call Houdini and make the great escape!

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, What People Are Really Doing When They’re on a Conference Call, shares some interesting statistics that are an indictment of the whole theory that conference calls save money and time while improving communication. From doing other work (65% of employees surveyed admitted to this) to falling asleep (27% admitted to that), it is clear that participation is not critical or even noticed.

Interestingly, where you take the call doesn’t necessarily impact your engagement level, it’s more about the distraction level. Because we are all connected, clients and colleagues expect us to return texts, emails and calls immediately. It’s pretty easy to mute a conference call and go on with your regular work.  Taking a call on the beach or at the pool isn’t nearly as disruptive as a facilitator that lacks the ability to lead a quality meeting or call.

Personal interaction is the key to keeping people on the line – ask participants to be involved in the call discussion, encourage everyone to avoid the mute button, reduce the number of participants so all can be heard. As with in-person meetings, keep conference calls short, share an agenda and have specific outcomes planned.  Using web conferencing tools may help people stay engaged; it’s a bit more difficult to check out when the boss can see you.

After reading the article, review your company’s protocol for the dreaded conference call. A change in process could help you improve communication and productivity.




Eliminate Corporate Buzzwords!

61iCLTBCDUL._SL500_AA300_I have called this meeting so we can “reach out”to our customers to provide them with a “value proposition”based on industry “best practices”. The “bottom line”is that we “have to go the extra mile”to provide and “amazing”“customer experience”so we can have a “win-win”situation. I need everyone to “think outside the box”and go through the “ideation”process so we can “leverage”our position and provide efficient “bandwidth”so “at the end of the day”we can “incentivize”you on a “net net”basis. “Spitball”ideas with anyone on the team “offline.”We all need to be “teed up”on this initiative because our “stakeholders”and the company need to “be singing from the same hymnal.”Let’s do some “back of the envelop”calculations and focus for now on “the low hanging fruit.”It is important that we have our “talking points”aligned and I will “circle back”with each of you to “level set”our strategy so that this does not turn into a “train wreck.”Any questions? Good, lets all go “the extra mile”on this initiative.

Does this sound familiar? Are you scratching your head now as much as you do when you experience this at work? What happened to a simpler way of speak? Here are some buzzwords and what I think of when I hear them:

  1. 10,000 foot view: I don’t know any of the details
  2. Back of the envelope: We are out of legal pads
  3. Benchmarking: My photo is on a bus stop bench
  4. Bio-break: I am in buzzword hell if I can’t even say restroom
  5. Circle back: Circle back mountain
  6. Emotional leakage: Looks like a going concern. I better get a pair of Depends
  7. In the loop: I am going to hang myself if I hear another corporate buzzword
  8. Intellectual capital: The opposite of Congress
  9. Low hanging fruit: Going commando
  10. Space: The final frontier
  11. Stakeholders: For those who like corn-on-the-cob holders
  12. Value proposition: Negotiating with a prostitute

Let’s put the opening paragraph in a simple and understandable format:

I have called this meeting to begin the conversation of how we can improve our customer service. Everyone in this room has thoughts and ideas on this topic, and we want to hear them so we can determine which one(s) we can be implemented. The team with the best idea will win $10,000. Generate as many ideas as possible. We want quantity. We will determine quality afterwards. This is a directive from the board of directors and is a high priority initiative. As part of this process, what little things can we start doing today to help improve our customer service. I will be meeting with each team this next week to gather their ideas and then we all will meet in two weeks with our strategy. I thank you in advance for your hard work in this initiative.

We went from 185 words down to 139 words – a 25% reduction in words plus a 100% improvement in clarity! I’m starting a campaign to eliminate buzzwords at work, and you don’t even have to dump ice water over your head. Are you in?

Write What You Mean

imagesRecently I read Jennifer Elder’s article Has effective writing become extinct? on the Business Learning Institute blog and it made me think about all the times I have not said, or rather written, what I meant. We write in a hurry, we use industry-speak, we confuse our audience.

If you use the written word to communicate with clients, you should consider the Six Simple Rules offered up in the article


1. Decide on your point
2. Analyze your audience
3. Answer all of the questions
4. Use the KISS principle
5. Pick the right tone
6. Write once, check twice

That last one – Write once, check twice – holds the key to effective communication. If what you’ve written fails to make sense to you, it won’t make sense to others.