Picture this: it’s Tuesday afternoon. You’re sitting in your third meeting of the day—or is it your fourth? Who knows? The coffee has run out, the room is stuffy and hot, and it’s getting hard to focus on anything that isn’t what you’re making for supper. Everyone has given their updates, and a side-discussion is about to begin when somebody says, “Sorry, everyone. This project has a lot of moving parts so we’ve got to be laser focused. I’ve got a hard stop at 2:30. Can we circle back to this at the next meeting?”
And just like that: buzzword bingo.
If you download & print this bingo card, and distribute it to your co-workers, we won’t be mad.
Buzzwords have the power to unite people in a common hatred. For us, they feel like the Emperor’s New Clothes. Nearly everyone has found themselves sitting in a meeting (maybe the same meeting from that first paragraph) thinking, “This person isn’t saying anything. They’re making sounds and pointing at things on the screen, but none of the words seem to mean anything. Why is everybody pretending that these words mean something?”
“Buzzwords have the power to unite people
in a common hatred.”
And that’s why we resent them so much. Maybe they bug you for a different reason, but for us buzzwords are a problem because people are taking perfectly good, serviceable words, assigning them hazy new meaning, applying them to things we should already be doing, and presenting them as revelations. And then charging you for them.
Move the needle.
These annoying new terms are just repackaging existing ideas: Do a deep dive? Be thorough. Move the needle? Make a noticeable difference. Value add? Contribution. Customer centric? Responsible business. Those are solid ideas for any business, and they shouldn’t need to be refreshed with trendy terminology.
And okay, so the words themselves aren’t all that harmful. But some of them sneak into so many conversations that they start to be taken seriously as a point of differentiation. Terms like “micro-moments” and “smart content” do sound compelling, but do they mean anything new? Not really. Are they revolutionary? No. And most importantly, does using popular buzzwords mean that somebody knows how to apply the concepts? Not even a little bit. In marketing and communications, as in royal fashion, there are people who can talk a good line without delivering on anything.
We won’t pretend that our office is a buzzword free zone. But we also won’t pretend we like what the Emperor is wearing.