It’s no secret to our Terri Ammerman Group clients that we highly discourage the use of jargon in interviews, news briefings, and presentations. Confusing jargon words, phrases, and acronyms used within a company or industry, are rarely understood by the general public. So, if you use them, you will likely lose your audience and fail to communicate your messages effectively.

Occasionally, however, the use of jargon may be necessary to explain a situation. If that’s the case, you must clearly explain what the jargon means and why it’s relevant.

After recent power failures at water purification facilities, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner used the acronym PSI at a news briefing to explain why the city issued a boil water notice to its residents. We understand why he used the acronym because it was central to his key message. However, Turner failed to define PSI or explain its relevance to the boil water notice, as you will see in the clip below.

Turner’s statement probably left his audience with more questions than answers. He should have explained that PSI stands for “Pounds per Inch” of water pressure and that a certain level of PSI is necessary to remove undesired chemical compounds and other contaminants from drinking water. Had he done so, Turner’s audience, millions of Houston residents, would have been more likely to assimilate his explanation for the boil water notice.

The lesson here is to avoid using jargon whenever possible. But if some jargon is necessary, define it immediately and explain its relevance to your overall message. This will ensure your message will get through to an audience that really needs to hear it.