Meeting Jargon That Makes Your Skin Crawl

What’s a must to make every meeting a success?

They need to be short, clear, and concise. When walking out of the meeting room, every meeting participant should understand the meeting outcome.

Some meeting jargon, like metaphors, is distracting. Because some words are extremely overused, they’ve lost their meaning (and punch). When you use them, meeting participants zoom out, start to think of something else, and don’t pick up on what you have to say.

Plus, jargon is mainly used when the speaker doesn’t know precisely what he or she wants to say. There’s room for own interpretation and these words can keep the meeting from being a tool to meet specific meeting objectives.

Want to skip the jargon once and for all?

Read on to find out what meeting jargon you should avoid using during meetings and what you can say instead.


Ballpark figure

A ballpark figure is a rough approximation and refers to an enclosed baseball field. The problem is that a ballpark can be just about anything – it all depends on how someone interprets the term.

If you ask someone to give you a “ballpark figure,” you’ll end up with a highly unspecific number. Subsequently, you’re not in a good position to make an informed decision.

So, what’s a better way to get a rough estimate?

Ask: “What’s the estimated cost/other objective? What do you base that number on?” Now, some thought has to go into the answer. And you get a number you can use to make a decision.



When someone says “I don’t have the required bandwidth,” that person is essentially saying they have a slow internet connection. A bit weird, no?

Plus, it’s an extremely vague term. When will you have enough bandwidth? Not to mention, what is your bandwidth?

If you have your hands full, a better alternative is: “I can’t prioritize this right now because [give reason]” or “I can’t take on this project/task due to [give reason].” Better yet, tell the other person when you’ll be able to get back to him or her.



“Disruptive” as in “disruptive innovation” is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. If something is disruptive, it means that a business model is established for a whole new segment of customers. Disruptive innovations include industry-changing businesses, like Skype and Uber.

So, it’s misplaced to label something as “disruptive” when it, in fact, is a minor improvement to a solution. If everything is disruptive, is there anything that really is?

Instead of using this meeting jargon, specify how something changes for the better. For example, say: “This is an improvement from A to B” or “This will make us X% more effective.”


Drill down

“Drill down” is used in data analysis and involves the process of drilling into specific data. But when it’s used in a meeting (or another business setting), the term becomes a bit cringeworthy.

What does it mean if you want someone to “drill down on something”? For some, it might mean that they should be extremely precise. For others, it might mean something completely different.

In short, drilling down on something is too vague. You don’t necessarily get the information you’re looking for. Instead, say: “What exactly does this mean?”


Drinking the Kool-Aid

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” derives from the Jonestown tragedy, where over 900 people committed suicide because a preacher told them to do so. Today, it’s used to describe the act of being persuaded to do something stupid because of peer pressure.

Because of its tragic origins and because it’s a vague idiom, talking about “drinking the Kool-Aid” in a business setting isn’t ideal. A much more precise way of getting your message across is to say: “That won’t hold up because of [your reason].”


Circle back

Let’s be honest:

Imagine if you literally circled back to someone. That’s would be pretty ridiculous, right?

Yeah. So it’s not surprising that ‘circle back’ is a highly despised buzzword.

Plus, in meetings, this jargon should be banned. Meetings should be prepared, so there shouldn’t be any need for any circling back.

But if you need to get back to someone (say, because the discussion gets derailed), use something less cringe-worthy, like: “I’ll get back to you after the meeting” or “This is a bit off-topic, so why don’t we set up a new meeting on [date]?”.


Idea shower

A shower of ideas? Sounds a bit… improbable.

Listen, generating ideas during a meeting is important. But, there are tons of ways you can say the same thing without using worn-out meeting jargon.

So, why not use: “Come up with ideas”, “brainstorm”, or “find a solution”? Being direct and clear with what you want is always important in meetings.


Look under the bonnet 

When you “look under the bonnet” or “look under the hood,” you examine less noticeable features or details. For example, you thoroughly examine a business to see what’s going on under the surface.

The thing is, by using this metaphor, you risk coming off as a car salesman. Plus, people might start thinking about cars, which is probably not what you want.

A better way to say the same thing? Try “analyze” or “let’s have a closer look at the details.” If anything, you’ll get a much clearer answer than if you use a car metaphor.


Make it pop

Here’s a question for you:

If you make something pop, what does that mean?

Yes, you make a detail stand out. But specifically, how do you make it pop?

That’s right- your answer depends on what you see as distinctive. So the next time you’re in a meeting where you talk about, say, design that should pop, try to be more precise.

For example, say: “How can we make this stand out?”. That’s much more specific than meeting jargon and you create a discussion that puts everyone on the same page.



At its core, synergy means that together with someone else, you produce a result that’s better than what you could’ve produced individually.

So what’s the problem with this word? It’s the kind of word that’s frequently used because it sounds smart. Meaning, it’s just a fancier way of saying “working well together.”

You can easily change this word to something less glorified and overused. You could simply say: “Combine your areas of expertise.”



The word “meeting” is pretty descriptive, right?

But if you want to use a buzzy alternative, go ahead and ask your co-workers to join you for a “tag-up.” Or a “powwow.”

If you don’t want to make your co-workers cringe, you can alternatively ask them to meet with you. Simple, no?


Take it offline 

In the 90s, there was a chance that you could take things offline.

Today? Not so much.

Sure, you might be physically meeting someone offline. But I’m pretty certain that before and after your meeting, you continue communicating online.

So why not say it as it is? The next time you feel an urge to ask someone to take it offline, you could try: “Let’s meet up” or “let’s set up a meeting.”


Touch base   

Some idioms are weirder than others. Touching base with someone certainly belongs to the former.

It’s probable that the idiom comes from baseball, where players touch bases. Subsequently, when you talk about “touching base” with someone, it might feel much more actionable than to “get in touch.”

But it’s still worn-out jargon. So, what can you say instead? “Checking in” or “let’s discuss” are excellent substitutes if you want to spare your co-workers from some unnecessary gibberish.



As you may know, a walk-through is a demonstration or tour. Once upon a time, the word was a bit catchy. But because every demonstration has become a walk-through, it’s become one of the more jargon-y words out there.

And let’s be honest… You can explain something without it being a walkthrough.

Some better alternatives are “instruct”, “go through something”, “demonstrate”, or “explain.” You know- plain, old words that describe exactly what you want to say.


Conclusion: Ditch meeting jargon for more effective meetings

That’s it- this is the meeting jargon you might want to ditch.

These words, expressions, and metaphors are overused, boring, awkward, and/or unclear. Sure- it’s easy to use them when you don’t quite find the right words.

But think about it this way:

Isn’t it better that you and your team are as specific as possible when you communicate with each other? After all, that’s what it takes to hold effective meetings.

Plus, you’ll end up keeping people focused on what you discuss and in turn, they’ll have an easier time remembering the meeting outcome. Win-win!

Over to you:

What jargon makes your skin crawl?  Let us know in the comments below!

By |June 6th, 2017|Meetings|1 Comment