As leader, we will always struggle to lead the room, if we cannot learn to speak the language of the room. 

In 2013 my wife & I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary by travelling to Europe to run the Marathon de Paris (yes there are many other great reasons to go to Paris, but this was one of our greatest personal accomplishments). 

The six months leading into the race were gruelling. Day after day we were out on the road running and preparing. Our legs were tired, we were exhausted, but we knew we needed to do the work if we were going to finish (and finish we did). 

When we landed in Paris for the race we realised something while trying to navigate public transport from the airport to the hotel. 

In the midst of all our physical preparation and training for the marathon, we hadn’t put any work or effort in to learn the language.

We couldn’t connect. 

For the first time we were in a foreign country and speaking to people who couldn’t understand what we were saying. We just wanted to know where to go, but of course, everybody wanted to tell us in French. 

I learned a very funny but valuable lesson. If you want to connect, you need to learn the language. 

The same is true in our workplace, in our teams and in every presentation. We cannot lead or connect with our people if we haven’t taken time to learn the language of our people. 

I’m not just referring to the ability to speak a foreign language, but rather the ability to speak the language that connects and resonates with those we lead. 

When you have the opportunity to speak, you should practice and be well prepared…but

All the practice and preparation in the world is meaningless, if you can’t connect your content with the people in the room.

In my Lead the Room program, I discuss different groups of people who you will be speaking to at any given time. The people we speak to will determine the type of language we use.


1. Content Unaware

This group has no frame of reference for the content you are delivering so the language we use needs to be simple and cover broad concepts. 

e.g – IT Specialist, speaking at an ‘Introduction to Computing’ course. 

2.  Content Aware

This group has limited understanding of the content and may have some first hand experience so the language we use will be simple, but it can be more refined on a topic.

e.g IT Specialist, speaking at an all staff meeting to launch new helpdesk system.

3. Content Experienced

This group have a broad understanding of the content coupled with a greater level of first hand experience so the language we use can be more complex and refined. 

e.g IT Specialist, speaking at an IT team offsite meeting

4. Content Experts

The final group are those who have both extensive knowledge and experience in the content being discussed. Because of this, the language we use can be highly complex and the content can go to a greater depth. 

e.g IT Specialist, speaking at an IT leaders conference on cloud based platforms. 

Next time you speak, take a moment to reflect on who will be in the room. Where would they sit in this model? Then reflect on the type of language being used in your presentation. 

You can only speak to the level of your crowds understanding. 

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