It’s that time again. For the next month or so, football fans across Europe will be glued to their television sets as they follow their national team’s progress through the Euro Championships taking place in France.
Along with the ebbs and flows and highs and lows that come with watching your home team slug it out in a knock out tournament comes the inevitable time spent listening to the musings of commentators and studio pundits.
It’s hard to feel sympathy for some of the household name footballers who are paid handsomely to camp out for the month on studio sofas, but increasingly they have found themselves under the spotlight. Increasingly, they are criticised for presenting below par performances that are cliché ridden and delivered with a lack of enthusiasm.
While some ex footballers have slipped easily into the role of TV expert – from the jocular jousting of Saint n Greavsy to the suave competence of Gary Lineker and blokey enthusiasm of the likes of Ian Wright and Stan Collymore – many pundits find themselves stumbling around off pitch in a way they never did while on it.
Thierry Henry has been described as dull, Michael Owen and Alan Shearer as monotonous and Phil Neville received almost 450 complaints following his emotionless commentary for England’s World Cup match against Italy in 2014, prompting him to admit it was, “a lot harder than I thought it was going to be”.
It is no longer good enough to just turn up and trade off whatever name pundits made for themselves as players. They have a captive audience of millions that have no choice but to listen to what they have to say as they wait for their team to journey from the dressing room.
Pundits need to make it their job to engage the audience and deliver a deeper level of insight than just repeating a blow by blow analysis of what the armchair pundits have been discussing amongst themselves for the past 45 minutes. And yes it’s a cliché, but they really need to avoid these too…
There are parallels to be drawn between football punditry and presenting for business. Both are populated with language that makes little real sense. I have observed far too many business presentations where the speaker has referred to a ‘strategic staircase’ or talks of ‘dialling up talent’ or ‘socialising an idea’… What does dialling up talent actually mean? Who actually says loop back? How do you actually socialise an idea? And as for ‘going forward’, ‘pre-prepare’ and ‘pro-active’ – well, as opposed to what exactly …?
Likewise, the Euro Championships will be a ‘game of two halves’. Admittedly it is quite hard to come up with anything that hasn’t been said before but those under the ‘glare of the spotlight’ would be well-advised to ‘pre-prepare’ some pithy responses to the predictable pundit questions they will be faced with ‘at the final whistle’ so that at least they won’t begin each answer with ‘well, for me Clive’!
The solution of course is to use language that is accessible to your audience and they might actually understand what you’re talking about. You may well have a captive audience but, as you should know from your playing days, the crowd needs to be entertained or it will soon be singing its discontent.
Luan de Burgh
Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.