Don’t Be The Acronym Asshole

Every industry has its own set of acronyms, their own set of jargon and words that relate to their field. When talking to your peers regardless of it’s a small group or large group and their education level, I’ve found that it’s best to avoid using “slanguage” as much as possible.

Determine what the lowest education level in the room is and then adjust to that. If you have folks that are younger or newer to the industry always over-explain. I can’t tell you how many times I have left a presentation given by someone on a different team (think research and development or finance) or someone more senior than myself and has felt so incredibly lost throughout the entire presentation that me even being in the room was pointless.

Every presentation, email, or piece of communication is either absorbed and processed or absorbed and confused. If you are going to be digging into deep dives and details be sure to send out an email ahead of time with the information that will allow the audience to be more educated on the subject matter. There are so many times where someone higher up in the company will address a large crowd and use words that everyone doesn’t understand and acronyms out the wazoo and it ends up making the content meaningless for the group at large.

I will never forget one of my first big corporate meetings. I was new to the company (but I had eight years of experience in the advertising agency world, so I wasn’t a total newbie) and I was sitting next to someone else who was much younger. As we walked out of the meeting my head was spinning trying to keep up. About 20 minutes into the meeting I could tell she was embarrassed because she couldn’t follow along and had no idea what anything they were saying meant. After that meeting, I sent a note to the organizer of the meeting and let them know that the material might be too complex for the audience they had assembled but nothing changed. So, each month the company was pulling together about 500 folks and using an hour of their time to spit out words that most of the attendees didn’t even understand. How is that helpful? How is that effective? It’s not.

I’m sure you have heard the saying “write like your talking to a fifth grader” and it couldn’t be truer. The most effective communication is simple and easy to understand. Is it harder to be simple – sometimes, yes – but if your message is important and the people you are talking to need to understand what you are saying than your message better be clear.

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