He coined the phrase “Acronyms Seriously Suck,” or ASS.
According to his autobiography by Ashlee Vance (which is a seriously good read, by the way), he lambasts anyone who uses acronyms in presentations and insists on them being written out in long form.
I like Elon.
Sure, he has his faults, but he’s done more to save the planet than any Green Party has done, because he comes up with actual, innovative solutions to some of the planet’s gravest problems, rather than just whining about them.
So, I took the gist of what Elon did at SpaceX and put my own twist on it:
Avoiding Acronyms: You’re confusing your audience and they’re scared to ask
Acronyms are the worst form of consultant speak. It’s the confusing, technocratic language that alienates anyone who isn’t an SME (sorry, subject matter expert).
In the movie Jerry Maguire, high-flying sports agent Tom Cruise charms Renee Zellweger with his grovelling apology, and she then replies, “you had me at hello”.
Fast forward from cheesy 90s movies to today’s business world, and presenters are losing their audience at hello.
Or rather, at the moment they unleash their first confusing acronym without adding a clear explanation of what it stands for.
Nobody likes speaking up in meetings or presentations to ask what something means, for fear of looking stupid. Especially if the person presenting is a more senior member of staff.
So, my little rant for the day is this:
Let’s stop talking like morons just because we’re trying to show off how much we know about a certain topic, and let’s start avoiding acronyms.
Speak in plain English
Oh, and speak it at a speed which is comprehensible to non-native speakers.
Trust me, you’ll reach a lot more people with your message.
Don’t be like the former VP of Product Supply in one of my former companies who spoke his northern English dialect at normal speed to a room full of perplexed French, Germans and Italians who were sat there scratching their heads thinking “what is this dude talking about?”
Know your audience and adapt your language to make sure they’re with you on the journey.
It’s not hard.
Avoid acronyms. Speak clearly and lucidly.
It just takes a bit of thought and emotional intelligence.
Rant over. Thanks for reading to the end!