Public Speaking:
Acronyms and Abbreviations


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You can use acronyms and abbreviations as a form of humor during a public speaking engagement. An acronym is basically a form of abbreviation where the letters of the abbreviation form a new word, i.e., HUD means the Department of (H)ousing and (U)rban (D)evelopment. There are many acronyms and abbreviations that are universally known such as the IRS and the CIA. There are many more that are unique to your audience. All you have to do to make them humorous for use in your public speaking engagement is to change one or more of the words that go with your well-known abbreviation or acronym.

Here are some examples:

  • IQ Idiot Quotient 

  • CPI Consumers Poorhouse Indicator 

  • IRA Individual Rest-in-Peace Account 

  • TQM Totaled Quality Management 

With a little thought, it is very easy to customize acronyms and abbreviations to your audience. Now, here are some examples and explanations from a custom public speaking engagement I did for a hotel franchise:

OCC in the hotel industry means Occupancy Rate. I changed it to Oh! C'mon Clinton because certain taxes were being proposed by President Clinton that would affect their industry. I always try to connect with the audience by mentioning the topics that are foremost on their minds. This gives you the greatest chance of succeeding with an item of humor.

ADR to hoteliers, means Average Daily Rate. This was changed to All Dated Rooms which is something no hotelier wants to hear. This would mean a fortune would have to be spent to upgrade and modernize the rooms.

IOC was the name of the group I was addressing (International Operator's Council). This was changed to I'm Ordering Chinese and I'm Out of Coffee. These phrases aren't particularly funny in themselves. They were coupled, however, with the fact that these people had just completed rigorous and exhausting inspections by the Franchisor. That is what made it funny.

ANA This is one of my generic favorites. ANA represents Al Nippon Airlines. I mention that it is a good thing that this company had an American advisor before they used this acronym because the original version was . . . ANAL (this is revealed on an overhead projector just after a pause following the word was). This gets good laughter. I extend the humor with the line, 'How would you like to see that on a 747 coming at you?' This gets even bigger laughs. For the hotel speaking engagement the acronyms were on an overhead transparency and were displayed using a reveal technique (where individual overhead lines were covered until it was time to reveal the funny version. You don't have to project acronyms to use them in a public speaking engagement. You could also print them in handouts, or just tell them out loud.

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