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Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

Be clear and consistent

It can be very helpful to use acronyms and abbreviations on PowerPoint slides during a presentation.  This helps save time and space.  The key is to be clear as to what they represent, and then be consistent in using them.  A manager I train recently asked me to give feedback on a presentation he was giving to two new senior managers he would be directly reporting to. The presentation was about his department’s performance over the first half of this year.  After introductions, he settled in to his stride and I was really pleased to see that he had taken on board a lot of what we’d been working on in training. The presentation was well structured, pace and delivery were good, and he even felt confident enough to throw in a couple of jokes. One problem; it wasn’t until a good few minutes in to the presentation that I and his audience realized what some of the topics were that he was referring to. The problem? Abbreviations and acronyms.
Contact us nowBeing Clear with Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

Acronyms and abbreviations are fine, as long as everybody is familiar with them. You’d be amazed at the amount of slides, documents and presentations I see where the use of acronyms and abbreviations confuses the reader about what is being presented. Believing that your audience will automatically understand because they come from the same business area or field of expertise as you is an easy trap to fall into.

Introducing Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

When using acronyms or abbreviations in presentations, the first time you introduce them make sure to give the full word, name or title followed by the acronym or abbreviation in brackets.

For example: Structured Query Language (SQL). Using only the acronym or abbreviation after this shouldn’t then cause any problems.

Commonly Used Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

AOB – any other business
asst. – assistant
B2B – business to business
CEO – Chief Executive Officer
CFO – Chief Financial Officer
dept. – department
mtg. – meeting
P & L – Profit and Loss
QTD – quarter to date
ROI – return on investment
YTD – year to date

So, being clear from the beginning with your acronyms and abbreviations in presentations can save you time and space on your slides.  All the while not confusing your audience, which is the most important thing. Want to improve your presentations overall?  Click here.


2 replies
  1. Victoria Dale
    Victoria Dale says:

    Eve you are absolutely right about the necessity of clarifying acronyms at the start of a presentation – and this is true for all business documentation. The number one rule for me is that you should never assume your audience will know what the acronyms and abbreviations you use represent. The other problem I have noticed, is that sometimes these letters stand for more than one thing, depending on the department you work in or project you are involved in. This could cause a lot of confusion!

  2. Jennie Wright
    Jennie Wright says:

    Some great points Eve and I completely agree with you. I keep seeing new and strange acronyms and abbreviations in business presentations – some I’m sure they have made up themselves!

    Another useful tip is to find out if the acronyms and abbreviations you use in your department are used worldwide. You can simply submit yours into a search engine online and see what comes up. If there are a lot of choices, then use the tip above from Eve.

    Also, when speaking in your presentation, don’t speak in acronyms. Say the full term a few times and then move to use the acronym when you are sure it is clear for your audience. This avoids any confusion and helps distracted audience members.

    So ttfn!

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