There was a time when mnemonics and acronyms were helpful. Now they just mostly suck.
Good mnemonic: GROW. (Goal. Reality. Options. Way forward)
Stupid mnemonic: VISIONING (Validate the audience. Isolate the issue. Size up the problem. Identify the solution. Open minded thinking. Nagging doubts. Include the outliers. Nuke the potatoes. God, smite me now.)
Stupid mnemonics have allowed people to become experts by writing books and ‘theories’ around some trademarked process that nobody was going to steal anyways. I don’t think any industry is immune. I can totally see the proceedings at the National Undertakers Association’s annual meeting;
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today we have Mr. Fuji. here to speak with us. He will be revealing his highly anticipated S.T.I.F.F. up-sell method to get people to buy stuff they don’t need during the most vulnerable time in their lives.” (I’m pretty sure I’ll never be hired as a speaker at any of their future meetings.)
What was originally used as a simple method for memory recall, is now a full-on self-help industry. If you can come up with a word that sort of pertains to an issue, you can build a process around it. Trademark the thing and sell it. Hey man, all the power to you if you can pull it off. I don’t begrudge anybody for making money, even if it’s the A.S.S. Method for Winning Arguments. (Assert. Support. Summarize. Sadly this is real. Look it up.)
Where it’s an affront to human decency is when companies allow (or force) their employees to use this crap in their presentations. I swear I’m not making this up. I met a drug rep this summer who’s company employs the letters, B,U,L,G and E to demonstrate the drug’s pharmacology to the doctors. 3 guesses on what the drug was…
When you build an entire presentation around a relatively random word, you’re telling the audience, “I’m too lazy to take the time to create a message that is succinct and memorable so I’m going to need you to do all the work of trying to decipher this thing later. Also, by wrapping this talk around a cute word, you won’t figure out how vacuous the message really is.”
Actually most audiences hate you. You know that groan people make when you do a stupid play on words – yeah, now imagine an hour of it… And they will likely not remember it.
“Hey, you know that lady who came to talk about the F.L.O.W.E.R Method of problem solving? What was that about again?”
“I don’t know. Something about compost…”
Building a message that sticks long after the talking has finished is hard work. It requires hours of brainstorming, culling and message crafting. There are no shortcuts. Building an entire presentation around a mnemonic is one giant shortcut. Now you’re just looking for stuff to throw in so it fits your clever little wordplay. Man, just don’t do it. But if you do get the urge, remember this little ditty: