So, this morning I happened to be standing in front of my local station for a few hours, volunteering. There’s a bit of building work going on in the forecourt, and on the fence right where I was standing I could see this sign:
Please use other TVM’s inside
Now, as I say, I was standing there for quite a while, and it took me over an hour to work out what the acronym TVM stood for.
Have you guessed it? I bet you haven’t …
After thinking about it for quite a while, I’m pretty sure it stands for … Ticket Vending Machine!
In that time, hundreds of passengers entered the station, even in these Covid times, and I am willing to place a very large bet that not one of them understood that acronym. Which is a real shame, because the sign must have clearly been for their information.
And I can see how it happened, because I see it happening in charities all the time. TVM is clearly a term used so frequently by the station staff that when one of them was asked to knock up a quick sign, they must have assumed that it would be understood by anyone else.
We all do this in our daily jobs, don’t we? I remember working in one place, where the Chief Executive used to joke about employees taking the TLA quiz. Neat joke, because TLA itself was an acronym for Three Letter Acronym!
Does your charity work in IAG? Thinking about how you can tie in on CSR? Teaming up with your nearest CVS, are you? And I’m aware of the irony that my most recent blog was entirely about ROI, though I did at least spell it out (Return on Investment)!
But it’s not just acronyms, of course. We all become so used to our organisational jargon that we can forget how it looks to anyone who doesn’t work there every day.
What is your charity’s TVM? What jargon have you gradually forgotten to question? Change it! Make it clearer.
How many of our ‘stakeholders’ would say, “I am not your stakeholder. I might not even call myself your supporter. But you are my charity.” And how many of the people we work with would describe themselves as beneficiaries?
So much of our terminology is meaningless to the people we reach, and the people we serve. We need to remember that.
Think of that commuter in a rush. What words would they understand?
Oh, and what should the sign have said? “Ticket machine closed. Please use other ticket machines inside” would obviously have done the trick.