Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Spouting Nonsense - No one has ever done a survey that says the number one fear is public speaking

In an article on August 3, 2017 titled Speech: The Most Dangerous Class Your Student Must Take on the Rock Your Speech Class web site for the Bridges School homeschool collaborative Kim Krajci claimed that:

“No one has ever done a survey that says the number one fear is public speaking. That myth has hung around for a long time.”

That statement is false, so Kim is awarded a pink Spoutly.

Back in April 1973 R. H. Bruskin Associates did such a survey of U.S. adults that was discussed in the London Sunday Times on October 7, 1973 and in the December 1973 issue of Spectra magazine (from the National Communication Association). I blogged about it in the most popular post on this blog back on October 27, 2009 which was titled The 14 Worst Human Fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: where did this data really come from? Two decades later there was another survey by their successor firm, which I discussed on May 19, 2011 in another blog post titled America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring Survey.

In yet another post on July 30, 2012 titled Is fear of public speaking the greatest fear in the entire galaxy? I linked to my discussions of fifteen surveys, only five of which had public speaking as the number one fear. A blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2016 discussed how the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears ranked public speaking as only number 33 of 79 fears.

The most useful information we can give students instead is about what U.S. adolescents fear. On June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears?

Kim’s About web page says she has a BA in Communications and  is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), so I would have expected her to have done a better job of researching fears.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Is a contract signing away your independence valid?

Not in Victoria, Australia. My Google Alert on public speaking turned up a curious article from SmartCompany titled Public speaking promoter ordered to refund business customer $4000 in first unfair contracts case in Victoria. A clause in that contract had rather outrageously said that the seminar provider, Success Resources,:

“may change the Speakers, the Hours, the Dates and/or the Location of the Seminar Services for any reason by notifying you in writing of the change and detailing substitute Speakers, Seminar Hours, Dates and/or Location”.

The 1908 Puck cartoon 1908 came from the Library of Congress.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Get Happy - Danish Style

I have been reading The Little Book of Hygge (Danish Secrets to Happy Living) by Meik Wiking. The Danish word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) translates as a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Joy is found in simple pleasures. It literally is a little book, 226 pages long, and just 7-1/4” high by 5-3/8” wide. 

On page 96 Mr. Wiking says:

“The one thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog, which translates roughly as ‘a nook.’ It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea. Mine is by the kitchen window.”

On pages 30 and 31 he states a ten-point Hygge Manifesto:

Turn down the lights.

Be here now. Turn off the phones.

Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.

It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.

Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.

No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.

Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…?”

This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.

Starting on page 156 he describes a hygge safari through Copenhagen. One stop is for smørrebrød (open sandwiches), usually served with beer and schnapps.

You can watch a 17-minute TedX INSEAD  Singapore talk by Malene Rydahl on Planting Seeds of Happiness the Danish Way. Meek Wiking has a 19-1/2 minute TedX Copenhagen talk on The Dark Side of Happiness.

The 1910 image shows physicist Niels Bohr and his fiancé.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What ten factors contribute to a good first impression?

The answers from a recent study of 1000 business people done by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in England are shown above. (Click on the chart for a larger, clearer view). They came from page 7 of their 20-page RADA in Business report titled All the Workplace is a Stage: How to Communicate with Clarity and Impact.

The top five factors were What You Say (46.3%), How You Speak and Sound (34.7%), How You Act (33.9%), What You Are Wearing (30.6%), and Your Confidence (29.3%).

What You Say (words) came first, in stark contrast with the often quoted Mehrabian Myth (shown above) that your words carry only 7% of your meaning. I blogged about it back in July 2009. (So take your speechwriting very seriously). Then came two nonverbal factors - How You Speak and Sound and How You Act. What You Are Wearing was fourth, although proponents of dressing for success would insist it instead is primary. Your Confidence only was fifth, so advocates of power posing should sit down and fold their arms.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spotting fake news and finding reliable information for speeches

The August 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine contains a four-page article by Teresa R. Faust, library director at the College of Central Florida, starting on page 22 titled Fake News is in the News. Keep it Out of Your Speeches (Learn how to find reliable information online).

It’s a useful article, but there’s more that can be said both about fake news and finding reliable information. You can find links to more web pages about fake news in an American Library Association article from February 23, 2017 titled News: Fake News: A Library Resource Round-Up.

Fake News About Fear of Public Speaking

Teresa didn’t give any specific examples of fake news about public speaking. I know of two sets of web pages with fake statistics about fear of public speaking which should be avoided. Unfortunately both of them are on web sites with excellent search engine optimization (SEO) skills. When you try to find a startling statistic for opening your speech, a Google search for public speaking fear statistics will likely deliver them on the first page of results.

The first of these is two pages from 2012 at the Statistic Brain web site for Fear of Public Speaking Statistics and Fear/Phobia Statistics. Both claim to list percentages from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). But Statistic Brain is just a statistical medicine show, and that’s NOT where those numbers came from! The phony claim that 74% fear public speaking is much higher than the 21.2% found in the NIMH-supported National Comorbidity Survey - Replication, which I blogged about way back in June 2009. 

The second one is a Magnetic Speaking blog post from December 13, 2016 by Peter Khoury titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics. I blogged about it on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. Back on March 28, 2011 I had blogged about how 24%, or Almost 1 in 4 Swedes fears public speaking. But when Peter looked at that article he didn’t report that obvious statistic. Instead he said that for Sweden a total of 15.6% have social phobia, and he multiplies by 0.894 to get that 13.5% of Swedes fear public speaking. (His multiplier came from an article on epidemiology of social phobia which had studied people around Florence, Italy). His ‘calculation’ just is silly.

Finding Reliable Information Online for Your Speeches

Teresa’s article also discusses finding information. Curiously she didn’t refer to the previous two-page article in the June 2014 Toastmaster magazine by Margaret Montet titled Don’t Rely on the Web (visit a library for sophisticated research tools). On February 24, 2015 I replied to that article with a long blog post titled How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries).

In it I described a more powerful strategy for learning how to use your public library - look at the web site for your state university library, whose databases also will include those at your public library. Every term that university will get another batch of students enrolled in their introductory public speaking or communications course. They likely already have developed a web page with a specific guide for that course, or a more general one on communication. (I gave an example for every state). 

The image of fake news came from a March 18, 1897 Puck magazine cover at the Library of Congress.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A last-ditch, last-minute source for Table Topics questions - inspirational quotations and posters generated by a web robot

Suppose the club member who was going to handle the Table Topics (impromptu speaking) portion of your Toastmasters club meeting had to cancel at the last minute. Perhaps she had a sick or injured child to attend. Where can you almost instantly get a half-dozen questions to use?

Just go to the InspiroBot web site, point to the Generate button and click. Do that 20 or 30 times. Then look through the batch of inspirational posters, download the best half-dozen as jpg files, and load them into a PowerPoint presentation. You’re done preparing! Now just ask each participant to explain a quote.  

20 quotations InspiroBot generated for me are:

1]   “How would the world look if lawyers would just be the solution and not the problem?”

2]   “Maybe opportunities are opportunities because you’re losing it?”

3]   “Make everybody feel freakishly significant.”

4]   “You cannot have ice without a feeling.”

5}   “An erotic thought is never alone.”

6]   “Viruses have the potential to generate ambiguity.”

7]   “Loneliness is not to begin, but to imagine the unexaminable.”

8]   “Understand that you are creative. Understand that you are impressive. Understand that you are special.”

9]   “They can make you get rich, but they cannot make you build a pyramid.”

10] “How would the world look if each individual would begin to confront hypocrisy?”

11] “Royals become royals because of the money.”

12] “Everyone you know will secretly become the grand delusion.”

13] “Dancing without opportunity is like civil war without a home.”

14] Home Office is just another word for Fallout Shelter.”

15] “What seems smart to a lady, seems unsmart to an actor.”

16] “What if secret messages can be sorrows if we just think outside the box?”

17] “Drug your secrets.”

18] “The world is real.”

19] “Get lucky. Drink milk.”

20] “What is so insane about encouraging an honest person to be a burglar?”

 Four examples of posters from #5, #8, #17, and #19 are shown above. #8 employs the Rule of Three, and looks particularly impressive. If you swap the word order for #20,  recaption, and crop (as shown below), you get what might be a teen-age romance follow-up to those silly Got Milk? ads from a couple decades ago.

I saw InspiroBot mentioned in a LinkedIn Pulse article by Lou Bilancia on July 16, 2017 titled Al - Barba Tenus Sapientes - It’s “A” artificial, but I find nothing “I.” He’d posted it in one of the Failure Analysis groups that I read. You can find the quote Lou used for his title discussed in an August 26, 2016 article at Mental Floss by Paul Anthony Jones titled 20 Latin Phrases You Should Be Using. 

Update July 28, 2017
If you’re in a huge hurry, you could just write down those quotations.

But if you put the poster images into PowerPoint, you also could cheat by adding text boxes with bogus but plausible sounding sources like the following four (or even ask if those sources were real):

21] Talk loud in public and be human - Theodore Roosevelt?

22] With incredible lusts come incredible questions - Spiderman?

23] Drugs are designed to improve your life - Hunter S. Thompson?

24] If you are the dumbest person in the building, try finding another building - Jim Carrey?


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Answering questions about geographical names - the joy of impromptu speaking (Table Topics)

Toastmasters club meetings have a section where people learn to answer questions by giving one to two minute impromptu speeches. It’s called Table Topics. The July 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine has an article on answering titled 10 Tips for Terrific Table Topics by Brian Cox on page 21. But the other half is making up the questions and leading the discussion, which is called being the Table Topics Master. That was my role for the July 21st meeting of the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club in Boise. 

I introduced my topic this way:

Let’s talk about geographical names - those for rivers, towns, roads, and businesses named the same as a road. Are they awesome, mediocre, or awful?

Fry Street is an awesome road name, since we love our potatoes. There are two sections. South Fry runs north from Victory Road, which also is awesome. North Fry runs north from Fairview Avenue, which just is mediocre. 

Poison Creek Road is an awful name. Imagine a realtor trying to sell a lot or house there. It’s south of Marsing, and runs west from US-95. (There also is a web page for the Poison Creek Picnic Site. I never ever want to see the word poison anywhere near the word picnic). 

Then I asked the questions, with replies summarized in parentheses, followed by my comments.

Here in Boise, 8050 West Ustick Road is the address for the Ustick Inn Rooming House Hotel. Its name suggests what happens there. Is that name awesome or awful, or both? (The new business owner hadn’t made up his mind on what to call it until he was filling out the registration paperwork. He put in all three names that were being considered). When I first saw that building, the sign just said Ustick Inn. But in Table Topics you get to make up your own story that can be even better than the truth.   

In Eagle there is a Floating Feather Road. Tell us the history behind that name. (It involved one bird. Everything has to get a name. The Bedouin have 200 names for camels, since they don’t have much else to do at night other than sit around looking at their animals).  Did someone just run over one chicken, or was there a farm that processed chickens every day.

Banks, Idaho  has a population of just 17. How many banks are there in Banks? (Seventeen, since each resident has a piggy bank at home. Or, maybe more since there also are children who weren’t counted). Banks is located on the Payette River where the North and South forks meet. Another answer would be two, since the river has a bank on each side.

South of Boise off Cole Road there is Lake Hazel Road. I drove all the way west till it ended, and never saw a lake. Tell us about what ever happened to Lake Hazel. (It must have evaporated. I never saw it either). Librarians at the Lake Hazel branch of the Ada County Library told me that Lake Hazel once just was a medium-sized pond.

Sea Breeze Way runs south from Lake Hazel Road into the Charter Pointe subdivision. What do you think of those two names? (Maybe the houses look like they’re from an ocean side. But the area probably smells more like a dairy farm. Let me tell you about how Chicken Dinner Road got named. It was full of ruts and potholes, but the people who lived at the end had complained in vain to local officials. So, they invited them all out for a chicken dinner, which meant they had to drive all the way down there. Then the road got fixed and renamed.) 

Silver City is a ghost town in Owyhee County. What do you think of those names? (Silver City describes mining. Owyhee sounds like someone was trying to say Hawaii). Three Hawaiians vanished while exploring Owyhee County during the winter of 1819 - 1820.

Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas. Why was it named that? (Who knows how people come up with some of these silly names. Maybe they weren’t thinking straight).

I finished up that section of the meeting with the following story.

Auburn means red-brown and typically refers to hair. There are towns in 26 states named Auburn. But the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Washington originally had a much worse name. It was called Slaughter, in memory of  Lt. William Slaughter, who died in a skirmish fighting Native Americans from the Muckleshoot tribe in 1855.

In 1893, a large group of settlers from Auburn, New York, moved in and renamed the town. When Auburn was building its second high school in the mid-1990s, there was a grass-roots effort to go back and name the new one Slaughter High School

Eventually they decided the name instead would be the Auburn Riverside High School. Maybe there was a campaign with bumper stickers saying Slaughter High School only should be the name for a slasher movie.

I had discussed Auburn in an earlier blog post about Table Topics back on May 6, 2010 titled What stories are you carrying in your pocket?