Sunday, August 30, 2009

Was Churchill just joking when he said he imagined the audience was naked?

In my previous post on this topic I quoted from page 17 in Chapter 2 (Fear is Your Friend) of James C. Humes’s 1991 book The Sir Winston Method that:

“By the way, Churchill, as a psychological antidote, used to look out at his audience and imagine that they were all naked.”

Mr. Humes continued by saying that:

“Actually Churchill worked out a more practical formula to master fear.”

You can read his book for details of the rest of his Churchill-based advice in the following three paragraphs, titled Mask Your Mannerisms, Don’t Make Excuses, and Master Your Material.

So, Mr. Humes clearly didn’t think much of just imagining the audience naked. (Neither did Denise Graveline in a post on her The Eloquent Woman blog on this August 26).

But, was Churchill being serious when he said that? Perhaps he was only joking. It certainly is possible that people have been passing on as serious advice what originally was intended as a joke. Maybe that’s why Winston is barely smiling in the picture shown above.

In a very long blog post on The Mysterious Dread of Public Speaking Mark Dillof claims that:

“Dale Carnegie recommends, in one of his primers of public speaking, that the fearful speaker imagine that each and every person in his or her audience are sitting there stark naked.”

He doesn’t say which one though. I looked, but couldn’t find it by a Google Book Search either in The Art of Public Speaking or The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. However, in the 2007 book Get 'Em Laughing: Public Speaking Humor, Quotes and Illustrations by E. Gene Davis, on page 70 he said of his wife that:

“…She told me it was an old trick learned many years ago in a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking course. She was told to imagine that her audience was naked.”

So, perhaps the same advice was promulgated by someone in the Dale Carnegie organization.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fonts and personalities

On his Presentation Zen blog last Friday, Garr Reynolds posted In Defense of Helvetica. He described that familiar sans serif font (circa 1957) as neutral and helpful, like white rice (or presumably to us Westerners, cracked wheat bread).

There is a wide variety of sans serif fonts out there. They do not have serifs - those little “feet” which may not reproduce well when projected. Each font is slightly different, and has a somewhat distinct personality. Artists and designers notice these details more than the rest of us.

Two of the most common fonts are Helvetica and Arial. Arial has been called a knockoff of Helvetica and a scourge. Gill Sans, Tahoma, and Impact are three others. Examples of them all are shown above.

The first photo editing program I used on my PC was MS Picture It 2001, which used Comic Sans as the default font for making captions. Comic sans is bolder than most other fonts. As the name suggests it is highly inappropriate for serious purposes like layoff notices or funeral announcements. The Bold version of Comic Sans almost shouts.

Impact is another very bold font. Several years ago I read a column by sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer describing how Your Presentation May Lack Power and a Point. He advised using 44 point Impact (with shadow). I tried it, but it left me cold. Impact is already so bold that Impact Bold is almost illegible. It has almost no space left between the lines that form a letter.

Over on YouTube there are a couple of CollegeHumor videos showing both a Font Conference and a Font Fight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Joy of research: Answers may not come from where or who you might expect

When you are searching for information there is a tendency to get into a rut. It is easy just to rely on a web search engine like Google (or the latest incarnation of Microsoft MSN search). However, the answer may not come from the most obvious place.

In a table I wrote four years ago I identified nine different web search strategies. One was “Ask a Guru” – find someone who should know the answer, and ask them. Sometimes though it’s not obvious who will turn out to know about a topic.

About 35 years ago I was in graduate school doing research on the arcane topic of how steel is embrittled by hydrogen. Among other things, I was trying to learn how to electroplate steel specimens with a thin coating of bright cadmium. The recipe in 20 year-old magazine article I was reading was missing an important detail. All it said was that they had added an unspecified “organic brightener.” I asked my dad, who had been a professor of chemical engineering, but he didn’t know.

The next day I was talking with my mom. I mentioned being puzzled about the brightener in the recipe. She just laughed, and then answered my question about this bit of chemical sorcery. It turned out that back during World War II she had a summer job in the San Diego plant of Ryan Aeronautical, where they built thousands of training planes for the Army Air Corps. She had taken a college chemistry course, so one of her duties was to periodically check the chemical concentrations in the plating tanks.

Her duties also included adding a couple jars of Postum (a coffee substitute) to their fifty-gallon bright cadmium plating tank once a week. I bought a jar of Postum at a supermarket, and found that her memory of the amount they had added agreed with the recipe in the magazine. So, I added it to my tank, and found that it worked very well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill imagined that his audience was naked

Back on July 29 Scott Berkun, who is writing a book called Confessions of a Public Speaker, asked for research help on his blog. He wanted to know who first suggested that speakers imagine that their audience was naked.

He said that he had looked in Ron Hoff’s 1992 book I Can See You Naked: a fearless guide to making great presentations, but that although Mr. Hoff debunked that advice he did not offer a source for it. Scott asked: “If anyone can dig up a reference, or even a source older than Hoff, definitely let me know.”

That same day I answered Scott’s exact question via a comment on his blog post. Using a Google book search I pointed out that Dorothy Sarnoff, in her book Speech Can Change Your Life, 1970, said on page 199 that: “Winston Churchill overcame his early fear of audiences by imagining that each of them was sitting there naked.”

I also referred him to two other more recent books which turned up via Google:

Dorothy Leeds, PowerSpeak, 2003, page 33, “Winston Churchill liked to imagine that each member of the audience was naked.”

G. Michael Campbell, Bulletproof Presentations, 2008, page 109: “Winston Churchill is said to have controlled his nervousness before a speech by imagining his audience naked.”
-->The next day I posted on this blog. In the next few weeks I did not hear back from Scott. Then, on August 18 Lisa Braithwaite posted on her Speak Schmeak blog that Scott had emailed her and asked her (and her readers) for further help. She quoted Scott’s email as saying that one reader of her blog (me) had dug up some mentions of Churchill, but they're from books with no references. Note that the question now has been changed to ask for more. She did not answer his question, and had no replies to her post so far.

I found it mildly hilarious that Scott didn’t ask me if I could get any further on the topic. However, I posted another comment on his blog and pointed out that I did not find the naked audience topic in either of two books: Churchill By Himself (the definitive collection of quotations) edited by Richard Langworth and The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill edited by James C. Humes. I suggested that Scott should ask the Churchill mavens (particularly Humes).

James C. Humes has made a career from his books on the topics of public speaking and Churchill. I have a copy of his book Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln (2002).

Dorothy Leeds book, PowerSpeak does not have footnotes or a list of references. It does have a bibliography though, which includes two other books by James C. Humes, Speaker's Treasury of Anecdotes About the Famous (1985), and Podium Humor (1975). Churchill certainly is famous, and would be expected to show up in a book of anecdotes.

The Boise Public Library did not have that anecdotes book, but the Nampa library over in the next county did. Neither local library had Podium Humor. I requested the anecdotes book, but when I got the 1978 version was dismayed to find it did not mention naked audiences. However, I got several other Humes books from the Boise Public Library.

Page 17 of James C. Humes’s 1991 public speaking book, The Sir Winston Method (subtitled the five secrets of speaking the language of leadership states that:

“By the way, Churchill, as a psychological antidote, used to look at his audience and imagine they all were naked.“

He doesn’t provide a reference or footnote, but probably can be trusted since he also wrote a biography called Churchill: Speaker of the Century (1980). So, I am pretty sure that Winston Churchill gets the blame fame for imagining the audience naked.

When did he come up with this antidote? He was elected to the House of Commons in 1900, and obviously would have been speaking there. Then he became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911. So, it could easily be over a century old!

What can we learn from this search? First, it matters what search strategy or strategies you use. Second, the answer may not come from the most obvious place. Third, it may not come from the most obvious person. Lisa is better known than I am, but neither she nor her readers delivered in this particular case. Fourth, it’s not all out there on the Web – at some point you will need to step away from the keyboard and actually look in books at a library.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ignite Boise 2: Speeches from July 16, 2009

The videos from Ignite Boise 2 (held at the Egyptian Theater on July 16, 2009) are up on a YouTube Channel. They are an interesting collection of 16 public speeches on topics ranging from the small to the large (both literally and figuratively).

The Ignite format calls for a five-minute presentation with exactly 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. Wyatt Werner explains it in this video. In a previous post I likened Ignite to being drafted into a PowerPoint Marines Marching Band. The fixed time per slide is a serious constraint that these presenters were able to overcome, sometimes brilliantly. They manage to make it look easy, but it is really difficult.

Here are the titles and speakers (click to link to a video):

Why Geoscience Should Be One of Boise’s Targeted Industries - Tim Merrick

Don’t look now, but I think you might be a feminist - Adrean Casper

The Owls are Not What They Seem - Brian Bothwell

How being intentional alters ones reading experience- Amanda Patchin

The Last Covenant and the First Car to the Moon - Mike Boss

It’s the Message, Stupid! - John Foster

The Juice of the Barley - Wyatt Werner

Studio Style: artist’s togs and tasks - Jeremiah Robert Wierenga

The Secret Life of Everybody - Stephanie Worrell

If You Stick an Entrepreneur’s Head in an MRI What Would We See? - Norris Krueger

Why we all don’t live on the Beach? - Rich Taylor

Cosmic, Mechanistic, and Organic Cities - Martin Johncox

Barter Boise! - Kimmie Metez

Be Danger Ready - Jesse Murphy

How an evil band called the Eagles almost destroyed rock and roll - Jamie Cooper

Turkish Coffee - Brian Cohen

Links for most of the videos from Ignite Boise 1 are on this page. The missing one is by David Gapen of the Resueum on Wonders Inside of Useless Things. The Reuseum also did a rubber band dragster competition during the intermission at Ignite Boise 2.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A shrill tone

Your tone is a big part of nonverbal communication. It can seriously interfere with your message being accepted by an audience. You may unintentionally sound shrill, whiny, condescending, or dismissive.

Tone may be a problem for people who serve others: teachers, librarians, social workers, nurses, and claims adjusters. When you are overworked, it’s hard to remember to soften your tone when you are not “on duty.”

Sara Marks discussed the importance of tone recently in blog posts on June 26 and July 15. (She is the Instruction Services Librarian at the Fitchburg State College Library). Becoming aware of your tone will lead to changing it, as she mentioned earlier in a post on Sara’s way or the highway.

The classic movie example of shrill tone is the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz: “I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” There is a very dismissive teacher in the Pink Floyd video nightmare Another Brick in the Wall.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A homeopathic remedy for fear of public speaking?

Recently I ran across information about a homeopathic product called SocialFear Relief™ from NativeRemedies that says it temporarily: “alleviates nerves associated with fear of public speaking.”

I read the information on their web site and looked elsewhere for more details. Eventually I decided it’s just not for me.

The product is a tablet with three ingredients: Gelsemium, Graphites, and Chocolatum. Gelsemium is dried root from yellow jessamine, graphites is carbon (like pencil lead), and chocolatum is made from cocoa. A bottle with 125 tablets sells for $37.95, plus $5.99 for shipping.

All three ingredients are present at the same homeopathic concentration (30C). Look up homeopathy on Wikipedia. You will find out that a concentration of 30C means that the material was diluted in a ratio of 1:100, and that process was repeated thirty times for a final concentration of ten to the minus 60th power. There likely is none of the original material present. It’s the mystical version of mixology. What you really are buying just a shadow or a memory of those ingredients. A newspaper article by Ben Goldacre discusses this. A BBC Horizon video also discusses it, as does another video by the Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain.

The directions for SocialFear Relief say to: “Dissolve 2 tablets in a clean mouth every 20 minutes or until symptoms subside. Tablets may also be crushed and dissolved in water to sip repeatedly as needed.”

The cautions say: “Avoid strong mint-flavored candy, as this may reduce the effectiveness of the remedy. If symptoms persist or worsen, a health care professional should be consulted. Keep this and all medicines from the reach of children.” But, what are the tablets?

At the very bottom of the page, under the heading of “How long will a bottle last?” they finally say that the tablets themselves are just lactose. Why wasn’t that in the cautions? Lactose is milk sugar, and I don’t tolerate it well at all. There are uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance such as gas, cramping, bloating and diarrhea. So, my breakfast cereal gets topped with Lactaid® treated milk.

I think I’ll see if I can find some Unicorn Drops to try instead. By the way, where do they get those unicorns? Are the drops perhaps made from their droppings?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Inspiration, bathrooms, and entrepreneurs

“The best ideas often come at inconvenient times. Don't ever close your mind to them.” Brad Feld

That quote is on a wall plaque just outside of the Brad Feld men’s room on the second floor of the ATLAS building in the University of Colorado at Boulder. How he wound up donating $25,000 to name a bathroom is an great story, which you can read here.

However, it’s even more fun to hear an entrepreneur and venture capitalist like Brad tell a story. He did so in four minutes at Idavation (the Idaho Innovation conference) at the Doubletree hotel in Boise on May 28. The video of his keynote speech is here, and his bathroom story starts at about the 54 minute mark.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mind mapping and idea mapping for planning speeches

An outline is not the only way to plan or organize a speech. If you prefer visual thinking, then you can use mind mapping or idea mapping. Draw a diagram with words, images, and lines to show how your central idea is related to your other ideas.

This YouTube video shows basic rules for making a mind map by using colored pens to draw on paper. Another video shows how computer software such as NovaMind can be used to draw and edit a map.

Here are three interesting examples of mind maps for public speaking:

1. Dave Curley shows a template that he uses for quickly creating a speech.

2. Fred E. Miller shows how his No Sweat Public Speaking approach includes both content and delivery.

3. IQ Matrix sells a big colorful mind map illustrating what is involved in Professional Public Speaking. At the very bottom of the page you can download a free black and white version.