Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WARNING - Your child might learn something here!

Last week I visited Twin Falls and enjoyed seeing the Herrett Center for Arts and Science at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI).They have a natural history collection, an art collection, and a planetarium. Their mission statement says they are educational, and offer programs to elementary and secondary school students, CSI students, and adults.   

In front of the center, in a group of program-related signs, there is a curious gray one (shown above) which reads:

“Due to content that may challenge some visitors’ aesthetic, moral, or ethical standards, the Herrett Center for Arts & Science recommends a review of shows and exhibits by parents, guardians, or teachers prior to bringing younger viewers to the Center. Images in presentations or shows, and objects on display in our galleries may not represent the philosophy of the Herrett Center or the College of Southern Idaho.”

Those items also might represent their philosophy, but presumably a legal adviser told them they needed to muddy things up with a weasel worded disclaimer/warning statement. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Idaho Republican convention fails to catch fire

Last weekend the Idaho Republican Party held their biennial state convention in Moscow, lead by U.S. Representative Raul Labrador. They were supposed to: (A) Elect a party chairman and (B) Pass a party platform. How did they do? Zero for two. He couldn’t stop the tea party and establishment factions from feuding.

The Washington Times reported that:

“Labrador, who seeking to become U.S. House majority leader after Eric Cantor’s primary loss, had touted his work on a solution to unite the party for weeks prior to the convention but said it quickly fell apart once the event started. While his deal failed, Labrador said it was not indicative of his ability to lead House Republicans.”

Really? The Washington Post also lamented in more detail that The Idaho Republican convention this weekend was a total fiasco.

Now it’s not clear who even is running things. Yesterday the Idaho Statesman here in Boise reported State GOP chairman refutes legal opinion that he’s no longer chair, seeks his own.

Things now are almost as ludicrous as an old Monty Python's Flying Circus Election Night Special comedy skit (with the Silly Party and the Sensible Party).

The image was adapted from one back in 1900 at the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cranking out spam comments

In blogging as in public speaking you will get feedback. Sometimes it’s useful, but other times it’s just someone looking for attention (turkey spam).  

On June 5th the automatic spam detection for my blog intercepted this proposed comment:

“There’s a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out of their way to hurt others, will end up broke and alone. See the link below for more information.” 

Since I don’t like insults, I didn’t accept that comment. It was on my third most popular post from December 2009 titled Does homeopathic Argentum nitricum reduce anxiety? Also, the link was to a web site unrelated to the topic.

It came from a woman I’ll refer to as Woo Hoo, whose Google Plus page shows lots of comments but absolutely no original content of her own. She also uses a briefer version:

“What goes around comes around. See the link below for more info.”

She also frequently uses one with fawning approval:

“I like your post a lot. You should write some more on this! Great job coming with such a terrific post!”

Previously I have seen Fairy tales in my blog spam folder from four turkeys and Off-topic spam blog comments - the hCG Diet Scam.

The meat grinder image came from here at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A great cartoon about many commencement speeches

Today Zach Weiner has a great Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon about many commencement speeches. His captions include:

“What you students may not realize is that the point of a commencement speech isn’t the words. If you want inspiration, or profound insight or whatever, well, you should’ve got it in literature class.

No. The point of the speaker is to show how much money our university can afford to spend on 20 minutes of platitudes. We need to show off our brand. You need our brand to get a job.”

But, that’s not all. Go read it to see his ending.

Some commencement speeches are different. At Dartmouth Shonda Rhimes told the grads to go out and do, since dreams are for losers.

Also today Tony Carrillo had an F Minus cartoon captioned:

“I’m proud to welcome our most popular guest speaker, the Model G400 teleprompter.”

I prefer his May 31st cartoon about the cat remote.

The June 20,1906 Puck cartoon showing commencement day in the U.S. Senate came from the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The dark side of public speaking

The Wall Street Journal has a serious and humorous Saturday Essay titled Joe Queenan’s Guide to Public Speaking (How to avoid utterly humiliating yourself in front of a bored and yawning crowd).

Joe points out that:

“Still, most speakers fail because their speeches are no good. They often fall flat because they have a phoned-in quality, because they are stock speeches the speaker has given over and over again. No effort has been made to tailor the material to the audience being addressed, and the audience knows it.”

His example is a story about trying to reuse a speech he’d given to public relations professionals at the national convention of the American Recovery Association (which is the trade group for repo men). It didn’t end well. 

The image was adapted from an 1896 Puck cartoon about William Jennings Bryan found at the Library of Congress.


At Forbes on June 17th Jerry Weissman also discussed Joe Queenan’s article.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Should you write a book about public speaking?

Isn’t there already a big enough pile of them to satisfy almost everyone? How many books about public speaking already exist? When I looked in the Bowker Books In Print database using public speaking as a subject, it said there were about 3,870 books (1600 of which were out of print), just 490 of which were readily available. Using the phrase “public speaking” in search all gave more, about 5,170. A search of WorldCat found almost 9100 including nearly 1480 eBooks (and ignoring another 1320 dissertations or theses). About 300 were added in 2013.

Can you expect to make a fortune from selling a book? Probably not. Remainder seller Hamilton Books has them filed under self help (communication skills). Richard Zeoli’s  2008 paperback book, 7 Principles of Public Speaking, is $4.95 rather than the $14.95 list price. But it also lives on as an e-Book.   

Do you have enough novel and relevant content to make a credible book? Last December Russ Howser blogged about Bad Public Speaking Books, and ranted that some of them are just marketing pieces (big business cards). 

Would you be better off writing a book for a niche market? For example, at Hamilton I saw Patricia Fry’s January 2013 niche paperback for writers, Talk Up Your Book for $5.95 instead of the original $19.95. You might pick a niche as shown above just based on the type of speech and gender.

Of course, you could add more categories and narrow the market. Right now there are several books about TED Talks. Carmine Gallo did Talk Like TED, which I’ve mentioned previously here. So far though I haven’t seen anyone produce Diluting Your Fear of Public Speaking: Pecha Kucha for Homeopaths.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life’s a Pitch? How not to name your new book

I just saw a press release for a book by Terry Ward titled Life’s a Pitch: The Essential Guide to Presentations. lists the publication date as April 29, 2014. But, the first phrase in the title is hardly original, so it doesn’t really stand out. On Amazon I also found:

 Life’s a Pitch: How to Sell Yourself and Your Brilliant Ideas by Roger Mavity and Stephen Bayley (January 6, 2009)  

Life’s a Pitch!: From Hosting to Toasting...From News to Schmooze by Soni Diamond (September 20, 2004)

and her follow up book

Life’s a Pitch!...For Rookies: Son of a Pitch (November 26, 2008)

Earlier there was

Life’s a Pitch: How to Outwit Your Competitors and Make a Winning Presentation by Don Peppers (January 25, 1996)

which was preceded by

Life’s A Pitch...Then You Buy by Don Peppers (August 1, 1995)

There also was

Life’s a Pitch: What the World’s Best Sales People Can Teach Us All by Philip Delves Broughton (May 1, 2012)

and even more recently

Life’s a Pitch: Learn the Proven Formula That Has Sold Over $1 BILLION In Products by Bob Circosta (May 15, 2014)

Amazon is one place where you can check on a title before naming a book. Another is WorldCat, which I blogged about here.

Adolph Hitler’s book titled  Mein Kampf (My Struggle) originally had a longer title that translated to: Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice.

The press release for Terry Ward’s book was titled Fear of Public Speaking Tops List of Phobias and began with:

“Studies have shown that people fear speaking in public more than they fear illness, flying in airplanes, terrorism, or even death. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 74 percent of us suffer from ‘speech anxiety’ that keeps us from communicating our ideas as well as our needs and wants.

‘This is a shocking statistic,’ says Terry Ward, a veteran public speaker and author of the new book ‘Life’s a Pitch: The Essential Guide to Presentations.’ ‘Talking to one another, whether in casual conversation or across a boardroom table, is how we make things happen in life. So if you can’t do that effectively, how lost must you feel on a day-to-day basis?’ ”

I have previously blogged about how that statistic is shocking because the web page at Statistic Brain that seems to have created it is reciting a percentage (74%) that is over three times higher than what research supported by NIMH actually found (21.2% for fear and 10.7% for phobia). 

The 1889 image showing the evolution of a pitcher is from the Library of Congress.

Monday, June 9, 2014

An off-target comment from Best DISSERTATION Services

 Back in January I had a post titled Don’t just get on the bandwagon! Find your own speech topic and approach. Last week I got a comment about it from Best DISSERTATION Services who sell in the UK and also have a blog. Their blogger, Vestri Vel, asked me to:

“Kindly share more information.”

That’s pretty silly since my post already had labels that linked to four topics: planning (with 42 posts), research (with 68 posts), ruts (with 3 posts), and speech topics (with 17 posts).

The Dissertation Writing web page for Best DISSERTATION Services includes a statement that:

“Our cheap dissertation writing services provide you a complete high quality dissertation without any errors.”

I doubt it, since captions to the scrolling animated images on their home page include both:

“With Smiley FACE Your Resit Diseertation”

“Make rite choice to write your dissertation.”

The archery target came from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

D-Day, daring, and deceptions

Friday, June 6th was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe. One reason for its success was the daring plan to attack at a different location than was obvious - the narrowest part of the English Channel with a natural harbor at the Pas-de-Calais.

Instead the Allies attacked where there was no natural harbor, but constructed two artificial Mulberry harbors for landing supplies. One was destroyed by a storm, but the other at Arromanches-les-Bains survived.

A second reason for the success was detailed deception plans. Operation Bodyguard convinced the Germans that General George S. Patton would lead the First U.S. Army Group in the invasion, which would occur at Calais. Even after the landings had begun Hitler still believed the deception and held back his reinforcements. 

It’s easy but dangerous to believe what seems obvious, and fits our preconceived notions.  

When I did a Google search on  the words public speaking fear, the very first search result was a wikiHow web page titled How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking that opens by claiming:

“Did you know that public speaking is the number one fear in North America?”

As I discussed in my June 3rd post,  A story outweighs a silly statistic, when you look a bit further you will find that is not so. It just sounds authoritative. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Are things looking up or looking down?

Unshelved is a daily web comic strip by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes about a public library in the mythical city of Mallville. Every Friday they have a Book Club poster. On May 30th (click here) it was about The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte.

That poster began with Mel (the library manager) showing Dewey (the teen services librarian) a bar chart of annual book circulation figures similar to the one shown above. She said they were circulating more books than ever. Dewey replied that chart lied because the time scale ran from right to left. (Gavin McMahon has called this mistake a TimeLord chart). In PowerPoint it isn’t hard to accidentally sort the data in only one column and wind up running the scale backward.

The data really should have been plotted with the time scale running conventionally, from left to right. Now things are looking down rather than up. In the comic the y-axis also was logarithmic rather than linear, and Dewey also added a few more refinements. 

Back on November 20, 2009 I blogged about a series of Unshelved comics on introducing a speaker. From 2006 to 2010 Unshelved held an annual contest for libraries to Pimp My Bookcart.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A story outweighs a silly statistic

On May 30th, in her LadyClever blog, Kamala Kirk posted on Nothing to Fear: Speaking in Public with Ease. She opened with:

At some point in all of our lives, we’ve had to give some sort of speech, presentation or talk to a group of people. For some people, this can be one of the most terrifying things they will ever have to do. In fact, there’s an interesting statistic that actually claims that public speaking is the number one fear in North America!  I remember the treacherous junior high days of having to give a presentation in front of the class – my anxiety was so bad that I would try to come up with excuses to stay home sick or to not give my presentation. Fast forward a decade and a half: now I actually enjoy speaking in front of others!

It wasn’t an overnight process, of course. I had to go through a variety of situations to overcome my fear and I learned several helpful tips along the way. As I continued to build my confidence in my public speaking abilities, I eventually found that one day I wasn’t the person hiding in the back of the room – I was the person waving my hand and volunteering to go first.”

The interesting statistic was redundant, since she told a personal story - which outweighs just citing a statistic.

I have discussed a lot of surveys about fear in this blog, and do not recall ever seeing one that covered the entire continent of North America, which would include both Central America and the Caribbean. When I looked around on Google, it seemed that claim first showed up in December 2006 on, and in 2007 in an article by Paul Tobey. I suspect that they used the U.S. survey reported in the 1977 Book of Lists, and assumed it also would apply to both Canada and Mexico.

Back in 2010 Reader’s Digest Canada asked women and men in 16 countries  just one survey question - What is your greatest fear: Being alone, going broke, losing my looks, or speaking in public.  

Three of those countries were Canada, Mexico, and the United States. As is shown above, they reported results for both men and women. Fear of speaking in public was not ranked first by any of those six groups, which is why the claim is a silly statistic.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Three most common fears for mass affluents in the U.S. were going broke in retirement (55%), losing a job (37%), and public speaking (27%)

In late May the seven-page Spring 2014 Merrill Edge Report was released by Bank of America. It included results from telephone polls done by Braun Research in April on a sample of 1000 U.S. mass affluents.

As shown above in a bar chart, their six most common fears were not having enough money throughout retirement (55%), losing my job (37%), public speaking (27%), weight gain (25%), going to the dentist (16%), and flying in an airplane (12%). For this affluent group public speaking was not the number one fear as sometimes is claimed by speaking coaches.  

Mass affluents are people with lots of investable assets (other than a primary home). They were defined as those having $50,000 to $250,000, or millennials (age 18 to 34) with annual income over $50,00 and assets of $20,000 to $50,000. U.S.A. Today referred to them more clearly as emerging affluents. (Mass affluents is just a period away from only referring to wealthy folks in the state of Massachusetts). 

The polls also included additional samples, as shown above in another bar chart. For Los Angeles and south Florida the fear of public speaking was just a couple percent lower and higher than in the national sample.  

That report also included questions about finances and relationships (gender differences in the dating game). I have put those results in one bar chart (see above) rather than in separate charts as in the report, and included all six questions mentioned in the text rather than just the top five. Note that about twice as many women as men replied regarding both financial stability and a stable job. Also, chemistry and appearance were rated higher by men then women.