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?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dispensing the same old statistics on fear of public speaking

On May 20, 2017 Brandon Gaille posted an article titled 15 Fear of Public Speaking Statistics. I thought it looked vaguely familiar. Then I noticed that in the address box it said 14 instead of 15. I looked and found my old blog post from October 27, 2013 titled Stage Freight where the typo ‘stage freight’ had shown up on October 24, 2013 in the very same article, which back then instead was titled 14 Fear of Public Speaking Statistics.

That typo was in his list of Top 10 Phobias, which actually were a list of fears borrowed without reference from a web page titled Fear of Public Speaking Statistics Factsheet over at Speech Topics Help.

How about the infographic at the bottom? I also blogged about what was wrong with it in a November 9, 2013 blog post titled How scary is public speaking or performance? A better infographic showing both fears and phobias.

The image by Helgi Halldórsson was adapted from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Two cartoonists recently told us humorously about how overcrowded airliners were getting

They are almost like subway cars during rush hour. In his July 10th F Minus cartoon Tony Carrillo showed the result - standing strap hangers, captioned:

 “Remember when seats on a flight weren’t just a first-class thing?”

Then on July 18th he revisited the topic with another cartoon captioned:

“The flight was a little cramped. Dustin flew free on my lap as my emotional support boyfriend.”

In his July 20th Pearls Before Swine cartoon Stephan Pastis instead showed the process (and let us imagine the result):

“Rat (the airline gate agent): Folks, I’m afraid today’s flight is oversold. The good news, though, is that we’re flying to Tokyo, where they sometimes use long sticks to cram humans into subway cars.  And, well, I’m sure you see where this is going.

Other gate agent: Let’s not tell the F.A.A. about this.

Passenger: Oof.

Another Passenger: Oh, God.

Rat: See, you all fit now.” 

You could tell a story in your presentation either way, with a visual showing process or resultant product.

The rush hour subway car image came from Wikimedia Commons.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sound conduction through your head bones is why you hate your own voice on recordings

When you listen to yourself, some of what you hear is conducted to your ears through your head. Other people just hear your voice carried by the air. Reader’s Digest just had a web article explaining that, and there was another one by Jordan Gaines at NBC News back in 2013.

The first few times you hear (and watch) yourself rehearsing on recordings that feedback may be disconcerting. You may think you’re the worst speaker ever and want to cover your ears, as is shown above. Get over it, and see what you could be doing better.

The image was adapted from a sculpture of Three Wise Monkeys on Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is ACB an initialism or an acronym? Both!

An article by Bill Brown in the July 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine discussed The ABCs of Toastmasters Acronyms. He decoded some of them:

ACB - Advanced Communicator Bronze
ACS - Advanced Communicator  Silver
ACG - Advanced Communicator Gold
ALB - Advanced Leader Bronze
ALS - Advanced Leader Silver

CC - Competent Communicator
CL - Competent Leader

DCP - Distinguished Club Program
DTM - Distinguished Toastmaster

VPE - (Club) Vice President Education
VPM - (Club) Vice President Membership
VPPR - (Club) Vice President Public Relations

But he left off the B’s, like BSS for Better Speaker Series. And when he talked about organizational structure he left off that there are 14 Regions above the 102 Districts. Also, he didn’t provide acronyms for the directors above clubs in the organizational structure - area directors, division directors, and district directors.  

If you look up acronym (as a noun) in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find two definitions. One is:

“A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter or part being pronounced separately; an initialism (such as ATM, TLS).

The other is:

“A word formed from the initial letters of other words or (occasionally) from the initial parts of syllables taken from other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word (such as NATO, RADA).”

If we ignore those occasional initial parts of syllables, then we can draw a Venn diagram including both definitions with three ovals (shown above) that resembles the simple masks worn by Zorro or the Lone Ranger.

Over at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn Mike Raffety posted a link to his Toastmasters Vocabulary web page, which is like having a secret decoder for this alphabet soup. Mike’s page resolves how to avoid confusion between a division director (DivD) and a district director (DD). Relatively few of the acronyms he lists can be pronounced as words (although he left off BoD for Board of Directors):

AD - Area Director
COT - Club Officer Training
DOT - District Officer Training
GE - General Evaluator
PIP - Past International President
PRO - Public Relations Officer (of a District)

Also at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn Sharon Horgan commented that the magazine article refers to acronyms, but they are actually initialisms. She referred to a Dictionary.com definition for initialism. But their definition for acronym also includes initialism.

The exalted rank of DTM (Distinguished Toast Master) breaks the rules for making an acronym. If we didn’t, we’d get DT, which is uncomfortably close to DTs (for delirium tremens).

Finally, how might we unofficially refer to those who haven’t yet finished the Competent Communication manual? Should they be known as Incompetent Communicators?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why is your audience tilting their heads sideways?

Perhaps they just are trying to read a vertical y-axis label on one of your slides, like the one on the following graph.

It is another version of the one shown in my previous blog post on July 1st, which more sensibly used a horizontal label. Your software may default to a vertical y-axis label, but please don’t use it.

On July 3, 2017 at SlideMagic Jan Schultink posted about Vertical Axis Titles. He suggested that you skip both the vertical and horizontal axis text labels. Instead you can use a slide title (headline) with your message. In this case it would be:

How many millions of viewers watched the first four weeks
     of Megyn Kelly’s Sunday Night TV show on NBC?

That audience posture is known as the Goren Lean (from Vincent D’Nofrio’s portrayal of Detective Robert Goren in the TV show Law and Order - Criminal Intent). I blogged about it in a post on October 5, 2013 titled Hiding data in a Harlequin PowerPoint chart.
The image of a Jack Russell Terrier came from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Does this data look like a downward spiral, or just the bottom of a ski hill?

Some people normally think visually. They can easily imagine what a graph will look like. Others may need to learn to think that way, and to use software like Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint to turn a dull data table into an informative graph.   

On June 26 the Daily Mail had an article by Chris Spargo titled Megyn Kelly ratings dip for third straight week hitting new season low of 3.41M viewers on NBC as host announces she will be off the air next Sunday during limited summer run. But when Jane Genova blogged about it that day she instead claimed Megyn Kelly’s ‘Sunday Night’ – Ratings in Downward Spiral.

That show had led off with a highly-advertised episode. It was highlighted by an interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Then from the first to the second week viewers dropped from 6.1 million to 3.61 million, or by a horrible 41%. But from the second week to the third, with 3.50 million, the drop was just 3%. And from the third week to the fourth, with 3.41 million, the drop again was by just 3%. When you graph those numbers, you will see Jane was being overly dramatic. It’s just the bottom of a ski hill.  

Megyn Kelly’s show still had fewer viewers than either the 7.21 million for 60 Minutes, and 3.92 million for America’s Funniest Home Videos. But 60 Minutes has been on for almost five decades. Going against it with a similar news show almost is a suicide mission.

Another way to analyze those numbers is by looking at differences and slopes. We can ask a simple question - when will the show have no viewers left? After two weeks things looked dire – like no one would be watching by week four. But that was not what happened.

In my first career as a research metallurgist I reviewed magazine articles submitted for publication in both a metallurgy magazine and a corrosion magazine, I learned to carefully check whether the data meant what the authors claimed. On March 18, 2013 I blogged about What is your hearing threshold? – the joy of statistics. There I discussed how the same statistics also apply to stress corrosion cracking (SCC) tests. Once I read a submitted article where the highest stress level for SCC tests didn’t make the specimens crack. The author wrongly assumed that if they just had gone one step higher they would have. That’s wishful thinking, not engineering, so I rejected it. (D. J. Finney’s book on Statistical Method in Biological Assay warns researchers NOT to ever make that assumption).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

77 Principles of Public Speaking from Nick Morgan

I always enjoy reading Nick Morgan’s thoughts on public speaking. Starting on May 11th, in his Public Words blog, he presented an eleven part series on the Principles of Public Speaking that included 77 items. Nick gave a brief explanation of that series that said:

“My goal in these principles is to explore the implicit rules of public speaking, the kind that people rarely bring up in lists of the 10 rules for public speaking, which almost always start with ‘follow your passion’ and end with ‘always end on time. Both are true and good bits of advice, but they don’t help speakers much beyond the absolute beginning steps.” 

They are:

1: A speech should be about one idea and one only.

2: A successful speech leaves room for the audience to participate.

3: What you don’t say is as important as what you say.

4: The speaker cannot simply assert, however, any foundational aspect of her argument that is a matter of debate without acknowledging the sleight of hand.

5: Everything you do say is subject to the standards of proof that prevail in your field of knowledge. 

6: Emotional truth is as important in public speaking as intellectual truth.

7: Speakers can reaffirm what the audience already believes or take them on a journey to a new belief. The former are entertainers and motivational speakers. The latter are true teachers.

8: A good speech is a contract that exchanges attention for insight.

9: A speech should be particular to a certain audience, time, and place.

10: The organizer of the speech should arrange to have the speaker introduced to the audience.

11: A great speech foreshadows, teases, anticipates, and builds suspense.

12: A great speech addresses a particular problem that the audience has.

13: A speech begins with a point of view.

14: Nonetheless, that point of view should be heartfelt, credible, and supported by the facts.

15: A speech is performance art - and science.

16: The more immediately relevant a speech is, the more it is likely to be well-received.

17: A speech should offer connection to the audience in a minimum of two ways.

18: A great speech presents hierarchical thinking.

19: A great speech is fully human.

20: A speaker is a fox, a speech is a hedgehog.

21: A great speech strives for objectivity, but acknowledges its particular subjectivity.

22: The science of public speaking lies in getting the basic persuasive structure right. The art of public speaking lies in getting all the details right.

23: The structure of a speech should be informed always by its main purpose - and you should be able to state that in a sentence.

24: A good speaker should be prepared to improvise in the moment.

25: A good speech begins with specifics and ends with generalities.

26: Good speakers save their best stories for the end of the speech. Great speakers start with their best story and find even better ones.

27: A great speech is a process, not a product.

28: A great speech is anchored in a specific topic, time, and place.

29: Great speakers immerse themselves in the craft of speaking.

30: If you’re talking about a particular topic in your speech, the values of the topic need to be reflected in the speech - and the speaker.

31: Nevertheless, a speech never should be mistaken for its subject.

32: Facts in speeches establish the speaker’s credibility. Stories in speeches create trust.

33: A great speech almost always invokes the opposite emotion in counterpoint to the main one of the presentation.

34: A great speech addresses the past, present, and future of a topic.

35: Speeches should present ideas to their audiences in odd numbers.

36: A great speech opens the audience to wider territory at the close.

37: A great speech should be simple in structure and rich in detail.

38: Good speeches present complicated subjects with all their complexity. Great speeches present complicated subjects with simplicity.

39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three.

40: If you can’t give your speech to your children or grandchildren and hold their attention throughout, you’re not ready to speak yet.

41: For those speaking globally, your content will need to vary by culture, but your body language should stay the same.

42: The length and tone of your speech should vary depending on the time of day it is given.

43: A speech is a whole, not a collection of parts.

44: A great speech is fractal.

45: A great speech asks questions.

46: But a great speech doesn’t ask its audience for things it cannot do.

47: All speeches are persuasive.

48: A great speech begins by framing a problem the audience has in a way that it hasn’t thought about before.

49: A great speech solve a profound problem the audience has.

50: In public speaking, as in architecture, form should follow function.

51: Speeches should be just long enough to persuade the audience, no longer.

52: Most great speeches follow a problem-solution format.

53: But if you vary from this classic speech structure, then do so for a reason.

54: There are two ways to deal with the structure of the speech during the speech itself: to reveal it or conceal it. The more complicated the structure, the more the audience needs to have it revealed.

55: The structure of a speech itself can influence the act of persuasion.

56: Structure your speech to have a strong overall flow, but learn it in sections.

57: Props enhance a speech more than slides.

58: Every speech at least implicitly addresses the three limitations of the form: the limit of the audience to retain information, the limit of the speaker to convey information, and the time limit.

59: The speaker and speech are both in service to the audience.

60: Prepare more material than you intend to give.

61: It is more important to move even one member of the audience than it is to deliver a perfect speech.

62: Success in public speaking, like everything else, follows the 80-20 rule,

63: The more successful a speech is, the more chaotic it will feel to the speaker and to the audience.

64: The most important factor for success in a speech is not the brilliance of the content, or even the persuasiveness of the ideas - it is the voice of the speaker.

65: Speeches reflect the tenor of their times.

66: More important than the accuracy of a particular speech is the power of its narrative.

67: A great speaker is the vehicle for a great message, not the message itself.

68: A great speech induces the audience to believe that it owns the ideas therein rather than the speaker.

69: Create a speech from back to front.

70: Always remember the context in which the speech is given.

71: Find ways to protect your soul even as you make yourself vulnerable.

72: Speeches and speakers must ultimately remain optimistic, even the ranters.

73: Own both your successes and your failures.

74: The most important quality of a speaker is presence.

75: Speakers must embrace authenticity and transparency.

76: Let your performance go.

77: Never court the emotional favor of the audience.

For each principle he also provide a short explanatory paragraph. You can find the whole series of posts as follows:

Part I (May 11, 2017): No. 1 to 7
Part II (May 16, 2017): No. 8 to 14
Part III (May 18, 2017): No. 15 to 21
Part IV (May 30, 2017): No. 22 to 28
Part V (June 1, 2017): No. 29 to 35
Part VI (June 8, 2017): No. 36 to 42
Part VII (June 13, 2017): No. 43 to 49
Part VIII (June 15, 2017): No. 50 to 56
Part IX (June 20, 2017): No. 57 to 63
Part X (June 22, 2017) No. 64 to 70
Part XI (June 27, 2017): No. 71 to 77

Without the explanations 39 and 47 may seem contradictory.

“39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three. It’s no accident that motivational speakers often leave their audiences wondering what was said. An emotion was conveyed, but little was taught. Similarly, a speech that teaches a method or system rarely causes audiences to leap to their feet. The emotional ground that persuasion, teaching, and motivation cover is too broad to manage all three at once. Pick any two to be successful. Focus on one to be truly world class.

....43: All speeches are persuasive. Aristotle famously categorized speeches as informative, persuasive, or ornamental, but all speeches at least implicitly seek to persuade their audiences of the value of the speech, if nothing else.”

An image of Giles Penny’s sculpture of a Man with open arms came from Chris McKenna at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pteromechanophobia just is a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying - from a satirical cartoonist

There are a lot of books about public speaking. I recently glanced at a 2017 one by Mary Fensholt Perera titled The Polished Presentation (the complete speaker’s guide). You can look inside it at Amazon, or preview it at Google Books. Part I is about Presentation Anxiety. Chapter 1 is titled You Are Not Alone. Her second paragraph begins by claiming:

“Anxiety about public speaking earned the scientific name “glossophobia” from the Greek terms for ‘tongue’ and ‘dread.’ “

I disagree. In a blog post on March 7, 2011 titled Taking the gloss off glossophobia, I concluded:

“Using the word glossophobia says something - that you don’t actually know what you are talking about. It’s really just pseudo-technical terminology.”

Then on page 5 she says:

“Today’s most common phobias show us how our body is designed to deal with our long history of dangerous environments, with the world our ancestors knew. Here are some fears that make virtually every list of the most common phobias:

Arachnophobia              Fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia               Fear of snakes
Murophobia                   Fear of rodents
Claustrophobia              Fear of small spaces
Nyctophobia                  Fear of the dark
Agoraphobia                  Fear of open spaces, of leaving a safe place
Pteromerhanophobia     Fear of flying (height and enclosed space)
Cynophobia                   Fear of dogs (wolves, predators)
Glossophobia                Fear of public speaking”

I’d previously seen fear of flying called either aerophobia or aviophobia, but not pteromerhanophobia. Aerophobia is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, where it is defined as fear or strong dislike of flying. Aviophobia similarly is in the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, and defined as fear of flying.

But where the heck did that silly word, pteromerhanophobia, come from? A Google search showed that it seemed to only have popped up on July 17, 1995 on a web site called The Phobia List where it was defined as fear of flying.

Ptero is Greek for wing or feather, and famously shows up in a name for a flying dinosaur, pterodactylus - “feather finger.” And phobia is Greek for fear.

Merhano doesn’t really sound Greek. It seems vaguely Spanish or Basque, and might mean something like “stubborn donkey” (but really does not). Was Merhano a name the marketing department at Mitsubishi Motors dreamed up for a new sport-utility-vehicle, but rejected as being too close to Nissan’s Murano? Not really. Actually Merhano just is a place five miles southeast of Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.

A further broader Google search lead me to a page at a web site called ABC word which had another word - pteromechanophobia. Apparently the compiler of The Phobia List used some hand-printed notes, and the bottom from a lower-case c got lost and thus turned into an r. The clearly Greek mechano (mechanical) became the obscure merhano. 

Looking around on Google Books led me to the source for pteromechanophobia. It appeared in a 1971 book by satirical cartoonist Robert Chesley Osborn and Eve Wengler titled An Osborn Festival of Phobias. A page there says:

“His own phobias are pteromechanophobia...”

The Wikipedia page about Robert Chesley Osborn says that during World War II he and Captain Austin K. Doyle came up with a comic character for Navy training manuals - a pilot named Dilbert Groundloop, which eventually inspired Scott Adams to use the first name to title his famous comic strip.     

The Fear of Flying Monster was photoshopped from a little finger monster named Saurn from Archie McPhee - who I got at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise, while the pterodacytl image came from Wikimedia Commons.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Just in time for summer - an outlaw country song from Steve Earle about hotshots and the legendary Ed Pulaski

It’s officially summer, which is the season for wildland fires out here in the intermountain west. During the Soda Fire, on August 15, 2015, I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes. Hotshots are elite 20-man firefighting crews.

The Firebreak Line is a country song on the latest album from Steve Earle & the Dukes titled So You Wannabe an Outlaw. You can listen to it here on YouTube.

Further back on October 20, 2009 I blogged about A Heroic Forest Fire Story: Ed Pulaski and the Big Blow Up. In that post I quoted a 390 word version of the story from a 2007 publication on Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. But in the second verse of his song Steve Earle tells the Ed Pulaski story using just 80 words: 

“...Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine
When I’m cuttin’ out a firebreak line
He invented this thing like an axe I swing
And he never left a member of his crew behind
When the fire jumped across the line
Took ‘em down in an abandoned mine
Then he drew his gun, said he’d shoot the first one
That got it in his head to try and step outside
Got everybody out alive, Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine”

Steve’s version is almost five times shorter. It’s not totally correct, but some poetic license is allowed. There’s a live solo version of The Firebreak Line from Good Records in Dallas. In it Steve jokingly claims that, along with the axe-mattock Pulaski, there is another combination tool called a chingadera. But that really is a rude, indefinite Spanish noun which means “that f*cking thing.”    

The statue in Boise is in front of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A series of six Dilbert comics about a presentation disaster

From June 12th to June 17th there were six daily Dilbert comic strips about Asok preparing and then giving a presentation to his CEO. In the first three he received bad advice - including June 14th where his boss told a flipped over version of “imagine the audience naked.” Only Alice gave him good advice.

Links to them, and their caption texts are:

June 12, 2017
Asok: I’m nervous because I need to make a presentation to our CEO. Do you have any advice?
Wally: Don’t make eye contact with him. He hates that.
Asok: You have made things far worse!
Wally: He also flies into a rage whenever he hears the word “THE”.

June 13, 2017
Asok: Do you have any advice for my presentation to the CEO?
Dilbert: Sure. If you make one small mistake, your career will be finished.
Asok: You just made me nervous and thus doubled my risk of failure.
Dilbert: I’m not the one who brought it up.

June 14, 2017
Asok: Do you have any tips for my presentation to the CEO?
Boss: When you are presenting, Imagine you are naked and everyone is laughing at you.
Asok: Why?
Boss: It’s just something I read. I might have the details wrong.

June 15, 2017
Asok: Can you help me edit my slides for my CEO presentation? I have 75 slides and ten minutes to present.
Alice: Get rid of 74 of them.
Asok: I’ll ask someone else.

June 16, 2017
Asok: I have 75 slides to discuss in ten minutes. Save your questions to the end.
CEO: Sit down and never talk to me again as long as you live.
Dilbert: How’d the CEO presentation go?
Asok: It was 75 slides too long.

June 17, 2017
Boss: Our CEO said he liked your presentation.
Asok: He made me shut up and sit down before I got to my first slide.
Boss: He’s not a big fan of content.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Avoiding a downward spiral of shame after a speech went badly

The Harvard Business Review has an excellent web article by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries titled Don’t Let Shame Become a Self-Destructive Spiral.

There also was another article by Christine Clapp in the March 2013 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled When bad speeches happen to good people (how to recover from a disappointing presentation) that you can read in a .pdf file at her Spoken With Authority web site. Her advice is to:

Put it in perspective
Analyze what went wrong - and right
Craft a plan
Get back on stage
Measure progress
Consider a coach
Believe in comebacks

Shame (and resilience from it) is a large subject. Social work researcher Brené Brown has studied, written, and spoken about it a lot. In 2013 on the Oprah Winfrey show she gave brief advice on 3 Things you can do to stop a shame spiral. You can also watch her 21-minute TED talk on Listening to Shame, or listen to a long podcast of an episode  from On Being about The Courage to Be Vulnerable.

The spiral-staircase image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How is a car GPS like a razor?

How is a GPS like a razor? Both can be sold using a razor and blades business model. Blades go dull and need to be replaced. Map data for navigation on a car GPS will need to be updated. About six years ago I finally bought a little TomTom XL335SE GPS with a 4-1/4” screen diagonal (as shown above with a Gillette Mach 3) for about $75. Map updates at their web site weren’t included, so after two years I paid $50 (on sale) for an annual package that regularly was $75.

Once I got it securely mounted in the car, the TomTom GPS was very useful both around Boise, and on road trips. But came with a suction cup mount for the windshield that has a ring which snaps into the back, which it often didn’t stay there (perhaps due to dust). It also came with a black plastic disk that mounted on the dash via two-sided foam tape. That was a little better, but the GPS still fell off the dash unpredictably.

I looked over on eBay and found another GPS mount which fit into the cup holder to the left of the instrument cluster on the dash of my Honda Fit. That worked much better. I could pick up the GPS and mount, key in the destination, and then drop it into the cup holder. An address is entered going from general to specific - state, then city, then street name, and finally the number.

Around town I prefer side streets to the Interstate (I-84), and the I-184 spur to downtown (locally known as The Connector). But the GPS usually tried to send me via the Interstate. After I ignored it three or so times, it finally let me go the way I prefer. My TomTom GPS has been very useful for long trips. It showed me the exact lanes to take at busy unfamiliar interchanges, like on I-15 near the Salt Lake City airport.  

After two more years I updated again. Last month I got a single map update for $25. But, when I tried to download it, they warned me that my now clearly obsolete GPS just  didn’t have enough memory to hold the whole U.S. from their latest map. So I only fit in the western half. It was time to look for a replacement.

This time I went looking for a GPS with a larger screen (and more memory), and with lifetime free map updates. I found a $100 refurbished Garmin Nuvi 67LM with a 6” screen at Amazon. The GPS is very nice, but their suction cup mount was even worse than on the TomTom - even with the black plastic disk that mounted on the dash. I found a web article on Replacing the Garmin Nuvi suction cup mount that recommended other brands of mounts.

I got another cup holder mount to try. It didn’t work because the Garmin was too wide to fit down in the space between the door and dash. So, I cut a block from 1” pine to fit on the dash, painted it black, attached the suction cup mount via four sheet-metal screws, and used two-sided foam tape to hold it on the dash to the right of the speedometer. The power cord from the GPS dropped two feet straight down to the power (cigarette lighter) socket on the center console.      

When I turned on the Garmin it immediately required me to Agree with the following legal disclaimer:

Do not attempt to enter route information or adjust this device while driving. Failure to pay full attention to the operation of your vehicle could result in death, serious injury, or property damage. You assume total responsibility and risk for using this device. NOTICE: Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit use othis device. It is your responsibility to know and comply with applicable laws and rights to privacy in jurisdictions where you plan to use this device. 

 On my new Garmin GPS an address is entered going from specific to general - first the number, then street name, then city, then state. Usually it guesses the city. I really like that it warns me a half-mile before each school zone (speed limit 20 mph when yellow caution lights are flashing). The first menu shows Where to? and View Map as the primary options. Under Where to? the next menu Options are Go Home, Address, Restaurants, Gas Stations, Foursquare, and Add Shortcut. But when I looked for restaurants near home, I found several out-of-date listings.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

What happened in history on June 16th?

Yesterday I looked on Easy-Speak and found to my horror that we didn’t have a Toastmaster for today’s meeting of the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club in Boise. So, I volunteered and looked up ideas for themes, mostly at Wikipedia, and via Google.

There is more than one holiday for every darn day of the year. If you were listening to morning-drive-time-radio today, then you might have heard that it is National Fudge Day, or National Flip-Flop Day, or (at NPR) even Bloomsday. Any James Joyce fans out there?

But, as Toastmasters, we are all about public speaking. Thus we first celebrate that it is the 159th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech.

The House Divided Speech

“Political newcomer Abraham Lincoln, beginning his campaign for the Illinois US senate seat, addressed the Republican state convention at Springfield Illinois and made a controversial speech that has become known as the House Divided speech. Attacking the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Lincoln said:

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other!’ ”

That description I just quoted from came right out of the 2016 edition of Chase’s Calendar of Events, which I blogged about on June 9th in a post titled June is Effective Communications Month, but somehow I didn’t get the message. It is an annual, 1-1/2’ thick, 8-1/2” by 11” $80 paperback reference book. This weighty tome is a conversation piece for victims of insomnia. But the reference desk at your friendly local public library probably has a copy. If you call them up, you might get a much better idea for a Toastmasters club meeting theme than from doing a quick Google search.   

Of course, you also could got to Wikipedia and look up their page for June 16th. You will find lists of Events, Births, Deaths, and Holiday and observances. Much is boring stuff, like in 1903 the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, and in 1911 IBM was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. Birthdays include economist Adam Smith in 1723, Geronimo in 1829, and John Tukey in 1915. Tukey mashed up binary and digit into the trendy word bit.

National Fudge Day

The authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says as a verb fudge goes back to 1674, and it means to fit together or adjust in a clumsy, makeshift, or dishonest manner. As a noun it goes back to 1766 and means contemptible nonsense, a made-up story, a deceit, etc.

Fudge is a Victorian confection dating from 1889, described by a student at Vassar College. The Vassar fudge recipe became quite popular. Word spread to other women’s liberal art colleges in the Seven Sisters, like Wellesley and Smith.

Fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk, followed by heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 F, and then beating the mixture while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. Chocolate, nuts, and other flavors are sometimes added, either inside or on top. It is often bought from gift shops in tourist areas.

OED says another early 20th century meaning for fudge (as a noun) is a blank patch on a newspaper page - for example, the Daily Mail. It was set aside so especially late breaking news, like race results, can be inserted via a second press run - just for that outer page.

National Flip-Flop Day

Flip-flops are a type of inexpensive, waterproof two-piece sandal for casual wear. They consist of a flat sole (often foam) held loosely onto the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around both sides of the foot.

This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC.  The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zori, which became popular in the US following World War II - when returning soldiers brought them back.

Flip-flop has been used in both in American and British English since the 1970s. It is an onomatopoeia of the sound made by the sandals when walking in them. In Austria they are called Schlapfen, and in Ghana the are called Charlie Wote. They also are somewhat xenophobically called Japonki in Poland, and Vietnamki in Russia. Flip-flop also refers to changing your opinion, as politicians commonly do. 


Bloomsday is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Jame Joyce’s 265,000 word long stream of consciousness novel, Ulysses. It takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Why was that date chosen? Well, Joyce met his muse, Nora Barnacle, on June 10, 1904 in Dublin. Reportedly they had their first romantic liaison on June 16th. But they didn’t get married until 1931. That novel was published in Paris on February 2, 1922.

Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. Post Office burned copies of the novel as obscene. In 1933 Random House arranged to import the French edition and have a copy seized by U.S. Customs. The publisher contested the seizure in a lawsuit, affirmed in 1934 on appeal, so the U.S. became the first English-speaking country where the book was freely available.

Images of Abraham Lincoln, fudge, and Leopold Bloom all came from Wikimedia Commons.