Wednesday, May 31, 2017
One of the sillier statements you may find is in a June 1, 2012 article from Dale Carnegie by Kristina Schneider titled Fear Not, Master Public Speaking with Confidence which claimed:
“....Nobody ever died from public speaking.”
Similar claims have appeared elsewhere in books, articles, and blog posts. In his 2011 book, No Sweat Public Speaking, Fred E. Miller said of small-town newspapers:
“Read a few of the death notices and you’ll find that people die from a variety of causes. I’ve yet to see where anyone died from giving a presentation!”
In the 2008 edition of the textbook iSpeak (public speaking for contemporary life)
Paul E. Nelson, Scott Titsworth, and Judy C. Pearson said:
“The authors of this book have over 90 years of combined teaching experience. We have heard thousands of classroom speeches. So far, not one student has died while speaking. Nor have we ever heard of one who did.”
On January 12, 2009 in an article at Ezine Articles titled Fear of Public Speaking - Is It Justified? Nancy Daniels said:
“To my knowledge, no one has died from public speaking.”
On April 15, 2017 in his Mindful Presenter blog Maurice DeCastro posted on Public Speaking Skills - 20 Tips to help you to manage your nerves more broadly claimed:
“To my knowledge no one has ever died from either speaking in public or worrying about speaking in public.”
Perhaps their knowledge is like a short rubber band, and it does not stretch very far.
Has anyone died from worrying about public speaking? Probably! In a magazine article titled Communication Apprehension: What Have We Learned in the Last Four Decades Professor James C. McCroskey told an anecdote about suicides by students at Pennsylvania State University back when he was teaching there. 14 were recorded, and all but one currently were enrolled in the required public speaking classes. Back on October 18, 2009 I blogged about that in a post titled Some college students really do fear public speaking more than death.
Recently I was told instead that only three people had died from public speaking. A Google search led me on Google Books to the 2011 book Network Marketing for Dummies by Zig Ziglar and John P. Hayes which indeed had said:
“As far as I have been able to discover, only three people have lost their lives in the process of public speaking. They are Arthur MacArthur, the father of General Douglas MacArthur, who died of a heart attack while on the dais addressing a reunion of his Civil War unit; Alben W, Barkley, former vice president of the United States, who died suddenly while making a speech; and a woman who was running for Justice of the Peace in a small New York town. Some estimates tell us that roughly 15 billion people have occupied the earth since Adam and Eve. That means the odds are five billion to one that you will survive your talk.”
I found it very curious that all three of Mr. Ziglar’s examples were in the United States. So, I did some Google and Bing searches on phrases like “died while giving a speech,” “died while speaking,” “died after speaking,” and “Heart attack while speaking.”
Here are the results: I found 15 people in the U.S. (5 times more than Mr. Ziglar reported), and a total of 30 people from various countries (10 times more than Mr. Ziglar reported). When possible I have supplied the birth and death dates and other pertinent details.
Writer and orator Jose Carlos de Patrocinio (October 8, 1854 to January 29, 1905) died during a speech in honor of the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont at the Teatro Lincio on Rio de Janeirio due to hemoptysis.
Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was an educational reformer (February 27, 1857 to February 26, 1910). According to Wikipedia:
“Adelaide travelled by train to Toronto to speak at St. Margaret’s College on ‘Women and Industrial Life’. Ten minutes after she began speaking, her voice faltered. She was given some water. She took a sip, said 4 more words and collapsed on the floor. Adelaide Hunter Hoodless's death was registered as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage.”
Roy Wagar school board official in Montreal (? to 1962):
“Wagar died during his speech at Monkland High School's graduation ceremony just a year before Wagar High School opened its doors.”
Corinne Erhel, French politician (February 3, 1967 to May 5, 2017):
“Erhel died while she was giving a speech at a meeting in support of Emmanuel Macron for the 2017 French presidential election.”
Johann Theodor von Ravenstein, army officer (January 1, 1889 to March 26, 1962). According to notes on page 201 of Samuel W. Mitcham’s 2007 book, Rommel’s Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, after retirement:
“...he devoted himself to his many interests and hobbies, and was very active in the Lutheran Church. He dropped dead of a heart attack during a speech to his parish on March 26, 1962.”
Moolayil Narayana Menon Vijayan, Indian orator and writer (June 8, 1930 to October 3, 2007):
“Vijayan suffered a massive heart attack and died during a recorded speech at Thrissur Press Club.”
Jerome Hynes, chief executive of the Wexford Festival Opera (September 30, 1959 to September 18, 2005):
“He was addressing staff, casts and crews in the foyer of the Theatre Royal in Wexford on Sunday night and was introducing incoming artistic director David Agler, when he collapsed suddenly. He died shortly afterwards.”
Inejiro Asanuma, socialist politician (December 27, 1898 to October 12, 1960):
“Asanuma was assassinated by 17-year-old, Otoya Yamaguchia, militant nationalist, during a televised political debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives. While Asanuma spoke from the lectern at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi rushed onstage and ran his yoroi-doshi (a traditional samurai sword) through Asanuma's ribs on the left side, killing him.”
Carmen de Burgos, journalist, writer, and human rights activist (December 10, 1867 to October 9, 1932). According to Spanish Women’s Writing 1849 to 1996 (edited by Catherine Davis, 2000), page 121:
“It was during a public speech in favour of the Republic in 1932 that she collapsed with heart failure. Her dying words are reported to have been: ‘I die happily because I’m dying in the midst of a triumphant Republic. Long live the Republic! Gentlemen: shout with me, Viva la Republica!’ ”
Vahap Özaltay, first Turkish professional football player (1908 to June 10, 1965):
“Özaltay died of a heart attack while giving a speech at Altay Sport Club’s general congress in 1965.”
Ruth Rendell was the author of numerous murder mystery novels. In a 2013 Penguin article about an incident in the early 1950s she said:
“I had resigned from a job as a journalist on the Chigwell Times after I wrote a report of a local tennis club’s dinner without going along, thus missing the fact that the after-dinner speaker died in the middle of his speech!”
William Friese-Greene, photographer and inventor (September 7, 1855 to May 5, 1921) got up to speak at a meeting of the cinema industry in London but soon became incoherent. He was helped to return to his seat, but shortly afterward slumped forward and died.
Sir Montague Maurice Burton, founder of a clothes shop chain (August 15, 1885 to September 21, 1952) died while speaking after a dinner in Leeds.
Raymond Arthur Pobgee, mayor of Peterborough from 2000 to 2002 (? to April 7, 2005)
reportedly collapsed and died from a heart attack during a Peterborough city council meeting regarding a financial mistake in the city’s plans for secondary schools. His last words were:
”It has been a long sad story.”
Chris Harman, socialist activist and journalist (November 8, 1942 to November 7, 2009) died:
“following a cardiac arrest while lecturing at the Socialist Days conference of the Center for Socialist Studies (CSS) in Cairo, Egypt.”
In his 2004 book Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World, Zig Ziglar identified that woman who was running for Justice of the Peace in a small New York town as Barbara Helleen, who reportedly suffered a heart attack while speaking to the Women’s Club of Rosendale, New York.
William Barton Rogers, geologist, physicist, and first president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1862 - 1870 (December 4, 1804 to May 30, 1882):
“He died after collapsing during a speech at MIT's 1882 commencement exercises. His last words were ‘bituminous coal.‘ “
Aaron Macy Powell was a Quaker social reformer active in the Anti-Slavery Society (1832 to May 13, 1899) who died in Philadelphia at the Race Street Meetinghouse as described in the Personal Reminiscences of the Anti-slavery and Other Reforms and Reformers on page 211 ( at Google Books):
“Near the close of the meeting, during which there had been much expression of unity with the presence by courtesy, of Friends from the far West and England, he rose and said: ‘It has been very gratifying to me to observe in the portion of the morning session which I was privileged to attend, and again this afternoon, the tendency to a spirit of unification among Friends. We each have to live a life’ - He ceased speaking, and was observed to be falling forward. A friend facing him and near him, instantly supported him; and hands as kind as brothers’ hands could be, laid him upon the seat from which he had risen, and used every means for his restoration. A physician present in the meeting, pronounced further efforts unavailing, - the spirit had departed.”
Charles Brantley Aycock, governor of North Carolina 1901 - 1905 (November 1, 1859 to April 4, 1912):
“Aycock died of a heart attack while making a speech to the Alabama Education Association in Birmingham on April 4, 1912. The subject of Aycock's speech was 'Universal Education'. After he had talked for a few minutes, Aycock spoke the words: 'I have always talked about education -.' Here he stopped, threw up his hands, reeled backward, and fell dead.”
Arthur MacArthur Jr., army general (June 2, 1845 to September 5, 1912):
“On September 5, 1912, he went to Milwaukee, to address a reunion of his Civil War unit. While on the dais, he suffered a heart attack and died there.”
Timothy Lester Woodruff, Lieutenant Governor of New York 1897 - 1902 (August 4, 1848 to October 12, 1913):
“In 1913, after an incredibly active political and business life in New York, Woodruff died suddenly after suffering a stroke while delivering a speech.”
A. R. Ponder, businessman (? to September 9, 1931). Ponder had resided in San Antonio, TX for the past 20 years. He collapsed and died while giving a speech at the opening of a new bank in Asherton, Texas.
Edward Everett Eslick, U.S. representative from Tennessee (April 19, 1872 to JUne 14, 1932) died at the Capitol while addressing the House of Representatives regarding a World War I bonus bill.
Alben W. Barkley, U. S. vice president 1949 -1953 (November 24, 1877 to April 30, 1956):
“In an April 30, 1956, keynote address at the Washington and Lee Mock Convention, Barkley spoke of his willingness to sit with the other freshman senators in Congress, he ended with an allusion to Psalm 84:10, saying ‘I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.’ He then collapsed onstage and died of a heart attack.”
You can listen at YouTube to a recording of the last words from His Last Speech.
Malcolm X, minister and activist (May 19, 1925 to February 21, 1965) was assassinated by three gunmen while beginning to speak in a rally at a ballroom in New York City.
John Jarvis Seabrook, African-American pastor and educator (April 12, 1899 to May 1, 1975). While speaking to the Austin, TX city council he collapsed, suffering a fatal heart attack.
Ezekiel Candler Gathings, U.S. Representative from Arkansas (November 10, 1903 to May 2, 1979):
“Gathings died in West Memphis on May 2, 1979, after suffering a heart attack while speaking to a local business group.”
Donald E. McCullough, Yuba City, California automobile dealer (1936 to April 13, 2005):
“He died while speaking at a Save Beale Air Force Base fundraiser.”
Allison ‘Tootie’ Montana, chief of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians (December 16, 1922 to June 27, 2005):
“Tootie was making a speech at the New Orleans City Council Chamber against the NOPD abuse of the Mardi Gras Indians. In the middle of his speech Tootie suffered from a heart attack that took his life. ”
Gene Edward Franchini, former chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court (May 19, 1935 to November 4, 2009). According to his obituary in the ABA Journal, he collapsed and died while giving an annual speech on ethics and the role of a judge to an audience of about 100 - mostly first-year students at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque.
Although death while speaking in public is rare, it certainly is not unheard of. My list likely is an underestimate, since countries such as China, Indonesia, and Russia are missing.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
It was the obituary for the English writer of murder mystery novels, Ruth Rendell (February 17, 1930 to May 2, 2015). She didn’t die while speaking - that incident happened back in the early 1950s. But her obituary in The Guardian said that:
“...she had been a journalist on the Chigwell Times, but resigned after it emerged that her report of a local tennis club dinner had been written without attending the event, meaning she missed the death of the after-dinner speaker during his speech.”
She had told a similar version in a 2013 article at the Penguin web site. I don’t have access to the Chigwell Times, so I have not been able to find the name of the after-dinner speaker.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Many of us are familiar with humorous (LOL = laugh out loud) images of cats with silly captions. The Wikipedia article about LOLcats shows a 1905 postcard of a costumed cat created by the American photographer Harry Whittier Frees (1879 – 1953). Some of his images like the three from 1914 shown above: Fire, A Hungry Bunch, and The Nurse can be found at the Library of Congress web site, and 22 others are at Wikimedia Commons.
William Wegman is another more recent photographer noted for his animal images, mainly his Weimaraners with deadpan expressions. You can see ten of his images in a September 29, 2014 CNN article by Emanuella Grinberg titled William Wegman: Why dogs are such a draw. Wegman produced some of them using a 20”x24” Polaroid camera.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
On February 27, 2017 The Onion posted a one-minute parody video on How To Conquer A Fear Of Public Speaking that dispensed the following bad advice:
1] Fill the crowd with a few familiar faces who will lie to you about how it went.
2] Never start a speech without tossing a few fun-sized candy bars into the audience first to get them on your side.
3] Close your eyes and breathe deeply before each word during your speech.
4] Try to imagine everyone in the audience dead.
5] Take solace in knowing that no matter how bad your speech goes, it will be forgotten immediately upon its conclusion.
The onion image came from the National Cancer Institute.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
“99% of the population is afraid of public speaking, and of the remaining 1%, 99% of them have nothing original and interesting to say.”
Back on February 17th I blogged about Bursting a hilariously overblown claim that 99% of the world fears public speaking. Mr. Kintz’s quote was repeated in a 2012 Big Fish Blog post titled 25 More Awesome Public Speaking Quotes.
The image was adapted from a 1900 Puck magazine found at the Library of Congress.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
That was the title of an article that appeared on the USA Today website on May 8, 2017. It came from a press release titled Study: Cotton Tip Applicators Injure Children at Surprising Rate which said:
“Doctors have warned that using cotton tip applicators to clean your ears can lead to injury and infection, but a new study shows that a startling number of children suffer injuries after cotton tip applicators are inserted into their ears. The study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that more than a quarter of a million children were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990-2010 for cotton tip applicator-related ear injuries, that’s about 34 children every day.
‘Far too many children and parents believe that the ears should be cleaned at home, and that a cotton tip applicator is the tool to do that,’ said Kris Jatana, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. ‘And because this study only captured injuries that were treated in emergency departments, there were likely a lot more injuries to children who were treated by an ear, nose and throat specialist or a pediatrician.’
Of the children treated in emergency departments, more than two-thirds were under the age of eight, and 77 percent of patients were handling the cotton tip applicators themselves. Dr. Jatana says these products should be kept out of the reach of young children, and it’s important for parents to teach older children that cotton tip applicators should never be used in their ears.
‘The ear canals are self-cleaning, so not only is it unnecessary to clean children’s ear canals, but it puts them at serious risk of injury,’ said Dr. Jatana. ‘Cotton tip applicators can easily cause a perforation or hole in the eardrum or push wax deeper into the ear canal where it gets trapped. Injuries can cause infection, dizziness or irreversible hearing loss.’ ”
How could most injuries be prevented? Take those swabs away from children. Tell them if they want to get water out of their ears after a shower or bath, then they should just jump up and down. They’ll probably instead roll up a facial tissue, but won’t be able to push it hard enough to perforate an eardrum.
Where are the detailed results from that study? In an article that will appear in The Journal of Pediatrics by Zeenath S. Ameen, Thiphalak Chounthiarth, Gary A. Smith, and Kris R. Jatana titled Pediatric Cotton-Tip Applicator-Related Ear Injury Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 1990-2010.
What is missing from that press release and article? A context for that 34-a-day number. Where does it fit in a bigger picture compared with other injuries?
For example, how does it compare with skateboarding? I found an article from April 8, 2016 at LiveScience by Sara G. Miller titled Not So Gnarly: Skateboarding Sends 176 Kids to the ER Every Day. That’s five times the number of cotton swab injuries. It reported on results from a 2016 magazine article in Injury Epidemiology by Lara B. McKenzie, E. Fletcher, N.G. Nelson, K. J. Roberts, and E. G. Klein titled Epidemiology of skateboarding-related injuries sustained by children and adolescents 5-19 years of age and treated in US emergency departments: 1990 to 2008. You can read the abstract here at PubMed. Curiously McKenzie, Nelson, and Roberts are with the Center for Injury Research and Policy in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as are Ameen, Chounthiarth and Smith – the first three authors of the article on cotton swabs.
How about other sports? I found a July 2016 report (Statistical Brief #207) by Audrey J. Weiss and Ann Eixhauser titled Sports-Related Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Inpatient Stays, 2013. It came from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). Table 2 listed the Top Five specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both boys (2789 per day) and girls (1415 per day), and the overall total (4204). As shown above, for boys there were 458 injuries associated with American tackle football, followed by 379 for other unspecified sports activity, and 329 for bicycle riding. For girls there were 181 for school recess and summer camp, 139 for bicycle riding, and 132 for other unspecified sports activity. Running (111) and soccer (110) were almost the same and both more than 3 times that for cotton swabs.
Table 1 listed the Top Ten specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both children and adults. I have plotted them in the bar chart shown above, along with the cotton swab and skateboarding injuries. There were almost exactly twice as many (353 per day) soccer injuries as skateboarding injuries, but that was minor compared with the largest category - 1051 bicycle riding injuries. There were a total of 7,688 sports-related Emergency Department visits per day.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Chapter 4 of Bill Hoogterp's 2014 book Your Perfect Presentation is titled Weak Language: Cut It Down. The section on page 51 titled The Taste of Weak Language says:
"Let's try a little experiment. Fill a glass or cup one-fourth full with a beverage you like – coffee, soda, something flavorful. Now add plain water to the same glass until it is three-fourths full.
How appetizing does it look now?
In theory, it shouldn't be a problem. Water has no taste, so it should have no effect. The same should be true for all the ums, basicallys, and other weak language. They don't mean anything, so what's the harm?
Take a sip of the watered-down drink. How did it taste?
That is what it tastes like to other people's brains when we use weak language. It dilutes and weakens the power of your message."
But that argument is ridiculous, since our filler words are NOT EVER twice what our message is. An article titled Cutting Out Filler Words by William H. Stevenson, III in the February 2011 issue of Toastmaster Magazine discussed the extreme example of Caroline Kennedy who used 27 ‘ums’ and 38 ‘you knows’ (a total of 65 fillers) in a five-minute talk. Let’s assume conservatively she spoke at 80 words per minute for a total of 400 words. Her filler words then would be just 16% of the total, not the 67% of the total in Bill’s ludicrous example.
Mr. Hoogterp’s 'theory' is a ridiculous straw man! Would anyone really believe that nonsense? Ask the high-school girls in any domestic science (formerly home economics) class. When I was a small child in Knoxville I learned the recipe for iced tea from my mother. If it will be chilled in the refrigerator, then for each cup of hot water you put into the pot you add one tea bag and a teaspoon of sugar (or for Southern sweet tea a tablespoon). To make three cups you need three tea bags, not just one.
Another article by Jessica Bennett titled What a Speech Coach Told Me About “Speaking Like A Woman” (And Why It’s BS) on March 8, 2017 at Fast Company also took on Mr. Hoogterp.
The image of an iced tea glass came from the National Cancer Institute, and the image of a 1935 cooking class came from the Library of Congress.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Why not? After all, in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog. On May 7 at CBS News there was an article titled ‘Audience dogs’ help students reduce anxiety over public speaking and an accompanying video. It talked about the Kogod School of Business at the American University providing a canine audience for nervous speakers to use when rehearsing.
Back on January 30, 2015 I blogged about how Seth Godin gave an incomplete solution for fear of public speaking. Here is the other part he missed. In his post he mentioned using a dog as an audience.
In another post on January 26, 2013 titled Hopping through sixty speeches: Shauna Causey’s Ignite Seattle talk I reported that:
“T. J. Walker, who wrote the best selling book T. J. Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations, had coached her to put sticky notes with little faces on her wall as a way to simulate an audience when rehearsing. I’ve also seen suggestions to use stuffed animals, or even pets. (Our cats both get disgusted and leave the room whenever I try to lecture to them).”
The listening dog image was extracted from the famous ad for His Master’s Voice at Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
On April 11, 2017 Doug Savage’s Savage Chickens cartoon (shown above) was about concentration or attention. On May 6, 2017 Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon was about why imagining a naked audience might not work as a remedy for stage fright.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
At the Merriam-Webster web site under the topic of Words We’re Watching there is an article titled Adulting (The verb ‘adulting is all grown up). The current definition is:
“To ‘adult’ is to behave like an adult, specifically to do the things – often mundane – that an adult is expected to do.”
They note that current use for that word took off about a year ago. TIME magazine also discussed it on June 8, 2016 in an article by Katy Steinmetz titled This Is What ‘Adulting’ Means. Not everyone approved. At Cosmopolitan on June 20, 2016 Danielle Tulio ranted to Kindly Shut the Hell Up About “Adulting.”
In 2013 there was a book by Kelly Williams Brown titled Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, which was discussed in a June 23, 2013 New York Times article by Aimee Lee Ball titled An Advice book by a 28-Year-Old? Not Quite.
But that Merriam-Webster article noted that back in 1980 adulting was instead used more specifically as a synonym for committing adultery.
A cropped and Photoshopped image of a couple walking into St. Johns College came from Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
On YouTube I found a humorous video that Jason Isbell did last March for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In it Jason claimed to have written The Saddest (Country) Song Ever: a three-hour long, four-chord masterpiece which includes topics such as:
Reliable Trucks Gone Done Breakin’ Down
The Devil’s Brown Liquor
The No-Good Bankerman Knocking on the Door with Papers
Ailing Family Dogs
Dying Family Dogs
Ten Thousand Dead Family Dogs
Long-Suffering Single Mother
Tragic Cannon Accident
A Sentient Tractor Wishes It Could Work Harder
Drunk at Custody Hearing
The Old Closed Down Skating Rink
Layoffs at the Baby Shoe Factory
A Man from the City is Mean
Oh No! Another Civil War!
Twin Brothers Have Buzzsaw Accident
Grampa Thinks His Grandson Is Hitler
A Clown Has to Retire
Toothless Dog Can’t Bite Burglar
Pregnant Lady Reads Sad Book
Honor Roll Student Experiments with Liberalism
A Father Outlives His Lawnmower
The Entire Plot of “A Farewell to Arms”
Local Magician’s Funeral
Frankenstein Attacks a Preschool
Presumably having A Farewell to Arms contributed most to the absurd length. (The 1957 movie was 152 minutes long). I suspect Jason got inspired by his cancer song Elephant.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
On April 25th at Presentation Guru there was an excellent guest post by John Zimmer titled How to “Prop Up” your Next Presentation. But John missed one type of compact, inexpensive props – inflatables. I blogged about them in a February 5, 2010 post titled Add visual interest to your public speaking presentation with balloons and other inflatable props.
You can find obvious ones like a set of six zoo animals (elephant, giraffe, lion, monkey, tiger, zebra) for $22 at Amazon.
There are less obvious ones elsewhere. Suppose you want to talk about a unicorn (a startup company that is valued at over one billion dollars). For $8 at Archie McPhee you can find an 11” long inflatable horn to wear. Want a gag for a Toastmasters meeting? They also have 5” x 5-1/2” Emergency Inflatable Toast on sale for $3 instead of the usual $5.
On January 15, 2014 I blogged about An outrageous prop for a serious purpose – the giant inflatable colon.
The image of a balloon vendor is from Wikimedia Commons.