Thursday, July 19, 2018

Advice about feedback from Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

At Netflix I have been enjoying watching the current (tenth) season of Jerry Seinfeld’s TV show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In Episode 2 Dave Chapelle says:

“For most people, not caring about the scrutiny of other people is one of the hardest things to do. I would even say harder than public speaking itself.”

In Episode 5 there is a longer exchange between Brian Regan and Jerry about evaluations by critics. It’s way more useful advice than the 1993 comedy routine public speaking coaches keep repeating:

“Jerry:  It is one of the comforts of comedy, I think, that almost never do people who are really good not get anywhere. Almost never.

Brian:  And I think it’s because of the objective response.

Jerry:  Right.

Brian:  No one can take away the laughs.

Jerry: Right.

Brian:  If it was just acting, it’s subjective and someone could say, ‘they’re not that good. They don’t have this. They don’t have that.’ But if you go on stage and make people laugh, nobody can say, ‘They’re not laughing.’

Jerry:  That’s what’s so funny to me when you get a negative review, which we all get from time to time. And you want to say…’They’ve already voted. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t like it, but the vote – We took a vote that night, and out of 2,000 people – I know you got this job at the newspaper, but it doesn’t mean anything.’

Brian: ‘It’s too late.’ You’re gonna go back and tell those people not to go in the past to the show they laughed at. Don’t. If you have a time machine, I’m telling you, don’t get in it and go back to Friday.

Jerry:  Yeah.

Brian:  I’m trying to make the audience laugh, and then – I’m not trying to please some guy at a typewriter, you know?

Jerry:  Here we go again. There’s no typewriters any more, okay? Speaking of time machines, you need one. And set it to ‘present.’ “

The microphone image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The NowIKnow newsletter is a source for speech topics

On July 16, 2018, in a post at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn, Eleni Palmos mentioned a newsletter called NowIKnow (written by Dan Lewis) as a source for speech ideas.

I looked at their archive and found an article from June 19, 2018 titled Why is it named Idaho? Idunno! It isn't really a Shoshone word meaning gem of the mountains. He says the name was made up by a lobbyist - George M. Willings. Some of Dan’s references are Wikipedia articles, but there also is one from a 2013 Boise Weekly article titled How Idaho got its name: the big fib. It looks like information in that article really came from an Idaho State Historical Society article titled How Idaho got its name.

Owyhee County is at the southwest corner of Idaho. Its name is real – and was in memory of three native Hawaiians (Owyhee) who disappeared while exploring a river and mountains in the winter of 1819-20. The next county to the east is Twin Falls County, whose county seat is a city  also named Twin Falls. There is a Boise County, but that’s not where the city of Boise, our state capital, is. Instead it is in Ada county.

When I lived in Ann Arbor, I remember hearing that quite a few places in Michigan had faux Indian names dreamed up by Henry Schoolcraft.

On January 22, 2014 I blogged about Don’t just get on the bandwagon! Find your own speech topic and approach. Also, on July 28, 2015 I blogged about Thinking up speech topics. Finally, on January 19, 2012 I blogged about Developing a sure-fire speech topic.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Do the benefits of public speaking training outweigh their costs in money and time?

On July 15, 2018 there was an article by Mr. Coen Tan at the Asia Professional Speakers Singapore web site titled Is public speaking training a waste of time and money? (His answer is no). He wrote it in response to an article at Forbes that he did not fully identify or link to, but was by Kristi Hedges back on April 19, 2012. It was titled Confessions of a former public speaking trainer: don’t waste your money. I blogged about it back on April 23, 2012 in a post titled Does the cost for public speaking training outweigh the benefits?

Mr. Tan’s article has five sections titled:
1] Starting out in public speaking

2] Invest in sharpening your speaking skills

3] Body language is over-rated

4] Develop your authentic style

5] Drop the show!  

In the first section he said that: “If you want to get started and overcome your fear of public speaking, join a platform like Toastmasters.” But Mr. Tan did a lot more than join – he stayed until he received the highest award, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM).   

In the second section Mr. Tan said he invested tens of thousands of dollars to learn from top speakers, kept what worked, and discarded what didn’t. (A Singapore dollar is 0.73 of a U.S. dollar, so that’s still a lot of money). He also said he learned NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), of which I am very skeptical, and mentioned Andy Harrington, who I thought gave silly advice on eye contact.  

Do the benefits of public speaking training outweigh their costs? My answer is sometimes. There are different types of training, and costs involve both money and time. Before you buy you need to obey the railway warning sign shown above – to stop, look, and listen.

Toastmasters costs relatively little money, but calls for lots of time. Conversely coaching by a professional takes relatively little time, but calls for lots of money. If you need help to give an important speech in less than a month, Toastmasters wouldn’t be a good idea and coaching would be. But what Jane Genova did was to try Toastmasters, as I blogged about in a June 19, 2016 post titled Running away from Toastmasters.      

The railway warning sign came from Darren Glanville at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fairy tales about first impressions

One common piece of advice on communication (and to speakers) is you only have a few minutes (or seconds) to make a first impression on your audience. For example, a blog post on August 3, 2015 by Amanda Johns Vaden titled The Nuts and Bolts of First Impressions said:

“The Harvard Study of Communications claimed that it only takes seven seconds for you to make a first impression on another human being, only seven seconds.

…. In fact, one of the parts of this study actually says that 38% of what makes up a first impression is how you sound. Only 7% of a first impression are the words you say. So all together, only 45% of a first impression has anything to do with the words coming out of your mouth. That leaves 55% of a first impression to visual. It’s how you look, it’s how you dress. It’s how you stand. It’s how you shake a hand. It’s if you make solid eye contact. It’s your personal appearance.

…. Not only does it take seven seconds to make a first impression, they also found that on average, it takes meeting that same person seven more times to change that first impression that you made on them.”

That Harvard Study of Communications sounds impressive, but it’s just a Nebulously Authoritative Place (NAP). She didn’t say if it was a book, a report, or a magazine article, who wrote it, or when it was published. I went to my local public library web site and searched all of the databases at EBSCOhost for the exact phrases ‘Harvard Study of Communications’ and also ‘Harvard Study on Communications’ but came up empty. It’s apparently a fairy tale, just like the claim that men think about sex every seven seconds.

Did someone else say that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression? Yes, Roger Ailes (1940 – 2017) did three decades ago in the very first chapter of a book titled You Are the Message: secrets of the master communicators. Cheryl Dahle discussed it in an article at Fast Company on May 31, 1998 titled Your first seven seconds. John Zimmer also blogged about it on October 22, 2010 in a post in his Manner of Speaking blog similarly titled The First Seven Seconds. Lately few quote Mr. Ailes, after he had resigned from Fox News in July 2016 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

How about 7% of an impression being the words? That really comes from Albert Mehrabian, who was at UCLA – about 2600 miles away from Harvard. I blogged about it back on July 25, 2009 in a post titled Bullfighting the Mehrabian myth.

An image of a fairy in happy far away land was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Failing upwards

At his Bad Astronomy blog on July 10, 2018 Phil Plait posted about Science, humanity, and the necessity of making mistakes.

That post was based on his TEDx Boulder talk, Failing upwards: science learns by making mistakes. It’s a great 12-minute presentation on how scientific research is a very human activity.

One example from metallurgy is the allotropes of iron found on the iron-carbon phase diagram. At room temperature pure iron is alpha (ferrite), with a body centered cubic crystal structure. At higher temperature it changes to gamma (austenite) with a face centered cubic structure. And at even higher temperatures it changes to delta (ferrite), again with a body centered cubic crystal structure. But beta is missing.

Why isn’t there a beta iron anymore? The phase behavior or iron was first investigated by thermal analysis. That was back before we knew how to use x-ray diffraction to determine crystal structures, or about ferromagnetism and that it disappears at the Curie temperature, and can only be understood using quantum physics (as discussed in a chapter of the Feynman lectures). Beta iron just was the paramagnetic form of alpha iron, above the Curie temperature. It’s not really a different phase, so it got removed from the diagram.     


Phli Plait followed up with another article - a Postscript and a Transcript.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Don’t torpedo your credibility with the very first sentence!

I read an article titled Writers and public speaking from July 9, 2018 by Olivia Rana at the online magazine which opened by claiming:

In 2012 researchers at Nebraska University carried out a study, which found that public speaking was the most common fear amongst students, ranking higher than hundreds of other fears, including death!

The only thing Olivia got right was that public speaking was reported as the most common fear. There really were 815 students, but only 14 fears. The article about that study was by Karen K. Dwyer and Martina M. Davidson of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It was titled Is Public Speaking Really More Feared Than Death? You can read that article here. I blogged about it on May 17, 2012 in a post titled More university students in the U.S. fear public speaking than fear death, but death is their top fear.

On May 23, 2018 at Olivia had another article titled Where do writers get their ideas from? For her July 9th article the answer is via superficial research.

The image of a torpedoed ship was adapted from this poster at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Don’t just carp about networking

Today on her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova superficially posted about Networking – so many victims of bad career advice. She began by whining:

“In good career times and bad career times, the supposed experts tell professionals to network. That simplistic advice is often useless. It can be counterproductive – positioning and packaging the eager networkers as pests or worse.

….Until parties have something to trade, they better not approach the network.

….Takeaway: Beware of off-the-shelf career advice. Each professional’s situation is unique.”

That’s just carping – complaining about what is wrong without suggesting a useful alternative. For almost two decades the pay-it-forward alternative to networking has been netweaving. I blogged about it in a December 28, 2014 post titled Netweaving versus just networking.

Brad Gruber also had an article at LinkedIn Pulse on April 22, 2016 titled Move over traditional networking – make way for netweaving.