Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Concepts and words from far away

Back in June 2013 I blogged about Finding the right word (or not). When we don’t have that word in English, we may instead borrow one from somewhere else far away.

Over at Mother Nature Network I read a blog post from December 30, 2014 by Starre Vartan with the dogmatic title of 7 Cultural Concepts we don’t have in the U.S. In alphabetical order her seven are:

1] Friluftsliv (Norwegian for free air life)

2] Gemütlichkeit (German for coziness)

3] Hygge (Danish for mental coziness or togetherness)

4] Jugaad (Hindi for an innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity)

5] Kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement)

6] Shinrin-yoku (Japanese for forest bathing)

7] Wabi-sabi (Japanese for embracing the imperfect)

#2, gemütlichkeit clearly is a concept we’ve had for some time, since that word appears in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. For an example, see a 2013 web page Oktoberfest in Fredricksburg - Celebrates 33 years of Texas Gemütlichkeit. #3 is a variation of #2. 

#1, #4 and #6 were new to me, but I burst out laughing when I saw she had included both #5 kaizen and #7 wabi-sabi.

Kaizen is well-known in manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency has a web site section on Lean Thinking and Methods with a web page on kaizen, which says that:

“Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization in working together to address a problem or improve a process. The team uses analytical techniques, such as value stream mapping and ‘the 5 whys’, to identify opportunities quickly to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team works to implement chosen improvements rapidly (often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event), typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays.”

For the past six year’s I’ve been reading Garr Reynold’s blog, Presentation Zen. Back on September 27, 2009 he posted about Personal Kaizen: 15 Tips for your continuous improvement.

Garr also has discussed wabi-sabi. Back in 2005 he posted about Wabi-Sabi and Presentation Visuals (part I) and (part 2). I checked the online catalog for metro Boise public libraries and found three books each about wabi-sabi and kaizen:

Wabi-sabi: the Japanese art of impermanence; Andrew Juniper, 2003

Living wabi sabi: the true beauty of your life; Taro Gold, 2004

Wabi sabi simple: create beauty, value imperfection, live deeply; Richard S. Powell, 2005

Gemba kaizen: a commonsense low-cost approach to management; Masaki Imai, 1997

One small step can change your life: the kaizen way; Robert Maurer, 2004

The spirit of kaizen: creating lasting excellence one small step at a time; Robert Maurer and Leigh Ann Hirschman, 2012

Ms. Vartan’s bio says she:

“...is the founder and editor of Eco-Chick.com, an award-winning nine-year-old website that covers ethical travel, eco fashion, natural beauty, environmental art and worldchanging women.”

She may not have concepts like kaizen, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t.

The Enpo no kihan woodcut image came from the Library of Congress.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A high mound of manure from Bill Hoogterp about fear of public speaking

Last year Bill Hoogterp published his book, Your Perfect Presentation. It’s not bad, except for two places.

The last paragraph at the bottom of Page 9 says that:

“....A British magazine did a survey of Americans’ fears, and guess what our number one fear was? You guessed it, public speaking. Know what was number two? Death. Yes, I am sure spiders was on there somewhere, but death was number two.*

* Findings from a 1973 survey by the London Sunday Times that were later published in David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Any Wallace, The Book of Lists (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1977). This has been the subject of much debate. According to the National Institutes of Health, 74% of Americans suffer from a fear of public speaking.”

Wow! The only thing he got right was that someone once did a survey, and they found public speaking was number one. Another four things are wrong. 

First, the survey really was done by a U. S. firm (R. H. Bruskin) in New Jersey, not something British. The most popular post on this blog appeared on October 27, 2009 and was titled The 14 Worst Human Fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: where did this data really come from?

Second, if you just check Wikipedia, The Sunday Times is a newspaper, not a magazine, and they just reported on that survey. 

Third, if you check the entry in the Book of Lists, death really only was ranked 7th, not 2nd (like in the later Seinfeld joke).

Fourth, the silly 74% for fear of public speaking comes from Statistic Brain, not the National Institutes of Health.

Page 10 continues with:

“We are more afraid of speaking in public than we are of dying. The great comedian Jerry Seinfeld makes the best joke about this. He says, ‘Does that sound right? That means when we go to the funeral, we would rather be the one lying in the box... than the one delivering the eulogy.’ “

Jerry changed things for his joke. The Bruskin survey listed what more people were afraid of, not what people were more afraid of.

There are two versions of that Seinfeld joke: the one on the TV show, and one on a DVD “I’m Telling You for the Last Time” Live on Broadway. Neither matches what Mr. Hoogterp paraphrased in his book. One from the TV show says:

 “According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death’ is number two! Now, this means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

The other on the DVD says:

“I saw a thing, actually a study, that said speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing, Number two was death. Death is number two? This means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

At YouTube you can watch video clips for both - a brief one from the show and a long one of the DVD (look at 50:36).

When you put the word hoogterp into Google Translate (set for going from Dutch to English) it translates to high mound.

Another paragraph starting at the bottom of page 53 also displays a lack of research: 

“Are you familiar with the poet Ezra Pound? He was a member of a famous group of American writers and poets who lived as expatriates in Paris during the first half of the twentieth century. Although Pound was famous for his own writing, he was known among his peers for something else. Other poets would bring their work to Ezra and ask him what he thought. He would take their poems and cross out any and all words that he thought were good but not great, that didn’t contribute enough to the power of the poem or the imagery or emotion that the poet was trying to convey. He would sometimes cut as much as two-thirds of a poem, whittling away until the poem was refined to its purest, and most potent, essence. Much as it partly pained them, the poets were grateful.”

That passage described the younger Ezra Pound, who only lived in Paris from 1921 to 1924. Later on Mr. Pound was more known as a crazy old fascist, which is why he usually is ignored. 

From 1924 to 1945 he lived in Italy and was an admirer of the fascist government there. Starting in 1940 he made a series of 10-minute radio broadcasts criticizing the U.S., and  in 1943 he was indicted in absentia for 19 counts of treason. In 1945 he was captured by the U.S. Army, and had a mental breakdown. From 1945 to 1958 he was held in the prison ward of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. After being released (when he was 72 years old), he returned to Italy and died in 1972.   

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Don’t make things any more complicated than necessary

As shown above, when you make a presentation into a circus, you risk losing your audience. (Facing them also will help).

If instead you can simplify your main point to where it can be presented by drawing three concentric circles on a flip chart, like Simon Sinek did in his 2009 Start With Why TEDx talk, then that’s what you should do.

You really don’t need to overdo it with a three-stage PowerPoint animation sequence. Conversely if you are training radiologists or pathologists how to recognize subtle features on images, you may need a rather long and sophisticated PowerPoint presentation.

At this year’s Grammy awards two nominees for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year were Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. Stay With Me, with it’s drum heartbeat and church choir chorus won both. That chorus simply is:

“Oh, won't you stay with me?
'Cause you're all I need
This ain't love, it's clear to see
But darling, stay with me.” 

The more complicated chorus for Shake It Off is:

“Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, Shake it off.”

The circus image came from the Library of Congress.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A simple prop and a cruel story

An wooden 2”x4” wall stud might be just what you need to make an abstract concept concrete. In a mis-titled story on February 20th about Public Speaking: Four Attention Getters to Start Your Presentation Sean Buvala explained as his sixth point that:

“....Once, during a youth leadership conference, I dragged an eight-foot long piece of wood up to the front of the room. 

I announced that I came ‘with my two by four’ to speak about how leadership was not something adults practiced ‘at’ youth but rather was done ‘with, to, by and for’ young people. 

I held on to that piece of wood throughout the presentation as the audience learned to say with me, ‘with, to, by, for’ whenever I prompted them. 

Both the content of that speech and the image of me with a huge board in my hand were talked about for many years.”

I suspect part of why the 2x4 stud was memorable is that it prompted recall of another well-known story about a donkey. There are many versions. Here is a brief one:

A man was having trouble with a disobedient donkey he’d recently bought, so he took him to a trainer known for his gentleness, a ‘donkey whisperer.’ That trainer immediately pulled out a long 2x4 and whacked the donkey - right between the eyes.

The man was horrified. “Why on earth would you do that? Aren’t you the donkey whisperer?”

"Yes, I am. But, before I whisper, I first need to get his complete attention."

The image of a 2x4 is from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries)

The June 2014 issue of Toastmaster magazine had an article by Margaret Montet titled Don’t Rely on the Web (Visit a library for sophisticated research tools). It’s pretty good, and well worth reading. But, since it’s just two pages long it omits some important information. In this post I will fill in the blanks, and use my location here in Boise, Idaho as an example.


What is your first step in researching for a speech? Do you just fire up a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and look around on the web? That approach will find you oodles of mediocre information. What you really need is less but higher quality information (from books, magazine articles, and newspaper articles). Where will you find it? Why, at your friendly local public library.  

Do you already have a card for your public library? If not, go get one. The Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) at the library is your basic tool for finding books, audio CDs (recorded books), and videos. Library of Congress subject headings sometimes are not obvious to us civilians. Ask a librarian if you need help in finding the right ones. For example Carmine Gallo’s book Talk Like TED is cataloged under both “Public speaking” and “Business presentations” while Business Storytelling for Dummies is under “Communication in management” and “Business communication.” Once you have found an item like a book, you can widen the search by looking under its subject headings.

You can also use your home computer to log in at the library web site and use their set of databases that cover both magazine and newspaper articles. Most state library systems purchase access to a suite of databases for all their public libraries. Here in Idaho that collection of EBSCO Host databases is handled by Libraries Linking Idaho (LiLI). Your taxes already have paid for this, so you might as well take advantage of what you bought.

For newspapers there are Newspaper Source Plus and Regional Business News. For magazines (and newspapers and more) there are MasterFILE Premier, Business Source Premier, and Academic Search Premier.

Some libraries add other databases. Boise Public Library (but not the Ada County Library) also has Reader’s Guide Retrospective from Wilson, a database with searchable access to more than 100 years of citations (but not full text) from 523 leading U.S. magazines covering from 1890 through 1982. It is an excellent resource for historical research. The Boise Public Library also adds the expensive newspaper database from the Idaho Statesman.


How can you painlessly learn to use the library to research your speech? Look instead at the web site for your state university library. Every term they get a fresh batch of somewhat confused students enrolled in their introductory public speaking or communication course. So, they will have either a specific course guide, or a more general guide to communication. Just climb in their wheelbarrow and ride along.

For example, Boise State University has a guide for their Communication 101 course. Their tabbed START HERE page suggests that you first look in the Academic Search Premier database, which is from LiLI and also can be found at public libraries. In that database you can find a magazine called Vital Speeches of the Day that has both well-known and obscure examples. Boise State also has the scholarly Communication and Mass Media Complete database, which goes back about a century. Idaho State University also has a guide for their Speech/COMM 1101 course. 

I suspect that Margaret Montet may have run afoul of the bureaucrats at her employer, whom she did not mention in her Toastmaster magazine article. Actually she works at the Bucks County Community College, and she even wrote one of the library guides for their Comm 110 Effective Speaking course.

An Appendix at the end of this blog post lists example guide web pages at state universities from all fifty states. Others also are useful. For example, a web page at Sacramento City College mentioned that along with the CQ Researcher library database on controversial topics there also is a web site called ProCon. A Colorado State University web page for SPCM 200 Public Speaking has a tab for Example Speeches. 


From EBSCO Host you can do a “federated search” covering multiple databases at once. Databases like EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier have many very powerful search functions that are not at all obvious.

The Basic Search screen is shown above. (Click on the image to see a larger, clearer version). I almost always begin by checking the box under Limit your results to select Full Text. Later on I can always expand my search to include articles that only have abstracts. You can watch their two-and- a half-minute basic video tutorial.

There is a much more detailed 26-minute EBSCO Host video tutorial. Usually I prefer to use their Advanced Search option, as shown above with the pull-down menu revealed to show that I’ve entered the TI Title of an article, Taming hostile audiences.

Some other options include AU Author, SU Subject Terms, and SO source Journal Name. It also is possible to search within either AB Abstract or TX All Text. A Boolean search is built by combining a series of terms connected by AND or OR or NOT. That search finds an article by Tracy, Larry that appeared in Vital Speeches of the Day back in 2005. It also finds a similar article from the February 1990 issue of Training & Development titled Taming the Hostile Audience by Tracy, Lawrence L.

When I click on the PDF Full Text label, I can read and save that article. If I click on the title, I get an abstract showing the Subject Terms: LECTURERS, PUBLIC speaking, ORAL communication, SPEECHES, addresses, etc. I could click on any of those subject terms to widen my search. I also could click on the Authors to see if there were other articles written by Larry Tracy. (Sadly there are not).


If you need more than your public library can offer, research your state university web site and then visit their library on a quiet weekend day (when they aren’t playing football or basketball). Take along a USB thumb drive and a note pad. Also bring coins, and dollar bills to pay for parking and copying or printing.

The mission of state universities includes serving state residents. They will have some arrangement for guests and visitors. For example, at Boise State University an Idaho resident can show a driver’s license or other photo ID at the circulation desk, and get a temporary logon good for an hour of use on one of four desktop PC guest terminals near the reference desk. You can search most of their collection of databases, and save articles on your USB thumb drive. (You can’t get to these databases remotely, since that requires a current university ID card number).

At Boise State you also can use one of the standup terminals near the reference desk to look up the location for older magazines on hard copy or microfiche. Then you can read and copy or print articles.

You probably can even get a library card and check out books. At Boise State they have a free citizen card. Elsewhere it is more common to have to join a Friend of the Library program and pay an annual fee of perhaps $ 25 to $75 (which may be waived if you are an alumnus). Compare that annual fee with the cost of purchasing even a few books, and you will find it is a bargain.    


Public Speaking, The ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide, has a chapter you can read on Research and Library Skills. You also could get William Badke’s book on Research Strategies (5th edition, 2014). He has a web page with a very useful list of Live Links.

Images of a public library, fishing, and a wheelbarrow all came from Wikimedia Commons.


University of Alabama - COM 123: Public Speaking

University of Alaska, Anchorage - Communication and Speech

Arizona State University - COM 225 Public Speaking

University of Arkansas - Resources for Public Speaking

San Francisco State University - COMM 351 Public Speaking

University of Colorado, Denver: Auraria Library - Public Speaking

University of Delaware - Communication

University of Florida - Speech-Language Pathology

University of Georgia - COMM 1100: Intro to Public speaking

University of Hawaii Maui Community College - Researching Speeches

Boise State University: Communication 101

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign - Communication 101

Indiana University Bloomington - P155: Public Speaking

Iowa State University - Speech Comm 212

University of Kansas - COMS 130: Communication Studies

University of Kentucky - Communication

Louisiana State University - Communication Studies

University of Maine - Communication Studies - CMJ 103 Public Speaking

University of Maryland - Communication

University of Massachusetts, Amherst - Communication

University of Michigan - Communication Studies

University of Minnesota, Duluth - COMM 1112 Public Speaking

Mississippi State University - Communication Research Guide

University of Missouri - Communication 1200 Public Speaking

University of Montana - COMX 111: Introduction to Public Speaking

University of Nebraska, Lincoln - Communications Studies

University of Nevada, Reno - COM 101 Oral Communication

University of New Hampshire - CA 450 Introduction to Public Speaking

Rutgers University - Comm 380 Public Speaking

University of New Mexico - CJ130 Public Speaking

SUNY Albany - Communications Studies: A Guide to Reference Sources

University of North Carolina - Communications Studies

University of North Dakota - Public speaking

Kent State University - Comm 26000

University of Oklahoma - Communication

Oregon State University - Speech Communication

Temple University - Public Speaking STRC 1111

University of Rhode Island - Communication Studies

Clemson University - Communication Studies

University of South Dakota - SPCM 101 Fundamentals of Speech Communication
(This has YouTubed video tutorials for the EBSCO Communication and Mass Media Complete database).

University of Tennessee Knoxville - Communication Studies 210 Public Speaking

University of Texas - Communication Studies Research Guide

Utah State University - Public Speaking

University of Vermont - Finding and Using Primary Sources - Speeches

Prince George’s Community College - Communication/Speech

University of Washington - Communication Studies

West Virginia University - COMM 104

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - Communication 103

University of Wyoming - COJO 1010: Public Speaking

Monday, February 23, 2015

What are the most folks in Sioux City, Iowa scared of?

Last Thursday the Sioux City Journal did an online poll that asked What is your greatest fear? and asked for a choice from a list of five possibilities. As is shown above, results were:

1]  33.5% Snakes and/or spiders

2]  30.3% Heights

3]  27.1% Public speaking

4]  5.2% Dancing in public

5]  3.9% Flying

The article showed a pie chart, from which I scaled the angles for the 4th and 5th items. Ranking for the first three items is the same as found in a March 2014 YouGov survey on U.S. adults, where for Very Afraid there were 32% snakes, 24% heights, and 20% public speaking. (In that survey 4th was 19% spiders, followed by 15% being closed in a small space and 14% flying on an airplane). 

The 4th item, dancing in public, was a surprise. I don’t recall seeing it as a question before. It isn’t on the 51-item Fear Survey Schedule II or the 108-item Fear Survey Schedule III, which I’ve blogged about.

Where had that question come from, and was it about a fear of dancing itself, or a fear of being arrested for an illegal act? Back in 1984 the movie Footloose described the fictitious town of Bomont, which had a ban on teen dancing and was based on the real town of Elmore City, Oklahoma. Elmore City relented in 1980, and began allowing a prom. I found that the musical version of Footloose was performed by the community theater of Sioux City back in 2013. Perhaps that had inspired the poll question.    

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A brief free course in effective use of PowerPoint from Dave Paradi

Last month I signed up for Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Effectiveness E-Course. It is free and contains seven useful lessons as follows:

1) Creating a Presentation Outline

2) Reduce Information Overload

3) Planning Your Slides

4) Designing slides so they are easy to see

5) Best Practices for Graphs

6) Using Photos and Images

7) Delivery Tips

Signing up also gives you a subscription to a newsletter, with tips every two weeks.

In lesson 4 Dave discusses how to select effective colors that have contrast, and he has an online Color Contrast Calculator tool.

Not long after reading lesson 4 I saw two great illustrations of how to use and misuse color. Both were in menus for research guides at the University of New Hampshire Library.

As shown above, the guide to First Year Writing starts with white text on a brick red background. When you mouse over a tab the background color changes to sky blue. (Click on the image for a larger, clearer view).

Now look at the research guide for Introduction to Public Speaking course (by the same author). Here the background color for all but the left Home tab is brick red, and the text labels start as a difficult to read sky blue. You have to move the mouse over a tab to get the text to change to a more readable white.

Back in 2010 on this blog I gave a great review of Dave’s first book, The Visual Slide Revolution.