Friday, July 22, 2016

Would three out of four people rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy?

Not really! Recently I have blogged about how a famous quotation by Jerry Seinfeld comparing the fears of public speaking and death was instead attributed to three other men - Woody Allen, Jay Leno, or Jerry Springer. Yesterday there was yet another fantasy version at The Long Distance Internet Entrepreneur. Phil Thomson blogged about Helping to reduce the fear of business presentations. His mixup of what Jerry said could be called something like Three Out of Four Would Prefer the Casket to the Eulogy. It began like this:   

“For those of us of a certain age, the USA comedy series Seinfeld holds a special place in our hearts. For many years in ran second to Friends in the US ratings, the only fundamental difference being that Seinfeld was much funnier. One particular episode stands out in my memory, when Jerry Seinfeld and friends were sadly attending a funeral. The subject of peoples’ greatest fears came up in conversation and specifically where death itself was ranked compared with having to speak in public. Sienfeld’s comment was something on the lines of ‘So what you are saying is that three out of four people in the church now would rather be in the casket that having to give the eulogy’.

This apparently jokey comment seems however to be based on fact. After flying, speaking in public comes in a strong second place ahead of spiders, the dark and yes even death. Until recently I had no idea that there was even a specific catch-all name for the physical sensations we go through before and during public speaking. It is called Glossophobia (from the Latin word Glossa meaning tongue) and it covers everything from dry mouth and weak voice to sweating and elevated blood pressure.”

Back on February 3, 2014 I blogged about Busting a myth - that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking. So, the 3 out out 4 isn’t really fact based. Neither is the Statistic Brain version with 74%.

Also, in last year’s second Chapman Survey of American Fears, speaking in public didn’t come second. It came 26th out of 89 fears, and on the average people were only slightly afraid of it. See my October 29, 2015 blog post titled: According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking.

Glossophobia is a pseudo-technical term that won’t lead you to the best information about speech anxiety.

The old man writing in a casket was modified from Wellcome Images.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

She ought to be good - she’s using my act

The press was quick to recognize that parts of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican convention last night were directly inspired by one Michelle Obama gave back in 2008, CNN reported that, as usual, the Trump campaign denied everything - that she had ‘cribbed’ them. Newsweek Europe printed the full text of both.

The retro image of a woman was copied and modified from one at Openclipart  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everyone thinks they are the Center of the Universe

We’ve all met some of those people. They will proudly tell us they’re an Influencer, Thought Leader, the Number One Authority, or the Greatest in the World. Up in Wallace they have a manhole cover with the ultimate boast. An article at Atlas Obscura on July 13, 2016 describes how The Self-Proclaimed Center of the Universe is in Wallace, Idaho. But the Exploratorium has a web page titled Where is the center of the universe? which instead explains:

“When astronomers look at distant galaxies to determine how fast they're moving, it looks like they're all moving away from us. Does that mean we're at the center of the universe? Well, no. It turns out that every point in the universe sees itself as the center!”

Atlas Obscura has another article on Felicity, California: Center of the World. I thought instead the center was way down at the core and unreachable, as shown schematically above.

When you write a speech, you have to deal with how people think. They will consciously or unconsciously be asking what’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Back on June 20, 2007 Gavin Meikle wrote about For persuasive presentations don’t forget WIIFM. There’s a recent two-minute YouTube video with Scott Schwertly of Ethos3 discussing How do I make sure my presentation addresses the idea of WIIFM? Scott says you need to answer three questions: What?, So what? and Now what?

An image of that manhole cover was modified from one by Jan Kronsell at Wikimedia Commons, as was the image of the earth’s core.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What presenters can learn from that first graphical Trump-Pence campaign logo

An Associated Press story on July 15th by Michelle R. Smith titled Trump-Pence logo gives some people the giggles described how the now discarded graphical top part of the logo shown above was ridiculed. The design is a stylized part of an American flag, but with the stars replaced by the letters TP. The first and most obvious problem is that TP is a common acronym for toilet paper.

Second and worse, having the vertical shaft of the T entering the opening of the P led to suggestions that it described sexual intercourse. Samantha Bee had an animated gif version, and tweeted it with the title Breaking the mattress of America, which I’ve shown at the bottom of the stroke. (It also was noted elsewhere that when the logo is inverted those letters look like a hand job). Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows. What a big boner. 

The graphic since has disappeared from the campaign logo. USA Today, TIME, and Fortune all gleefully reported on the first one. They should have taken a critical look before releasing the logo. Haste makes waste. It just came and went.

Back in 2008 there was a book by Donald Sexton and Donald J. Trump titled Trump University Branding 101: How to Build the Most Valuable Asset of Any Business. On page 108 it proclaimed:

“You do not need a graphic design house to develop your logo. The Nike logo was designed by a graduate student at the University of Oregon for a modest amount. However, you do need to be sure that your logo leads to the attributes that you want associated with your brand such as the coverage provided by Sherwin-Williams paint or a different kind of coverage provided by Travelers Insurance.”

Unfortunately the Trump-Pence campaign didn’t follow that advice.

Back in the late 1960s, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Carnegie Tech and Mellon Institute merged to form Carnegie Mellon University. For a brief period the new institution was just called Carnegie University. Then apparently the Mellons protested, and the name was quickly revised to Carnegie-Mellon University. The artwork on the new logo was done in such haste that the hyphen wound up protruding from the left side of the M in Mellon, and there it stayed for many years. It is on my 1972, 1974 and 1981 degrees.    

Friday, July 15, 2016

(Mary) Jane Genova also was a self-appointed brand ambassador for Toastmasters International

That’s why it was so funny to read her blog post on July 7th titled Toastmasters, et al. - Beware your self-appointed brand ambassadors. Jane must have forgotten that in both 2014 and 2015 she cranked out blog posts based on Toastmasters International press releases about their Golden Gavel award. She used their logo, but didn’t bother linking back to her sources.

On July 11, 2016 she blogged about What Else Has Changed - We can now burn bridges, with a few exceptions. No way! Anyone can site search on Google and eventually find what was written in a blog.

The image was modified from Have Another at the Library of Congress.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

She’d rather die than make that choice

Often a woman manages to get in the last word. At the upper right corner of page 7C in the July 8, 2016 issue of the Idaho Statesman there was an obituary for Jeanne Hunter Sahlberg that opened with the following sentence:

“Faced with the dilemma of having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Jeanne Sahlberg decided instead to pass from this life on June 30, 2016.”

I’m going to wait at least until I see who they pick to run for Vice President.

There already are very silly revelations about some detractors though. Look at the July 9th New York Times article by Alessandra Stanley titled Dick Morris Takes Aim at Hilary Clinton From a Tabloid Perch. In Trump-speak we would call Dick a big toesucker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How to make statistics understandable

On July 10th the Slideshop blog had a post titled How to Present Statistics that Make Sense. Headings were:

Frame it from the perspective of your audience
Use a tangible and concrete point of reference
Plot statistics on a graph or chart

One of their examples placed the height of the tallest wind turbine (220 meters) between the tallest giraffe (6.1 meters) and the tallest tower (634 meters). Lengths are pretty easy. What about weights or volumes?

The 1938 image shown above says U. S. bituminous coal production was about 10 million tons per week. People can relate to coal being transported in the usual container, which back then was a railroad hopper car holding 100 tons. So, that’s also 100,000 cars per week.

100,000 cars per week converts to 14,285.71 cars per day, or 595.24 cars per hour, or 9.92 cars per minute. Ten cars a minute is easy to imagine.

How else can we express this in human terms? A car is roughly 50 feet long, so we can imagine a single coal train going by at a speed of 500 feet per minute or 5.7 miles per hour for that whole week. According to Wikipedia an average walking speed is 3.1 miles per hour, so you’d have to jog instead of walk in order to keep up with it.  

What should you avoid? In a blog post July 15, 2011 titled What can we say about a really big hole in the ground? I discussed the Bingham Canyon open pit mine near Salt Lake City. Kennecott Utah Copper said that each day they mine 500,000 tons of ore, which was described as being 10,000 50-ton humpback whales. Most of us don’t see humpback whales in everyday life, so that’s not a useful point of reference.

What about volumes? In another blog post on August 17, 2011 I discussed How to make a large number incomprehensible - or comprehensible. A July 22, 2011 article in The Week described how:

“....For Americans at home, flushing the toilet is the main way we use water. We use more water flushing toilets than bathing or cooking or washing our dishes or our clothes. The typical American flushes the toilet five times a day at home, and uses 18.5 gallons of water, just for that. What that means is that every day, Americans flush 5.7 billion gallons of clean drinking water down the toilet. And that’s just at home.”

It’s impossible to get your brain around that number, of course—5.7 billion gallons of water a day. But here’s a way of thinking about it. It’s more water than all the homes in the United Kingdom and Canada use each day for all their needs—we flush more water down the toilet than 95 million Brits and Canadians use.”

5.7 billion gallons a day is hard to comprehend. But it can be compared with something huge - it is about 9% of the flow over Niagara Falls. When you multiply anything by 308 million people, you will get a huge number. I discussed that problem in a September 23, 2012 blog post titled Is 540 million minutes per day a large number or a small number?

Bleach and milk both come in gallon bottles. Think about picking up and pouring 18 of them into a toilet, one at a time. So 18 gallons per person per day is easy to imagine and visualize.
Another statistic in that Slideshop blog post was: 

“Here’s an example of how a teacher could use statistics to promote motor vehicle safety to students.

Good: Don’t drink and drive. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 there were 9,967 people killed in alcohol-impaired auto accidents in the US. (Possible reaction: Wow! That’s a huge number!)

Better: Don’t drink and drive. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 an average of 27 people died every day from alcohol-impaired auto accidents in the US alone.  (Possible reaction: I could have been one of the victims!)”

27 people per day is a small enough number to visualize easily. (Imagine 27 coffins in three rows of nine). But, how does that number compare with the Top Ten list shown on the CDC FastStats web page for Leading Causes of Death?

As shown above in a bar chart, it’s about 4 times smaller than the 117 a day for #10 (suicide) and about 14 times smaller than the 372 for #4 (accidents of all kinds), and 62 times smaller than the 1682 for #1 (heart disease). Students who get curious and check that page will say that you are unjustifiably trying to scare them. 

Very small numbers are harder to express. I discussed small thicknesses in a January 13, 2010 blog post titled How thin is “extremely thin”?

If you are using the Google Chrome web browser, then you can install an extension called the Dictionary of Numbers (Quantity in human terms). It will automatically look up comparisons. I talked about it in a September 22, 2013 blog post titled Putting numbers into context with a browser tool - The Dictionary of Numbers.

UPDATE July 13, 2016

For another recent viewpoint, see Ashish Arora's June 29th blog post at SketchBubble titled Statistics don't need to be sleep-inducing in your presentation.