Saturday, September 22, 2018

Having your thunder stolen

On September 20, 2018 The Onion (a satirical newspaper) had an article titled 4th grader panics upon realizing classmate giving presentation had exact same summer as he did. It said that Bryan Gardner was freaked out by the preceding presentation being the same as what he had planned. (Their teacher was depressed because she also had the same summer).

This problem is known as stealing thunder. In a topical seminar it can be a big problem if you just do the same superficial research as another speaker. On January 22, 2014 I blogged about a cure -
Don’t just get on the bandwagon! Find your own speech topic and approach.

Both in litigation and crisis communication it may be better for persuasion to reveal negative information about your organization before an opponent can. Back on July 15, 2009 I blogged about it in another post titled Stealing Thunder: say the worst, but say it first. Laurie Kuslansky at A2L Consulting discussed it briefly on April 28, 2014 in an article titled 4 tips for stealing thunder in the courtroom. Kathyrn M. Stanchi had an exhaustive 54-page article in the 2008 Rutgers Law Review titled Playing with fire: the science of confronting adverse material in legal advocacy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Silliest quote for the month

At CNBC on September 8, 2018 there was an article by Elle Kaplan titled 8 simple ways public speakers overcome their own fears to impress and inspire that also was posted at Yahoo Finance. It had the following eight section headings:

1] Know what you’re walking into

2] Know your audience

3] Structure your speech

4] Focus just on your content and not yourself

5] Smile, and go on

6] Execute the right tone, volume, and pace

7] Eye contact

8] Practice

But the article failed to follow #4 and focus on the content. The very fourth sentence says:
“In a survey, public speaking is ranked as one of the top phobias for most Americans, according to the Chapman Survey on American Fears.”

The article referred to the web site for those Chapman Surveys, but Ms. Kaplan clearly had not checked on details for the 2017 survey. Their press release has a graphic showing the Top 10 Fears of 2017 – but public speaking isn’t there. It isn’t even in either the Top 20 or the Top 40. Their blog post has a list of fears showing public speaking really is ranked only #52 out of 80 fears! That is very far from the top, and not a phobia. (Back in 2011 I blogged about What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?).

When you look at the survey methodology for the question, you will find it is also about fear rather than phobia – it is question qn23m on page 12:

“How afraid are you of the following? – Public speaking”

Back on October 26, 2017 I blogged about How can you make a public speaking coach run away like a scared zebra? Just tell them where public speaking ranked in the fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears. And on  October 14, 2017 blogged about What do the most Americans fear? The fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears, and being innumerate.

The graphic came from here at Openclipart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A humorous typo

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Cartoonist Doug Savage lead up to it by posting a week of related Savage Chickens cartoons. On September 14th he posted the one shown above, claiming The Legend of Blackbeard came from the typographical error of adding an extra D.

Humor columnist Dave Barry was responsible for making International Talk Like a Pirate Day into a holiday event. There even is a 6-1/2 minute training video on YouTube. And the Toyota Yaris is the official car for this day, which I blogged about back in July 2011.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Tent cards for member names and meeting roles at Toastmasters club meetings

One detail of running Toastmasters club meetings is identifying members and their roles. At St. Al’s Toastmasters Club we use two-sided 8-1/2-inch wide by 2-1/2-inch high tent cards, as is shown above. (Capitol Club had reusable clip-on name tags which sometimes accidentally got taken home after meetings).

At the last District 15 Leadership Training Institute (TLI) Jerry Shaeffer from the  CommuniCreator’s Club mentioned his club was using tent cards identifying meeting roles. I did a Google search and found that District 58 in South Carolina had 11-inch wide by 4-1/4-inch high tent cards with the role name on one side and a description on the other, as is shown above. You can download their Meeting Roles Tent Cards as a PowerPoint file.

I realized that we could get even fancier and add one-inch high pink meeting role cards as ‘hats’ to slip over our name tent cards. That combination would let everyone know exactly who is doing what – even if there is no printed agenda. We tried them out today and voted to use them from now on.   

Avery makes some embossed tent cards. Their #5305 are 2-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches (two per sheet).
Their #5309 are 3-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches (just one per sheet).


Monday, September 10, 2018

Do you have a screw loose?

I mean literally, not figuratively. When we moved into our new house about five years ago there were some stripped screws on the door hinges for a few kitchen cabinets. I repaired them by inserting the ends of three round wooden toothpicks dipped in white glue to plug and refill the holes. That’s one common repair method reusing the same screw. You also could either use longer screws or larger diameter screws, or drill out the hole and glue in a wood plug (cut from a dowel rod). These options and others are discussed in an article at The Spruce Crafts titled How to fix a screw that has stripped out.

My repair on the most used hinge finally let loose. As shown above, this time I redid it by cutting three pieces from the middle of those 0.08” diameter by 2-1/2” long toothpicks, and using a lot more yellow Titebond PREMIUM Wood Glue.

When we had breakfast with one of my wife’s friends I mentioned doing that repair. She had also used the “toothpick trick” for fixing loose screws on her tap shoes. There is a risk of damage to wooden floors when a loose screw starts protruding. The Tight Taps web site sells three different sizes of screws, and they also have a 1-1/2 minute YouTube video on How to fix a tap shoe screw.    

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Is the glass half full or half empty?

A cliché about optimism and pessimism is that a pessimist says the glass is half empty, while an optimist says the glass is half full. There even is a Wikipedia page.

There are other more creative replies. A physicist says the glass really is half-filled with water and half-filled with air. An engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. A bartender says for $2 I can refill the glass with orange juice, or for $5 I can add a fifth of a glass of vodka, and make it into Screwdrivers. (That’s a specific version of a Tom Peters quote - that the real question instead should be how do I fill the glass?). If the glass scares you half to death, then you have glassophobia.

Back on January 30, 1997 a Dilbert cartoon had the following clever dialogue:

Ratbert: A pessimist says the glass is half empty. An optimist says it’s half full.

Dilbert: Did you put your lips on my glass again?

Ratbert: And the engineer says…

Dilbert: It’s a good thing I put half of my water in a redundant glass.

On September 1, 2018 another Dilbert cartoon which inspired this post had some less clever dialogue:

Pointy-haired Boss: A pessimist says the glass is half empty. An optimist says it is half full.

Dilbert: The engineer says the glass is too big.

Pointy-haired Boss: The manager says the engineer should shut his pie hole. 

There was an article by Diana Booher on pages 12 and 13 of the February 2010 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled The Link Between Language and Leaders which said:

“As a presenter and leader, you may be called on to deliver bad news. If your audience sees the glass as half empty, you have every right – even an obligation – to help them see it as half full.”  

I looked on Pubmed and found a pair of articles from 2011 in the Canadian Veterinary Journal by Myrna Milani on Half-empty and half-full communication – one in October about the client and one in December about the practitioner. There also is a definitive 27-page article with 320 references by David Hecht in the September 2013 issue of Experimental Neurobiology about The neural basis of optimism and pessimism.

Update on September 19, 2018

Fifteen years ago there was a magazine article by Craig R. M. McKenzie and Jonathan D. Nelson titled What a speaker’s choice of frame reveals: reference points, frame selection, and framing effects that appeared in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review for 2003, on pages 596 to 602, vol. 10 no. 3. Their abstract began [percentages added by me]:

“Framing effects are well established: Listeners’ preferences depend on how outcomes are described to them, or framed. Less well understood is what determines how speakers choose frames. Two experiments revealed that reference points systematically influenced speakers’ choices between logically equivalent frames. For example, [88% of] speakers tended to describe a 4-ounce cup filled to the 2-ounce line as half full if it was previously empty but [only 31% described it as half full or instead 69%] described it as half empty if it was previously full.”

They also looked at glasses one-quarter or three-quarters full, with the results shown above.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

An ineffective graphic about personal growth for effective leadership

There is an enormous pile of books on the topic of leadership. (Here in the Treasure Valley the online metro public library catalog lists 941 books on the subject of Leadership, and 718 books on Success in Business.  

On the new books shelf at my friendly local public library, I picked up one to skim, Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward. Chapter 4 is titled The Trilateral Leadership Ledger, and is described at the bottom of pages 95 and 99 by a graphic similar to the one shown above. It is supposed to be: “a way to self-assess their effectiveness and track their progress.” As shown above, it combines three categories – Character, Tasks, and Relationships. Each category is ranked on a scale from zero (dismal) to ten (perfect). When you look at this row of three bar charts, you would be tempted just to average those rankings.

But instead their score for leadership effectiveness is supposed to be the result from multiplying those rankings. A better graphic would make the multiplication more obvious, as shown above. It also should show that the score is on a range from zero to a thousand. (I left off the registered trademark symbol after searching the USPTO database and not finding a registration for that phrase).

Better yet, since there are three dimensions, you could simply show the product from that multiplication as a volume. (For simplicity I left off the three zero to ten scales).