Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Toastmasters International claims that it is:
“a world leader in communication and leadership development.”
The July 2013 issue of their Toastmaster magazine had a brief article on page 8 titled FACTS WORTH KNOWING The Common Fear of Public Speaking. But some of them aren’t facts, and they aren’t worth knowing. The text says:
“Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is believed to be the most common type of social phobia. Some experts estimate that three out of four people have some anxiety prior to public speaking.”
Glossophobia is the most common fear, according to speech-topics-help.com. It lists the top five phobias as:
1. Glossophobia: fear of public speaking
2. Necrophobia: fear of death
3. Arachnophobia: fear of spiders and other arachnids
4. Achluophobia, scotophobia and myctophobia: fear of darkness
5. Acrophobia: fear of heights.
If your fear of public speaking interferes with your daily life, you might suffer from glossophobia. MayoClinic.com says that with preparation and persistence, anyone can overcome this fear. The website endorses the Toastmasters program as a means of support for people challenged by public speaking.
Did you know? A video in the Toastmasters Time-tested Communication Tips series titled ‘Managing Fear’ shares methods for managing speaking anxiety. To watch it, visit www.toastmasters.org /videos and click ‘View gallery 2.’ ”
The best thing in this article is that it references a video on Managing Fear, which you can find here on YouTube. That video summarizes advice from their Better Speaker Series publication on Controlling Your Fear. But they also should have referred to an article by Matt Abrahams, Know Thy Fear, in the April 2011 issue of Toastmaster.
The next best thing in the article is that it points out a Mayo Clinic article, which actually was titled How can I overcome my fear of public speaking and written by Dr. Daniel K. Hall Flavin. I blogged about an earlier version of that article back in 2009. Dr. Flavin doesn’t just mention Toastmasters. He also discusses medication and seeing a psychological counselor.
The worst thing in this article is that it opens by fumbling and failing to explain that there is a big difference between a fear and a phobia. A phobia is more severe - it’s a fear with a capital F. As is shown above via a Venn diagram, a phobia is a fear that also is excessive, persistent, and interfering. (See Table 1 from this recent article about social anxiety disorder).
The second worst thing in this article is it wastes a third of the space with a silly graphic of top five phobias (really fears) taken from the somewhat dubious Fear of Public Speaking Statistics Factsheet web page at Jim Arthur Peterson’s Speech Topics Help web site. Lots of Toastmasters will be impressed by these seven words with -phobia suffixes. They should not be.
Are those seven words all common enough to be found in serious dictionaries, like Merriam-Webster and Oxford? No, as shown above only three are. Also, none of his three terms for fear of the dark appear. (Myctophobia might be a typo for Nyctophobia, which is in Merriam-Webster as abnormal fear of darkness).
Are those seven -phobia words useful?, Does using them in a search lead you to relevant information in medical or health databases, or do they instead just sent you down blind alleys? As shown above, most are not at all helpful. Just acrophobia and arachnophobia really are useful.
To judge their usefulness I searched both them and their common English equivalent phrases in two pairs of databases. One was the PubMed and PubMed Central medical article databases. The other was both the Consumer Edition and the Nursing and Academic Edition of the Health Source databases on the web site for my friendly local public library.
As is shown above, acrophobia is a useful term since is occurs about as commonly as the phrase fear of heights.
The Fear of Public Speaking Statistics Factsheet at Speech Topics Help claims that glossophobia is the medic (sic) term for fear of public speaking. But, as is shown above, that term doesn’t appear at all in PubMed, and only once (falsely) at PubMed Central.
Toastmaster magazine was spouting nonsense, and so I have reluctantly awarded them a special floating globe Spoutly.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I am a fan of Jessica Hagy’s Indexed comics on note cards, like this one. If you don’t think that simple graphics can be used to communicate very serious ideas, go look at her Forbes series illustrating Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Venn diagrams aren’t used well very often. But recently Jessica has used them with two and three circles, four circles, and even five nested circles like a Matryoshka doll.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Suppose you were sitting in the front seat, flying a graceful LET L-13 Blanik sailplane being towed aloft, as shown above. What would you do next if if the towline broke, or if your tow plane lost power? There are two very different answers for that question. I know that because three decades ago I was the student pilot in the glider, and had been drilled to keep track of what altitude separated which of them would apply.
As is shown above, if you are at a low altitude, then your only imperfect but satisfactory option is to look for open ground and land straight ahead. At higher altitude you instead could safely turn around, and return to the airport runway. Returning to the airport is the perfect option. When it just is not possible, there’s no reason for wasting time trying to achieve it. You have to adapt and try something else instead. (For example, watch this video animation of the crash landing by US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River).
The bulb on a projector almost always burns out just as it is switched on. Three decades ago I had that happen to me just as I began to speak during a technical conference in Houston. Then I froze, and just waited for the projectionist to put in the new bulb. What I should have done instead was to proceed with my introduction. It had four text slides I could have equally well have read from my notes. But, I had only rehearsed with my slides, and hadn’t considered what I’d do without them as a crutch.
Another aviation-related post on this blog is about checklists - Is your speech ready for takeoff? Are you sure?
Where did the inspiration from this post come from? When I checked the statistics for this blog, I found that last week over 180 people had viewed a post from June 17, 2012 titled Fear is based on perception and not reality about a magazine article by aerobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff. On December 1st Patty mentioned that post on her Facebook page.
The image of a towed Blanik came from here.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Over Thanksgiving I read biologist Edward A. Wilson’s wonderful little book, Letters to a Young Scientist. My favorite part was his fifth chapter on The Creative Process that concludes with this paragraph (which also applies to speech writing):
“I’ll end this letter by telling you how I conceive of the creative process of both a novelist like Crichton and a scientist. (I have been both.) The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and only later works like a bookkeeper. Keep in mind that innovators in both literature and science are basically dreamers and storytellers. In the early stages of the creation of both literature and science, everything in the mind is a story.
There is an imagined ending, and usually an imagined beginning, and a selection of bits and pieces that might fit in between. In works of literature and science alike, any part can be changed, causing a ripple among the other parts, some of which are discarded and new ones added. The surviving fragments are variously joined and separated, and moved about as the story forms. One scenario emerges, then another. The scenarios, whether literary or scientific in nature, compete with one another. Some overlap. Words and sentences (or equations and experiments) are tried to make sense of the whole thing.
Early on, an end to all the imagining is conceived. It arrives at a wondrous denouement (or scientific breakthrough). But is it the best, is it true? To bring the end safely home is the goal of the creative mind. Whatever that might be, wherever located, however expressed, it begins as a phantom that rises, gains detail, then at the last moment either fades to be replaced, or, like the mythical giant Antaeus touching Mother Earth, gains strength. Inexpressible thoughts throughout flit along the edges. As the best fragments solidify. they are put in place and moved about, and the story grows until it reaches an inspired end.”
You can watch more of his advice in this 2012 TED talk.
My second favorite part of the book is a table of ten organisms on page 184 that shows (as of 2009) both the number of species known to science and an estimated total. I’ve divided, and added the percent known to it. We have found almost all the birds and mammals (except perhaps Bigfoot), but really know very little about insects, spiders, fungi, and nematodes.
In another 2007 TED Talk Edward O. Wilson discussed creating the amazing web Encyclopedia of Life.
The painting is by Paul Salvator Goldengruen.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Back on October 31, 2005 Infommersion, Inc. put a press release on Business Wire about an online survey titled Business Executives Admit to Dozing Through Boring Presentations. (They also said that 43% of them had caught other people dozing).
On November 23, 2013 Patti Wood posted on her Body Language Expert Blog about that survey with the misleading headline Research shows that 71% of executives admit falling asleep during a presentation. Her first bullet point in that post says instead that:
“Results released this week from an online poll by a data visualization software company reveals that 71 percent of business executives surveyed have fallen asleep or felt sleepy during dull presentations.”
There is a big difference between just feeling sleepy and actually falling asleep. Her headline lost me as a possible fan. Also October 2005 sure is a long way from being last week.
When I clicked Patti’s link to Infommersion nothing happened. So, I did a Google search and found out why. On November 1, 2005 there was a press release on Business Wire about how another firm called Business Objects had acquired Infommersion .
Other interesting results in that Infommersion press release about their survey were that:
“The most difficult types of presentation to remain fully awake through were individual speeches (35%) followed by training sessions (23%) and then general meetings (16%). Webcasts revealed themselves as the easiest type of conference to stay alert throughout, with only 11% of respondents saying they found this difficult to sit through.
Survey participants agreed that the most important ingredient for success was an 'animated and enthusiastic' speaker (51%), with an 'interesting and interactive' presentation gaining 36% of the votes. Finally, 3% of those polled said it helped if the presenter was 'good looking'.”
The yawning man came from a painting by Mihály Zichy.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Back in August 1963 the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a two-page letter to the editor by D. J. Currie and A. Smialowski titled The Purrfect Speaker which was illustrated by seven hilarious feline images captioned as follows:
“The purrfect speaker is relaxed, faces the audience, uses all his charm, and adds a touch of humour. Instead of being upset, the audience will be spellbound rather than ....zzzzz.”
It’s amazing what can be found over at PubMed Central. LOL.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Two years ago I blogged about how Speechwriting always needs editing. Sometimes a speech or presentation can be improved more by deleting material than by adding, as was discussed on November 6th by Gavin McMahon in a blog post titled The Art of Leaving Things Out. Other times what’s there isn’t quite right, but can be fixed after you take another critical look.
Ken Burns is responsible for Learn the Address, a web site about the Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. If you look alphabetically in the video gallery of people reciting it, you will find Bill O’Reilly right before Barack Obama. Mr. O’Reilly reads the standard version that is on the Lincoln Memorial. When you compare his reading with that text, you will find that he made two mistakes. A Google search did not find that anyone had complained about those flubs.
Contrast that with outraged comments from conservatives (for example at Breitbart.com) that President Obama had omitted the phrase “under God”. Mr. Burns eventually explained that he had asked the President to read the first draft (Nicolay Version), which you can find here at the Library of Congress. The President read that version perfectly.
The last paragraph in the Nicolay (draft) copy reads:
“It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us —that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The corresponding version on the Lincoln Memorial instead says:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
(Mr. O’Reilly added an extra here to this paragraph). I found it amusing that Ken Burns managed to get us to think about how Lincoln went from his draft to the actual speech he gave.
Last month I saw another example from pop songwriting. My friendly local public library had the three-CD expanded version for the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album Rumours. It had some demos and early versions for songs.
One was Lindsey Buckingham’s romantic breakup lament, Go Your Own Way, which was redone as is shown above on the TV show Glee. The finished chorus says that:
“You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way”
That’s not what is in the early take, which instead has:
“You can go your own way
You can roll like thunder, yeah yeah
You can go your own way
Go your own way”
Roll like thunder? That line doesn’t even rhyme.
The title for this post is a line from Bob Seger’s 1980 song Against the Wind.