Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I’ve blogged enough about public speaking and presentations for this year. Next year I’ll be back, starting with a post about trying to photograph the recent lunar eclipse.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This pie chart needs two kinds of help!

Yesterday on the Business Presentation Clinic blog I saw a post titled This Pie Chart Needs Rescue with a chart similar to the one shown above. One of the problems with this chart is that it displays nine different categories, while a pie chart is only effective for up to about five categories.

However, what struck me first was that the numerical labels on the chart shown above don’t match with their wedge angles. The largest category, Presentations, is labeled as being 24%, so that angle should be slightly less than 90 degrees. Instead it is much greater, more than 120 degrees. When you add up the nine numbers shown on the labels, you get a total of only 88%. The first kind of rescue that this chart needs is a look at the original data table to find the correct percentages that add to 100%. When you label the percentages correctly you get the following bar chart:

They went on to fix the problem of having too many categories with a revised pie chart (their Chart A) showing just the three largest categories, and grouping the other six into a fourth category marked Other (and then detailed in a table to the right of the pie chart).

They also displayed the data in three other ways: a stacked bar chart (Chart B), a bar chart (Chart C), and a column (vertical bar) chart (Chart D). I think that the bar chart is the best way for displaying all the data while emphasizing what is most important. All of the bars start from a common origin, so it is easy to compare their magnitudes. For the stacked bar chart they also added an table detailing the Other category. The column chart is unsatisfactory for presenting on a screen because the labels are vertical. You shouldn’t have to rotate your head to read. I really liked that all their revisions had headlines stating that The Majority of Our Employees Need Presentation Skills Training rather than Training Needs from Global Employees.

In a previous post I said that Pie charts do not speak clearly; they just mumble. In that post I referred to a 14-page newsletter article by Stephen Few from 2007 about why you should just Save the Pies for Dessert. He points out that:

“Because the pie chart was difficult to read, we added values so we wouldn’t have to compare the sizes of the slices and we added direct (company) labels so we wouldn’t have to rely on a legend. We turned the pie chart into an awkwardly arranged equivalent of a table of labels and values.”

When the bar chart can stand by itself, why bother with using a pie chart with labels (or a stacked bar chart plus a table)? Why not use either a chart or a table, and avoid straying somewhere in-between?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Heritage interpretation and public speaking

One of the topics that overlaps with public speaking is heritage interpretation. Interpreters are people who who explain natural or cultural resources for visitors at places like parks, nature centers, museums, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, and tour companies. Interpretation also includes writing and graphic design of exhibits and signs.

The National Park Service does interpretation as part of their mission, like the snowshoe nature walk through Yosemite shown above. They have a very useful publication on the Foundations of Interpretation. In their discussion of its history they mention a book by Larry Beck and Ted Cable, Interpretation for the 21st Century: fifteen guiding principles for interpreting nature and culture. Those fifteen principles (which apply equally well to inspirational or motivational speaking) are:

"1. To spark an interest, interpreters must relate the subject to the lives of visitors.

2. The purpose of interpretation goes beyond providing information to reveal deeper meaning and truth.

3. The interpretive presentation - as a work of art - should be designed as a story that informs, entertains, and enlightens.

4. The purpose of the interpretive story is to inspire and to provoke people to broaden their horizons.

5. Interpretation should present a complete theme or thesis and address the whole person.

6. Interpretation for children, teenagers, and seniors - when these comprise uniform groups - should follow fundamentally different approaches.

7. Every place has a history. Interpreters can bring the past alive to make the present more enjoyable and the future more meaningful.

8. High technology can reveal the world in exciting new ways. However, incorporating this technology into the interpretive program must be done with foresight and care.

9. Interpreters must concern themselves with the quantity and quality (selection and accuracy) of information presented. Focused, well-researched interpretation will be more powerful than a longer discourse.

10. Before applying the arts in interpretation, the interpreter must be familiar with basic communications techniques. Quality interpretation depends on the interpreter’s knowledge and skills, which should be developed continuously.

11. Interpretive writing should address what readers would like to know, with the authority of wisdom and the humility and care that comes with it.

12. The overall interpretive program must be capable of attracting support - financial, volunteer, political, administrative - whatever support is needed for the program to flourish.

13. Interpretation should instill in people the ability, and the desire to sense the beauty in their surroundings - to provide spiritual uplift and to encourage resource preservation.

14. Interpreters can promote optimal experiences through intentional and thoughtful program and facility design.

15. Passion is the essential ingredient for powerful and effective interpretation - passion for the resource and for those people who come to be inspired by the same."

There is a National Association for Interpretation which also has a blog on Interpretation by Design (graphic design basics for heritage interpreters).

I learned about interpretation when I heard Jane Rohling speak on Sharing Nature and Culture in Words & Pictures at the October meeting of the Boise Nonfiction Writers group.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I don’t want to buy a doorbuster

I don’t need a doorbuster, so I don’t care if you advertise in the newspaper that they are on sale today. You’ve been trying to sell me one ever since Black Friday. I didn’t ever want to buy a blowout either.

Also, forget about selling me a red tag. Please get some new marketing jargon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Speaking Ass: the worst blog title of the year

One of the many surprises I found using a Google Alert on the phrase "public speaking" is a recent Wordpress blog named Speaking Ass and subtitled “how to speaking ass?” A jackass is a male donkey. The title could refer to an arrogant communicator, rude noises, or even the speaking ass in the Bible (Numbers, Chapter 22).

That title seems to be a spelling error with an extra s on the end of “as” or just a yakwirm (you all know what I really meant). As you might suspect the owner is in China. English may not be his or her first language. Some blog posts are fairly incoherent too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The joy of speaking: Marshall Goldsmith on Mojo

Recently I found Marshall Goldsmith’s book Mojo: how to get it, how to keep it, how to get it back if you lose it at my local public library. He defines it in this brief video.

The first chapter opens with a story about watching his friend’s daughter, Chrissy, play in a high school basketball game. Her team had a bad first half, but then they bounced back and won. Marshall says that:

“To some degree, we're all familiar with Mojo. If you've ever given a speech-and done it well-you know the feeling. I realize that public speaking is one of people's greatest fears; many people would rather crawl through a snake-filled swamp than talk in front of a crowd. But if you're a remotely successful adult, chances are you've had to speak in public at some point. It might be a sales pitch to a customer. It might be an internal presentation where you defend your work to your bosses and peers. It might be a eulogy at a loved one's funeral, or a toast at your daughter's wedding. Whatever the occasion, if you've done it well-if the audience hangs on every word, nods in agreement, laughs at your jokes, and applauds at the end-you've created the same feeling that was spreading across Chrissy's high school gymnasium. You're firing on all cylinders and everyone in the room senses it. That is the essence of Mojo.”

You can read a longer excerpt from Chapter 1 here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Half of employers surveyed think recent college grads lack communications skills

Every fall the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), conducts a survey of employers. In a press release on January 21, 2010 they noted that:

“Employers taking part
in NACE’s Job Outlook 2010 survey, ranked communication skills at the top of the skills they seek in potential employees. Rounding out the top five were analytical skills, the ability to work in a team, technical skills, and a strong work ethic.”

When I looked further I found that communications skills has topped the list for the past decade.
Heather R. Huhfman mentioned and then discussed all five skills in a Wall Street Journal blog post on why you should Graduate with Skills, Not Just a Degree.

That is what they wanted, but what did they get? An article in the Fall 2010 issue of Eye on Psi Chi by Paul Hettich titled What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate noted that:

“When National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) asked its employer members to rate the importance of key skills and qualities that job candidates should possess, the 10 skills receivi
ng the highest ratings from respondents (N = 201) were, in rank order: Communication skills, strong work ethic, initiative, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, analytical skills, flexibility/adaptability, computer skills, and detail-oriented.

"....When the same NACE respondents were asked where job applicants fall short, communication skills led the list of deficiencies (as it has for years); teamwork skills ranked fifth.”

Dr. Hettich concluded by advising students to consider seven ways to improve their communications skills. His article got me wondering whether lack of communications skills was perceived as a problem by lots of employers or relatively few.

I went looking for more details about the NACE survey. It was done in 2009. Employers were asked to rate the importance of twenty candidate skills/qualities on a scale that originally ran from 1 to 5, and you can find those results (Figure 34) here. I’ve changed it to run from 10 to 50 where:

10 = not important,

20 = not very important,
30 = somewhat important,

40 = very important,
50 = extremely important.

They also were asked to pick the top five skills, which are shown in the following chart via blue bars. (Click on the chart for a larger, clearer version). Communications skills topped the list with a 47.

Employers also were asked
what skills or qualities they find new college graduates to be lacking, I found the whole survey posted on the web site for Eastern Connecticut State University. Those percentages (Figure 36) are shown via the red bars. We would hope that there would only be small red bars to go with the blue bars at the top of the list. Unfortunately, communication skills also topped that list, and half (49.7%) of employers said new grads lacked that skill. The percentages lacking analytical or technical skills were much smaller.

The following chart reports detailed results for all twenty categories from Figures 34 and 36. Click on it for a larger versio
n. The top ten skills lacking were communication, flexibility/adaptability, tactfulness, initiative, teamwork, organizational, strong work ethic, self confidence, problem solving, and detail oriented. No survey data was tabulated for the percent lacking interpersonal skills.

The chart provides a picture o
f both what employers seek and what they perceive they are not getting from recent grads. If you now are looking for a job you should consider what these results say about your younger competition. Also, you should consider joining an organization like Toastmasters to improve your communication skills.

The image of college grads came from Kit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do something surprising!

It’s very easy to get into a rut and use the same cliches everyone else does. Why not do something surprising and go off in an entirely different direction?

Louis L’Amour wrote 89 novels, almost all of which were Westerns. I once read that the supply boats for offshore oil rigs on the Gulf coast used to deliver and swap them by the boxful.

Mr. L’Amour also tried turning that genre inside out. His novel Last of the Breed is an Eastern in which a Native American test pilot had been shot down over the Soviet Union, and then escapes from a prison in Siberia. He flees to the east toward the Bering Strait, pursued by a Yakut trapper.

The image of a fork in the Oxbottom Road is from Nigel Freeman.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good brief advice from the text book publisher, Allyn & Bacon

Allyn & Bacon has an excellent Public Speaking web site that contains supplemental materials for a basic college course.It contains the following six topics and sub-topics. You can find their hyperlinked Table of Contents here.

1. Assess Your Speechmaking Situation
a. Find a topic
b. Clarify your speaking goal
c. Develop your central idea or thesis

2. Analyze Your Audience
a. Determine characteristics of your audience
b. Consider cultural considerations
c. Interact with your audience during your talk
d. Get feedback following your talk

3. Research Your Topic
a. Develop your expertise
b. Work with other experts to boost your credibility
c. Assess the credibility of resources
d. Work with reference librarians
e. Find evidence to back up your claims

4. Organize and Write Your Speech
a. Choosing a pattern of organization
b. Starting your talk
c. Ending your talk
d. Developing visual aids
e. Using PowerPoint

5. Deliver Your Presentation
a. Select a mode of delivery
b. Demonstrate dynamism
c. Manage your nervousness
d. Interact with your audience
e. Use visual aids
f. Dress for success

6. Discern Other Talks
a. Analyze other talks
b. Give feedback to other speakers
c. Learn from expert speakers
d. Work with public speaking support groups

e. Volunteer to speak
f. Consider a career in public speaking

For each sub-topic there is is a thoughtful paragraph with a few links. For example, under Deliver Your Presentation the paragraph on Manage your nervousness mentions taking the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety, which I have mentioned in a previous post about how to tell if you really have a high level of anxiety.

Under Discern Other Talks the paragraph on Work with public speaking support groups mentions Toastmasters, Powertalk International (ITC), Speaking Circles International, and the Association for Women in Communications.

The home page for the website has links to other sites for six public speaking textbooks with even more information.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More places for digging up books about public speaking

The most obvious ways to buy books about public speaking are to check the shelves at your local bookstore, or to go online and look at Amazon. There are four other less obvious places where you can dig up books, and be your own Santa Claus.

One is remainder stores like Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. They are over 40 years old, and still have the same cranky Yankee business model. You can get a printed catalog or look on their web site. Then you write down or print your order on a form, attach a check or money order including just $3.50 for shipping and handling, and mail it to a post office box in Connecticut. They send your books (or CDs, or DVDs) via media mail. Right now they have Scott S. Smith’s, The Everything Public Speaking Book for $6 instead of the $12 at Amazon shown in my previous post. Last decade Hamilton finally got less cranky and also started another web site where you can order with a credit card.

A second is eBay, the online auction site which, among other things, is a worldwide garage sale. There are both new and used books on eBay, and some are “Buy It Now” with fixed prices. Some charity thrift stores also are on eBay. Goodwill in Seattle had a used copy of Timothy Koegel’s, The Exceptional Presenter for $7 (with free shipping) rather than the $15 new at Amazon.

A third is used book stores shown on Two of my local thrift stores, Idaho Youth Ranch and Goodwill (Easter Seals, Meridian) even are there via ABE Books.

A fourth is book swapping sites like I listed some books I no longer needed, and then earned credits for paying to send them out to other members. Then I requested several fairly recent public speaking textbooks from other members.

The Wikimedia Commons photo of a laborer is from David Goehring.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book suggestions for the holidays

If you are serious about public speaking, then you will want Santa to bring you some good books rather than just games or toys. Here are seven suggestions with current prices at Amazon. I have read or skimmed these at my friendly local public library:

1. Kristin Arnold, Boring to Bravo, 2010, $17

2. James S. O’Rourke, The Truth About Confident Presenting, 2010 $15

3. Scott S. Smith, The Everything Public Speaking Book, 2008, $12

4. Richard Zeoli, The 7 Principles of Public Speaking, 2008, $10

5. Timothy Koegel, The Exceptional Presenter, 2007 $15.

6. Marathe Mandar, The Successful Speaker, 2007 $27

7. Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O’Conner, Present Like a Pro, 2006, $10

Check the shelves at your local bookstore, either an independent or a chain (perhaps Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc). Another was is to go online and look at Amazon. You can use the Look Inside feature at Amazon, or search Google Books to examine the table of contents and sample some pages before you buy.

Don’t just assume that Amazon will have the lowest price! When comparing prices it is useful to try Bookfinder, which has a default setting that lists total prices including shipping. There are other less obvious ways to buy books, but that’s another story.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rehearse your speech in front of a pre-recorded audience

Back in late August a web site created by John Capps called SpeechFocus went online. The main feature is four videos of university student audiences (minus sound so far).

All were recorded at a state university in New Jersey, and they look appropriately bored. There is one with 12 people in a U-shaped layout, one with a small audience of 16, and there are two with a large audience of 30.

Without sound it’s a pretty rough simulation of a public speaking class. But, it is a novel alternative to practicing in front of your pets or some stuffed animals.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Punctuation and vocal variety

One advantage of speaking over writing is that we can convey tone via inflection and gestures. We even can use paired fingers to make “quotation marks” in the air when explaining an evil plan. In writing we just have to use punctuation marks or emoticons.

For example, a percontation point (like a backward question mark, as shown above) can be used at the end of a rhetorical question.

Chess has a vocabulary with six punctuation combinations for commenting on moves:

!! = Brilliant Move
! = Good Move
!? = Interesting Move
?! = Dubious Move
? = Mistake
?? = Blunder

In his Sheldon cartoons Dave Kellett occasionally has lamented that we need more punctuation marks to address everyday situations. Some of his are existing symbols with reassigned meanings like:

% = Only a tiny part of me could be considered glad.

//// = I build huge mental walls to block awkward truths.

Others are brand new symbols for:

Your ravings make no sense. I highly suspect you’ve been breathing paint fumes.

Don’t particularly want to know the answer.

To the Car! Quickly!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When should you give an overview presentation?

Is it better to give a broad (wide) or a deep (narrow) presentation? Should you try to cover a lot of material (overview) without much detail, or just one topic in excruciating detail? I think the answer depends both on the audience and the presenter.

On October 29th in her Speaking About Presenting blog Olivia Mitchell discussed
6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Give an Overview Presentation, which were:

1. It’s not memorable

2. Nothing will stand out

3. Positions you as a generalist
4. It’s uninspiring

5. It’s boring
6. It’s not efficient

She referred to a 2008 post by Garr Reynolds, Deep or wide? You decide. Mr. Reynolds in turn referred to Michael Ally’s book, The Craft of Scientific Presentations. Both posts showed graphics like the left and center boxes shown above. Olivia also referred to a November 2009 post by Jon Thomas, The Advantage of Depth Instead of Width in a Presentation.

On page 63 of The Craft of Scientific Presentations Michael Alley says that:

“Just because giving a ‘broad-scope’ presentation is difficult does not mean that one should avoid giving such presentations. Rather, giving a broad-scope presentation means that the challenge is greater and the speaker has to think long and hard about the presentation’s structure.”

An old psychology (or philosophy) joke says that the whole world is divided into two types of people: those who divide things into two groups, and those who don’t. I am one of the second type of people. I think it is possible to give an “L-shaped” presentation that starts by explaining one key point in depth, and then continues more broadly (as shown above at the right).

For example, back in January at the SIEO-NACE Sun Valley Symposium I gave a 45-minute presentation that was an Introduction to Stainless Steels and Corrosion. It was divided into three sections:

1. Passive Film and Processing (21 slides)
2. Types and Typical Compositions (10 slides)

3. Corrosion - Pitting, Crevice, and Stress Corrosion Cracking (16 slides)

My first section had the key point, how stainless steels work. The surface of a stainless steel reacts with oxygen to form an extremely thin, self-healing, chromium-rich passive film which stops further corrosion. This process is called passivation, and the invisible film is only 10 to 100 atoms thick. When you understand how thin the film is, then you can understand why the surface must be processed meticulously to remove contaminants from fabrication. I spent over 40% of my time on that first section. The slide sequence I used was discussed in a January 12th blog post on How Thin is Extremely Thin?

I think you can and should give an overview presentation when you really know both your audience and your topic. It is not easy, but it is rewarding. Previously I had attended two other Sun Valley symposia, so I knew that an in-depth presentation would not really be appropriate. Another speaker had cancelled in mid-December. I had just three weeks to prepare as a fill-in. The talk was a celebration of my 30th anniversary as a NACE member. By the way, I'm sure I read Jon Thomas's post before I started planning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Don't Give Up

Peter Gabriel wrote this song. It is one of my favorite inspirational ones, a piece of storytelling reportedly inspired by a Dorothea Lange photograph of people fleeing from the Dust Bowl. A few days ago I found a new video of it from Herbie Hancock’s CD The Imagine Project, sung by John Legend and Pink. I like it about as much as the first video done by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush that is one long hug.

There are many other versions out there. I am less impressed by the Willie Nelson and Sinead O’Connor duet which sounds a bit rushed, or the Shannon Noll and Natalie Bassingthwaigthe version which also has gobs of strings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do you enunciate clearly?

Do you enunciate clearly when you speak, or do you just mumble?

When I think of mumbling, I recall Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles, one of the henchmen in the 1990 movie Dick Tracy. This brief video clip shows how he complained a lot but literally didn’t say anything. In Mike Judge’s long-running animated comedy series, King of the Hill, he voiced Jeff Boomhauer, who also was almost incomprehensible.

Last year Lisa B. Marshall had an excellent podcast on diction. James Feudo and Angelas DeFinis also have blogged about how to avoid mumbling.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Remembering how to do Table Topics

In a previous blog post on September 22nd I mentioned "Handi-speech," using the fingers on your left hand as a simple way to keep track of your progress while doing an impromptu speech.

At my Toastmasters club meeting on Wednesday one of our members presented the Impromptu Speaking program from the Better Speaker series. It also suggests following a five-step procedure for a Table Topics speech (which you also can do using your fingers):

1. Listen (to the question)
2. Pause (to collect your thoughts)
3. Confirm (by restating the question)
4. Tell (by responding to the question)
5. End (summarize your main point)

You can view a PowerPoint presentation that explains these steps and some strategies in more detail.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordle for making tag clouds

A tag cloud is a visual representation of the words on a web site (or in a document). Their relative size is used to show
how frequently they appear. Sometimes they are shown alphabetically. A bar chart also could show frequency, but a cloud is a less clumsy visual aid.

In his All About Presentations blog Vivek Singh recently discussed how to Create Free Tag Clouds with Wordle. I tried playing with Wordle by putting the address for my blog into the box on the Create page. There are lots of options you can apply later to change how the cloud looks.

You can make it vertical with a light background (I rotated this one and then made the background light green with Photoshop Elements):

You also can make it horizontal with a dark background:

You can just use the text from a single po
st, like my one shown above about the Four Minute Men.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Should you keep your audience in the dark?

That is, should you quote a from an article you disapprove without identifying the author and source? Back in college not crediting your source was considered plagiarism. Out in the real world you might instead get sued for libel or defamation when you stand up and name names.

Last Thursday Lisa Braithwaite posted on the topic Do You Make Your Audience Feel Stupid?. She quoted from an article without identifying its author. The passages she quoted are pure CEOspeak, lingo slinging I have previously derided as corporate Whipped Topping. One sentence had 42 words! That kind of writing is intended to impress rather than to inform.

I won’t identify the author, but know he’s a big gun professional speaker who has written books and should really know better. He doesn’t speak like that, so he shouldn’t write like that.

In a blog you have at least three options for handling quotes:

1. Name the author, and then let him respond via a comment.

2. Put the idea into your own words - paraphrase it.
3. Hold your tongue so you don’t seem Mean.

Writing (or speaking) clearly is not simple. It takes much more effort than spewing jargon. You can try first explaining ideas to your grandmother or granddaughter. You also might run your text through the Lexile Analyzer to quantify its degree of difficulty.

I had to put much more thought into writing three articles for insurance adjusters in Claims magazine than for others in technical journals like Metallurgical Transactions or the Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Making web articles like sausage

There is an old saying about legislation that laws are like sausages, so it is better not to see them being made. I feel much the same about brief web articles covering how to reduce fear of public speaking. Are the writers being paid just $7, the price for a jumbo package of cheap sausages?

My Google Alert recently turned up a pair from Jeff Longley that reveal just how it is done, and it is not pretty. One is titled Great suggestions to overcome the fear of public talking, and the other is Excellent guidelines to beat the dread of general public talking. Word choices for the first four paragraphs can be summarized as follows:

“(Nearly everybody, Practically everyone) has that sense of (anxiety, concern) with (general public talking, community speaking) and what (far better approach, superior method) to address it than to (know numerous suggestions, understand many guidelines) to (overcome the fear, beat the worry) of (general public speaking, community talking).

It is not a surprise to (know, understand) that the (dread of community talking, fear of public speaking) is (really a typical issue, a prevalent difficulty) that hounds a (great deal of people, lot of individuals) all over the world and (many will not be, numerous are not usually) aware about how they (might very, may possibly) easily get (through, via) with such fears and lay it all to rest.

Here are some (prevalent hints, frequent tips) that (1, one particular) can apply and to (aid overcome, support conquer) the (anxiety, fear) of (community talking, public speaking).

(In case, If you) come (ready, prepared) to speak (just before, earlier than) a group, make it a point to (usually, constantly) come ready.”

Does anyone actually read this stuff?


December 10, 2010 Update

I just saw an article called Appreciating Technical about proofreading. It was posted including a whole series of word choices, like I had reconstructed above. For example:

If {you are|you’re|you might be|that you are} {considering|thinking about|contemplating|taking into consideration} technical writing as a {career|profession} you {might|may|could|may possibly|may well|could possibly} {want to|wish to|need to|desire to|would like to} read the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2009 Edition."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“All speaking is public speaking,” or “there is no such thing as public speaking”?

Two popular phrases among speakers and coaches are that “all speaking is public speaking,” or “there is no such thing as public speaking.” Both phrases are intended to reduce anxiety by pointing out that public speaking is not really that different from just having a conversation with a person or two.

One version attributed to Patricia Fripp is:

“Outside of the privacy of your own home, all speaking is ‘public speaking.’ There is no such thing as ‘private speaking.’”

Decades earlier on page 200 of his 1960 book, The Magic Power of Emotional Appeal, Roy Garn said:

“All speaking is ‘public speaking’ - even when you have but one listener!”

The second phrase turned up in a blog post last week by by Gary Genard, and in another by Sarah Gershman in September.

It also was proposed as the title for two different books. The first one out the door in 2007 was There’s No Such Thing As Public Speaking by Jeanette and Roy Henderson, although Matthew Cossolotto also planned to use it (and mentioned it in a press release on November 29, 2005). Then his book was retitled All The World’s A Podium. There are YouTube videos of both Jeanette Henderson and Matthew Cossolotto.

I have read the Hendersons book and found it contains lots of useful information. On this blog I mentioned their advice to turn the entire body when you switch sides between teleprompter screens. (If you just turn your head, your audience may decide you are watching an invisible tennis game). However, their unusual terminology of Presenter and Reactor rather than Speaker and Listener was irritating. All 100 times I saw the word Reactor I mentally preceded it with Nukular.

Back when I was looking for a title for this blog I first considered The Joy of Speaking (in analogy with that classic cookbook The Joy of Cooking), but found that Mr. Cossolotto already was using that name for a course. So, my title became Joyful Public Speaking.

Are both these phrases a modern insight from the age of the International Space Station, or just an “old whine in a new bottle?” I did some digging with Google and both magazine and newspaper databases. It turns out that the basic idea, of public speaking just being an enlarged conversation, goes back to very early in the 20th century.

Page 131 of Edwin Du Bois Shurter’s 1903 book, Public Speaking: a treatise on delivery states that:

“In the opening chapter it was shown that the basis of the best speaking lies in the best conversation; that the act of speaking is only the enlarged conversation that comes from speaking to a collection of individuals; that the most effective public speaking comes from talking to the audience. Now, if the student can from the outset be persuaded to take this attitude toward any audience he may address, he has gained more than he could from a year’s study and practice of the technique of delivery.”

James Albert Winans said it more clearly in 1915, in a story which opens Chapter 1 of his book Public Speaking, Principles and Practice:

“Imagine all memory of speech-making to be blotted out, so that there is no person in the world who remembers that he has ever made a speech, or heard a speech. Imagine too, all speeches and all references to speeches in literature, to be blotted out; so there is left no clue to this art. Is this the end of speech-making. Here comes a man who has seen a great race, or has been in a great battle, or is on fire with enthusiasm for a cause. He begins to talk with a friend he meets on the street; others gather, twenty, fifty, a hundred. Interest grows intense; he lifts his voice that all may hear. But the crowd wishes to hear and see the speaker better. ‘Get up on this cart!’ they cry; and he goes on with his story or plea.

A private conversation has become a public speech; but under the circumstances imagined it is thought of only as a conversation, as an enlarged conversation. It does not seem abnormal, but quite the natural thing. When does the talker or converser become a speech-maker? When ten persons gather? Fifty? Or is it when he gets on the cart? Is there any real change in the nature or the spirit of the act? Is it not essentially the same throughout, a conversation adapted as the talker proceeds to the growing number of his hearers? There may be a change of course, if he becomes self-conscious; but assuming that interest in story or argument remains the dominant emotion, there is no essential change in his speaking. It is probable that with the increasing importance of his position and the increasing tension of feeling that comes with numbers, he gradually modifies his tone and his diction, and permits himself to launch into a bolder strain and a wider range of ideas and feelings than in ordinary conversation; but the change is in degree and not in kind. He is conversing with an audience.”

Mr. Winans also told a version of that story to open his briefer 1911 book, Notes on Public Speaking: for the classes on public speaking, Cornell University.

In 1919 Harry Collins Spillman made it explicit on page 123 of his book on Personality: Studies in Personal Development:

“...Every person in public life should acquire some art in public speaking, not in the sense of oratory or declamation, but he must be effective in speaking because all speaking is public. The salesman addressing a single customer is a public speaker. The secretary interpreting the orders of her superior to a half dozen department heads is getting valuable training in oral expression. One’s first lesson in public speaking should be like the proverbial first lesson in swimming.

The most indispensable requisite of effective speaking lies in the anxiety of the speaker to speak. He must have something to say that he very much desires to say, otherwise the address is sure to lack force and appear as a belabored effort against time. A good speech is never made altogether by the speaker. The audience catches the first force of the speaker and in reacting unconsciously inspires and reinforces the speaker.”

An article on How to Talk by Percy H. Whiting (managing director of the Dale Carnegie Institute) in the September 1946 issue of The Rotarian revealed:

“Well, to get to the point quickly: Public speaking is merely bigger and better and brighter conversation.”

In a talk on Effective Speech delivered on December 28, 1950 and published the March, 1951 issue of Vital Speeches of the Day, Professor Horace G. Rahskopf (head of the speech department at the University of Washington) complained that:

“Somewhere in the literature of our field I have seen the statement ‘all speaking is public speaking.’ Now the obvious truth intended is that all speaking is social in nature. Nevertheless, many a student and many a citizen who looks at the material in our field will be puzzled and confused by the statement, especially if he has taken the trouble to observe that speech occurs not only as public speaking but also in such forms as conversation, discussion, reading aloud, and acting.”

What about the second phrase? A Google Books search turns up snippet views for magazine references (possibly to ads for courses) in both Time and Newsweek from 1968 that seem to attribute it to Dale Carnegie. Both say that:

“As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as "public" speaking. There is only private speaking— from one mouth to one ear at a time.”

Mr. Carnegie died back in 1955. I did not find that phrase associated with his name in earlier newspaper articles. Also,I could not find the ads in the bound volumes for either magazine at local libraries. However, those ads might not have been in the regional editions that included Boise, Idaho.

The common modern lament that too often:

“The difference between ordinary conversation and public speaking is, that in the former men are natural and earnest, whereas in the latter they are too frequently boring and dull.”

also turns out to be very old. It was quoted by Grenville Kleiser back in 1916 on page 407 of his Complete Book of Public Speaking, as having come from page 81 of an anonymous book, The Public Speaker, circa 1860!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

But, umm

That pause filler phrase was part of the plot for the Jenkins episode of the TV comedy How I Met Your Mother that first aired in January. You can watch a brief video clip here.

I’ve never heard anyone but Robin say “but, umm.” Other common two-word fillers are “I mean”, “you know”, and “well, basically.”

Robin Scherbatsky is from Canada. She has a serious career as a TV reporter, but had a secret past as a teenage pop singer, Robin Sparkles. Perhaps the “but, um” filler replaced her former “eh”.

Robin meets some fans of her 4:00 AM cable TV talk show at a college bar. One of her friend Ted's students, Scotty, comes over to say that he's a big fan. She interrupts Ted's class to loudly announce that she is the host of the show. After she leaves, the class explains that they are fans only because her show comes on as their night of drinking is ending. Her "" is the basis for a drinking game. Whenever she says it the students have to down a shot of liquor.

Ted and Barney try the game, and both get thoroughly drunk. After Robin continues to brag about having admirers, Ted explains the drinking game to her. That night, his class invites him out to join their game. Robin decides to fix them by repeating the phrase excessively. During the class the next day Robin startles the hungover students by shouting “but, um” through a megaphone.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lessons from the world of failure analysis

Last Wednesday was not a good day. In the morning I spilled a whole mug full of Cranberry Apple Zinger herbal tea on the wireless keyboard for my iMac. After I sponged it up I went over to my Toastmasters club meeting. When I got back the M, N, and period keys all had quit working.

At dinner I bit into a sandwich, and one of my teeth began to hurt immediately. Thursday morning my dentist examined it. He told me that it had split and would have to be extracted. In the afternoon an oral surgeon pulled it out.

After any component, product, or system fails, people ask what can be done to keep that problem from happening again. There is a well-known safety hierarchy that, in order of decreasing effectiveness, goes:

1. Design out the hazard.

2. Guard to reduce the hazard.

3. Warn the user to be careful, because not everybody knows.

A fully immersible keyboard would be an expensive redesign, but there are spill-resistant silicone cover skins for guarding a keyboard. I even found one on eBay and had it on my watch list of things to buy eventually. That skin would have cost $5, with free shipping. Instead a replacement wired keyboard was $53. I ordered a $15 silicone skin, and it arrived today. My only consolation is that the wired keyboard includes a numeric keypad and some more function keys.

Lee Potts has a blog about presentations called Breaking Murphy’s Law. He has discussed ways to avoid presentation disasters. One topic is how to make sure that your PowerPoint file arrives and can be loaded successfully.

Now, I usually bring along my vintage laptop so I can do a practice run. A USB thumb drive gets used to transfer the file from my desktop. That thumb drive lives on my keychain along with my house and car keys, so I won’t ever leave home without it. Also, I always wait for confirmation that it’s safe to remove the drive before I yank it out of the laptop.

Another backup gets burned on a CD and packed into a plastic jewel case (not just a paper sleeve) in the laptop case. Others suggest keeping another copy somewhere on the web like at

When I need to load my presentation on another computer the USB thumb drive is easier to use than a CD. However, in a June post about Promiscuous Sticks Lee mentioned how they can get infected by viruses. Maybe I should just stick with the write-only CD?

Dave Paradi has an excellent mobile Troubleshooting Guide that you can access for help if you get stumped. I keep an MS Word download of it on my laptop, right in the directory where my PowerPoint presentations are stored.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Do you like stealth raisins?

I like oatmeal-raisin cookies, but my significant other doesn’t like raisins. She leaves them out when she bakes oatmeal cookies. However, the last time I bought plain oatmeal cookies for us at the supermarket I was surprised to find that they tasted almost exactly like oatmeal-raisin cookies.

I found out why when I read the list of ingredients on the package. Raisin paste was on the list. It is made by pushing raisins through a fine mesh screen (extrusion). When you look up some popular brands of oatmeal cookies at LabelWatch you will find raisin paste on the list of ingredients for:

Archway Classic Oatmeal Cookies
Mother’s Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Soft Baked Cookies

Those raisins are there, but you can’t see them. They’re little purple ninjas, like a strange cross between the California Raisins and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

I like to clearly see what I’m getting, so I don’t like stealth raisins. Similarly I don’t like that the new rules for the election game lets unknown advocacy groups with curious names like Americans for Prosperity, Apple Pie, and Pickup Trucks pour mass quantities of money into campaigns.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where’s the pony?

The latest round of elections finally are over. During the preceding campaigns there has been even more metaphorical manure slinging than usual, which reminds me of a humorous story. There is a long version, but the short version is that:

“It was Reagan’s favorite joke. Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked.

‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere.’”

The title of this post summarizes it. This pointed question is one we should not forget to ask the latest winners before the next election in 2012.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Are impromptu talks really the most frightening type of public speaking?

For a post in the Leadership Institute blog on October 30th Rick Highsmith began by stating:

“Public speaking is recognized as the Number 1 fear of adults in The Book of Lists. Assuming that’s true where would impromptu public speaking rank? Even when we have prepared thoroughly, speaking to an audience provokes anxiety. So what is the factor of increase in anxiety when we have to speak with little or no preparation?”

I am not sure whether he was asking if impromptu speaking makes more people anxious, or if it makes people more anxious. Two published surveys have looked at whether more people are anxious about one type of impromptu speaking, and found that they were not. I already discussed both of them last year.

In a US survey “public speaking/performance” was feared by 21.2%, while “speaking up in a meeting/class” was feared by 19.5%. In a Canadian survey “giving a speech or speaking in public” was feared by 15.1%, while “taking part or speaking in a meeting or class” was feared by 14.4%.

While impromptu speaking is different than doing a prepared speech, it does not make more people anxious.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Myths about fear and the Book of Lists

I forgot to mention yesterday that the blog post by Garth Reynolds which I discussed had a nice endorsement for Toastmasters International.

That post also provoked a comment by Robert Fineberg that:

“The greatest public speaking myth is that it’s the number one fear. It was started by a man named Wallenchesky in the early 70′s in his flawed “The Book of Lists”. Jerry Seinfeld in a stand-up routine joked that it’s higher number than the fear of death; therefore, we’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

The latest Gallup surveys say that 60% of those surveyed are afraid to speak — 20% would do it if they had to — and 20% are okay with presenting.

Hardly the number one fear.”

Mr. Fineberg managed to start five new myths in the first paragraph of his comment. That's enough to frighten a unicorn!

1. The Book of Lists really was compiled by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace. Who the heck is Wallenchesky? That name does not even show up as a book author either in the Library of Congress catalog or in WorldCat.

2. The Book of Lists was published by Morrow in 1977, which was the late 70’s, not the early 70’s.

3. The “myth” that public speaking is the number one fear did not start from the Book of Lists. That result came from a survey done in April 1973 by Richard H. Bruskin and Associates. I have discussed the survey at length in a blog post just before last Halloween.

4. The Bruskin survey was cited in Rudolph F. Verderber’s 1976 textbook The Challenge of Public Speaking even before the Book of Lists was published. Since then Bruskin’s survey has been cited in many other public speaking textbooks. They spread this “myth,” not just the Book of Lists. Should we shoot all the messengers?

5. In 1993 Bruskin’s later organization (Bruskin-Goldring) did another fears survey and they again found public speaking to be the top fear. Is it a myth if you can replicate it?

I looked around on the Gallup web site, but can’t find what Fineberg claims that the latest Gallup surveys say. Their 2001 fears survey had public speaking coming in second, after snakes.

Quoting the #1 fear from the Book of Lists is irritatingly common. I suspect many who open with this startling statistic are unaware of how ancient the book and that first survey are. It showed up a in a 2007 press release here, and again this month here. Last year Professor Tania S. Smith blogged about how it had clearly become a worn out cliche.

A new variant is to quote that survey as if it still was in the 2005 revision, The New Book of Lists. If you do a Google Books search you won’t find it in there. I also checked the index and table of contents in a printed copy over at Borders and couldn’t find it.

As I mentioned last year, that old survey just stumbles on like a mumbling zombie. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What should we really be afraid of for Halloween?

Earlier this month Garth Reynolds began a blog post with:

“Did you know that the #2 thing people fear most is being burned alive. Guess what #1 is. That’s right, public speaking.”

No, I didn’t know it and Garth didn’t bother to provide a reference to where he found that little gem. When I looked around on Google I instead found the following claim here:

“Public speaking unease is so common it may qualify as an everyday problem. You may have read about the survey that showed public speaking to be the #2 thing people are afraid of, with #1 being burned alive.”

I had never read about that survey either. The word survey had a link, but it was to the Job Search function at So far I haven’t found who did that survey, or how, when, or where, or why.

Being burned alive is not on my top ten list of fears. I had not thought of it for years until earlier this month when I saw Ignmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal on television again. That film takes place when the Black Death (probably bubonic plague) was ravaging Sweden around 1350. It contains this scene where a young girl is burned as a witch.

Infectious diseases certainly are something we should fear. What other common causes of death are there? There is a cheerful web site all about Death Risk Rankings where you can look up what probably will kill you next year.

The Top Ten Causes of Death for U.S. residents are:

1. Circulatory system diseases 38.6%
2. Cancers 23.2
3. Respiratory diseases 9.7
4. Accidents 4.2
5. Nervous system diseases 4.1
6. Endocrine system diseases 4.1
7. Digestive system diseases 3.6
8. Infectious and parasitic diseases 2.6
9. Urinary tract diseases 2.4
10. Mental and behavioral disorders 2.2

Suicide came in at #11 with 1.3%. Together those eleven causes account for 96% of deaths. Even when you expand the list of causes to the full 63 categories you won’t find one for being Burned Alive, just Accidents - Other and Others which total 1.1%. Transportation Accidents were 1.9%. Homicide was 0.7% and AIDS was 0.6%. (You won’t find Public Speaking either). If you look at different age groups, then you will find very different rankings.

For ages 20 to 29 the Top Ten Causes of Death are:

1. Accidents 38.1%
2. Homicide 15.2
3. Suicide 13.2
4. Cancers 6.3
5. Circulatory system diseases 5.9
6. Infectious and parasitic diseases 3.3
7. Ill-defined symptoms and causes 2.9
8. Nervous system diseases 2.2
9. Endocrine system diseases 2.1
10. Respiratory diseases 1.8

For ages 40 to 49 the Top Ten Causes of Death are:

1. Cancers 24.0%
2. Circulatory system diseases 23.6
3. Accidents 12.3
4. Infectious and parasitic diseases 7.2
5. Digestive system diseases 6.8
6. Suicide 5.2
7. Endocrine system diseases 3.9
8. Respiratory diseases 3.4
9. Mental and behavioral disorders 2.3
10. Nervous system diseases 2.1

For ages 60 to 69 the Top Ten Causes of Death are:

1. Cancers 36.7%
2. Circulatory system diseases 32.5
3. Respiratory diseases 8.9
4. Endocrine system diseases 4.9
5. Digestive system diseases 4.0
6. Accidents 2.3
7. Infectious and parasitic diseases 2.3
8. Nervous system diseases 2.2
9. Urinary tract diseases 1.9
10. Suicide 0.8

Watch out for transportation accidents, and have a happy Halloween!