Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stumbling at the start

Page 23 of the January 2014 issue of FeedFront, a magazine for affiliate marketers, had an article by Heather Diamani titled Successful Public Speaking Strategies which began:

“Did you know more people fear public speaking over death? An article published in ‘Psychology Today’ in November of 2012 reported that the number one fear over death was pubic speaking.”

Her first sentence should have asked us if we knew that people allegedly fear death more than they fear public speaking. Heather’s version instead had me thinking of the following illustration by William Blake for Robert Blair’s poem The Grave.

Her proofreading of that second sentence missed an ending with a notorious typo, pubic speaking.

Her second sentence implied there was an article in the November 2012 issue of Psychology Today magazine about fear of public speaking. But, she didn’t give either its title or author. Over at my public library I checked on the Academic Search Premier database, and found there was no November 2012 issue of Psychology Today magazine. The September-October one was Volume 45, Issue 5, and the December 2012 one was Volume 45, Issue 6.

Either a speech or blog post should have a strong opening. Stumbling is not good.

What she referred to turned out to be a blog post by Glenn Croston on November 28, 2012 titled The Thing We Fear More Than Death. It opened by claiming that:

“Surveys about our fears commonly show fear of public speaking at the top of the list.” 

I had commented on Glenn’s post, and asked him what surveys he was talking about, since on October 23, 2012 I’d blogged that Either Way You Look at It, Public Speaking Really is Not Our Greatest Fear. Glenn didn’t bother to reply to my comment.

Glenn’s column on the Psychology Today blog is titled The Real Story of Risk, which is also the title of his 2012 book. I got it from my public library, and found that on page 234 he wrote that:

“For a vast number of people, standing in front of a group to speak is the worst, most nerve-wracking thing they can imagine. The fear can be paralyzing, leading many to avoid doing or saying anything that could draw attention. Maybe this is another odd holdover from those thousands of generations when belonging to the social group was a life-or-death proposition, with people fearing that standing up and speaking may lead to rejection. Today, public speaking is consistently ranked as the greatest fear most people have - ranking higher than the fear of death itself. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.‘ “

There are no footnotes leading to surveys that back up his claim the public speaking is consistently ranked as the greatest fear, just the usual silly Seinfeld quote. That claim is  an ipse dixit - I’m an authority, so you simply must believe what I say. 
The image of stumbling was adapted from an old WPA poster I found at the Library of Congress. 

1 comment:

John Dawson said...

Richard I salute all your work around this subject. Ranking the fear of public speaking fear above the fear of death is not only nonsense but it actually stokes up the fear. Public speaking fear does stop people doing all sorts of things but we can learn to deal with it.
So thank you on behalf of several other public speaking trainers I work with
John Dawson