Friday, January 30, 2015

Seth Godin gave an incomplete solution for fear of public speaking. Here is the other part he missed.

One way to approach a fearful situation is like learning to swim. You should wade in from the shallow end of the pool rather than jumping in the deep end. As shown above, you might begin by speaking to a small audience and then gradually move to larger and larger ones. 

On January 26, 2015 Seth Godin blogged about Fear of public speaking. He posted less than 240 words as follows:

“Very few people are afraid of speaking.

It's the public part that's the problem.

What makes it public? After all, speaking to a waiter or someone you bump into on the street is hardly private.

I think we define public speaking as any group large enough or important enough or fraught enough that we're afraid of it.

And that makes the solution straightforward (but not easy). Instead of plunging into these situations under duress, once a year or once a decade, gently stretch your way there.

Start with dogs. I'm not kidding. If you don't have one, go to the local animal shelter and take one for a walk. Give your speech to the dog. And then, if you can, to a few dogs.

Work your way up to a friend, maybe two friends. And then, once you feel pretty dumb practicing with people you know (this is easy!), hire someone on Craigslist to come to your office and listen to you give your speech.

Drip, drip, drip. At every step along the way, there's clearly nothing to fear, because you didn't plunge. It's just one step up from speaking to a schnauzer. And then another step.

Every single important thing we do is something we didn't use to be good at, and in fact, might be something we used to fear.

This is not easy. It's difficult. But that's okay, because it's possible.”

Psychologists call what Seth described (systematic or progressive) desensitization. But, it is just one part of a more effective solution called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A web page from the National Institute of Mental Health says:

“Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.”

What Seth described is the behavioral part, but without the cognitive part it may not work very well, if at all. (If you need to start by speaking just to a dog, then you likely need the cognitive part too.)

In his TED talk on What I learned from going blind in space last year Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield described both parts of CBT using fear of spiders as an example. It took him less than three minutes (corresponding to less than 500 words, and starting at 8:30). He said:

“So, what’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? Maybe it’s spiders. A lot of people are afraid of spiders. I think you should be afraid of spiders. Spiders are creepy, and they got long hairy legs, and spiders like this one, the brown recluse, I mean it’s horrible. If a brown recluse bites you end up with one of these horrible big necrotic things on your leg.  And there might be one right now sitting on the chair behind you in fact, and how do you know? And, so a spider lands on you, and you go through this great spasmy attack because spiders are scary. But then you could say, well is there a brown recluse sitting on the chair beside me or not? I don’t know.

Are there brown recluses here? So, if you actually do the research you find out that in the world there are about 50,000 different types of spiders, and there are about two dozen that are venomous out of 50,000. 

And if you’re in Canada, because of the cold winters here in BC, there’s about 720, 730 types of spiders, and there’s one, one that is venomous and it’s venom isn’t even fatal. it’s just kind of like a nasty sting. And that spider, not only that but that spider has beautiful markings on it. It’s like ‘I’m dangerous,’ I’ve got big a radiation symbol on my back. It’s the black widow.

So, if you’re even slightly careful you can avoid running into the one spider. And it lives close to the ground. When you’re walking along you are never going to go through a spider web where a black widow bites you. Spider webs like this, it doesn’t build those. It builds them down in the corners. It’s the black widow cause the female spider eats the male. It doesn’t care about you.   

So, in fact, the next time you walk into a spider web you don’t need to panic and go with your caveman reaction. The danger is entirely different than the fear.

And, how do you get around it though? How do you change your behavior? Well, next time you see a spider web, have a good look. Make sure it’s not a black widow spider, and  then walk into it.

And then you see another spider web, and walk into that one. It’s just a little bit of fluffy stuff,  it’s not a big deal. And the spider that may come out is no more a threat to you than a ladybug, or a butterfly.   

And then, I guarantee you, if you walk through a hundred spider webs, you will have changed your fundamental human behavior, your caveman reaction. And you will now be able to walk in the park in the morning, and not worry about that spider web. Or into your grandma’s attic, or whatever, or into your own basement. 

And you can apply this to anything.”

The plateau at an audience of about 20 in my graphic represents a series of speeches done in a public speaking class or a Toastmasters club. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another reason to avoid pie charts

I got a big chuckle from yesterday’s WuMo comic, which was titled The reason to avoid pie charts. It showed what people might really be thinking about when you show them one. Instead of your topic and numbers, they are looking at those shapes and colors and imagining their favorite pie for dessert or a snack.

Back in 2007 Stephen Few had a long article titled Save the pies for dessert in which he discussed how pie charts are not very useful compared with other types you can use instead. It is still worth reading. Look at a SlideShare from Dave Paradi on How to select and create an effective visual for your business presentation.

The pie chart came from a 2010 blog post imagining the alternate history which would have resulted If the Mehrabian myth was true...

Images of pecan, lemon meringue, and cherry pies came from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Stories about death from Canadian family physicians

For five years Canadian Family Physician magazine has published three articles by winners of the AMS-Mimi Divinsky awards for stories in family medicine in their January issue. There are awards for best story in English, in French, and by a medical student.  

An editorial by Dr. Nicholas Pimlott, Death and all its friends, introduced those three stories:

“This year’s best story in English, Only life, by Dr Ruoh-Yeng Chang describes her role providing palliative care to a 20-year-old woman dying of cancer. Dr Chang is repeatedly rebuffed by the patient in her efforts to medically manage the young woman’s final days with the usual proffering of hospital gowns and pain medications until she accepts that ‘only life’ with all its messiness will be allowed in that room.

The best story in French—Mission—describes Dr Jacques Pelletier’s experiences as a volunteer physician in Chad. 

Dr Amandev Aulakh’s Lessons in teaching poignantly describes the experience of gently guiding a medical student through the difficult experience of having a discussion about end-of-life care with a dying man and the sadness that moved them both to tears as they debriefed in a nearby room afterward.”

In his editorial Dr. Pimlott commented that one narrative doctors use to understand their work is restitution. The doctor heroically relieves pain and gives the terminal patient a dignified death. Dr. Chang’s story instead makes her strong-willed patient the hero:

“....Street clothes instead of gowns. Movies and music instead of tears. People streamed in and out. Normal chairs around the bed, not hospital issue. Piles of cushions and blankets in front of the TV we had to put on the ground because there was no shelf strong enough....

Only life in that room. Only love and laughter. Only videos and photos. Only living. Even when all she could do was lie in bed they surrounded her with chatter. She would sleep while her friends rocked out and wake to the same. Every waking moment of her life was on her own terms....

Death came peacefully. The only contents of that room were her loved ones and a sunbeam. She went to sleep and never woke up.”

What came to mind when I read that story, was the Blue Oyster Cult’s classic rock and roll song about love and death, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, and a Saturday Night Live comedy skit about how it supposedly was recorded called More Cowbell. The fictitious Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell) got next to the lead guitarist and insisted on putting the cowbell front and center. He didn’t go away quietly.

Last September I blogged about More great stories from Canadian family physicians.

The grim reaper was adapted from this 1905 image.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A simple prop made from PVC water pipe fittings

Sometimes a simple, inexpensive model is just the right prop to  illustrate a point in your presentation.

Several years ago I gave a speech to twenty members of my Toastmasters club about a corrosion problem that I’d seen two decades earlier. It involved special bolts used at ground level in a flange joint on a fire hydrant, instead of regular hex-head bolts as shown above.

When a hydrant is located near a road, it can be hit by a wayward vehicle. It is desirable to have the flange joint break just above ground before the hydrant body does. That special feature is the difference between a regular hydrant and a “traffic hydrant.”

One way to do this is to have the cast iron bottom flange made in pieces (or with grooves) so that it breaks before the body of the hydrant does.

Another way is to neck down the cast-iron bolts at the joint, so these special “breakable bolts” (as shown above) fail first. This inexpensive fix once was used by some manufacturers. The bolt head even could be shaped like a T (to indicate traffic).

The problem with breakable bolts is that the smaller diameter section is hidden away. It is a good place to trap water and road salt. If you forget to undo and inspect some of those bolts periodically, they will corrode away without being noticed. Then when the valve on a hydrant is opened all the bolts can break, accidentally launch the hydrant skyward like a rocket, and severely injure someone. This is why some municipalities forbid the use of breakable bolts. 

I wanted to make a larger-than-life (~3X) model to show the head and neck from a breakable bolt to my audience. (There already were PowerPoint slides of regular hydrants). So, I headed to my friendly, local plumbing supply store and bought a two-foot length of one-inch PVC pipe, two caps, a tee, two couplings, two reducers, and a two-foot length of half-inch pipe. I cut short lengths of pipe, and slipped all the pieces together. If I had a larger audience, then I could have instead used two-inch PVC pipe.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What use is a sleeping watchdog?

The Idaho Freedom Foundation claims it is:

“...a non-partisan educational research institute and government watchdog dedicated to improving the lives of Idahoans by promoting private free market solutions, holding public servants accountable, exposing government waste and corruption, and promoting policies that advance Idaho’s independence.”

A post on their blog by Dustin Hurst on January 20, 2015 titled We are failing, Idaho. We can - and must - do better began by stating:
“I nearly missed perhaps the most important chart of the 2015 legislative session.

Most others did, ignoring or glossing over an inconvenient and unfortunate truth: We, as a state, are failing.

Monday morning in the legislative budget committee, Department of Health and Welfare officials showed an amazing chart depicting Idaho’s climb to welfare state status.

I’ve included the chart below, but here are the gloomy numbers: Since fiscal year 2006, Idaho’s welfare use has exploded by 69 percent. In 2014, more than 322,000 Idahoans relied on Medicaid, food stamps, cash assistance, child care or a combination of those programs.

In fiscal year 2006, that number was just about 196,000.”

That post showed a purple chart with the Y-axis trimmed to misleadingly start from 150,000 people rather than zero. It had an arrow pointing to the circled number for 2014 and a caption noting that was 20.% of Idaho citizens.

Data it was based upon can be found by starting at the Facts/Figures/Trends page at the Department of Health and Welfare web site, which has links to their Acrobat .pdf annual reports from fiscal year 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, and which list the number of people receiving assistance services as of June. (The 2004-2005 report also lists the number for 2003 on page 63, and the 2005-2006 report lists the number for 2002 on page 64).

Data is summarized in the following table, to which I’ve added the increase from year to year. Note that the largest increase happened between 2009 (245,123) and 2010 (304,414) - a jump of 59,291 or over 24%. (The more than 322,000 quoted by Mr. Hurst for 2014 is a typo - it’s really more than 332,000). 

Page 65 of the 2010-2011 report has a note warning:

“This is almost 20 percent of the state’s total population.” 

Page 65 of the 2011-2012 report said we’d passed that threshold:

“This is over 20 percent of the State’s total population.”

All 13 years of data are shown above on a chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).  A real watchdog would have told us something big was going on four years ago - not just now. I don’t recall hearing from IFF back then. What use is a sleeping watchdog?  

The century-old color image of a sleeping dog came from here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Impromptu Speaking: Reverse FISO or Table Topics?

Sometimes the jargon for a product or concept is far from obvious. The two parts shown above form what microscopists call a cup stage. It is a very useful device for holding and tilting a small object for examination under a stereo microscope. But, the cup isn’t the most important part of it - the hemisphere or half-ball that sits inside is. I don’t know why it isn’t instead called either a hemispherical tilt stage or a half-ball tilt stage. I do know that jargon has been used for at least 50 years.

This morning at I found a news article by Joe Bouchard titled Reverse FISO (Forced Impromptu Speaking Opportunity). He described a training exercise where students decide what topic their instructor will give a one-minute speech on.  They got to turn the tables on another version he called the FISO Icebreaker where the students did the speech. If you have not been exposed to it in high-school or college forensics, impromptu speaking can be daunting.

What Joe calls a FISO is what Toastmasters International calls Table Topics. A detailed description can be found in their Think Fast! Table Topics Handbook. It is part of every regular club meeting. One member is the Table Topics Master, and he asks about a half-dozen members to each give a one-to-two minute speech to answer a question. There are over 14,650 clubs worldwide, and assuming they met every other week, each week you would expect to find almost 44,000 people doing these speeches.

There are many articles about Table Topics. Two I like are Jazzin’ up your Table Topics and Turning the Tables on Table Topics. In 2012 Matthew Arnold Stern wrote a 96-page book titled Mastering Table Topics. You can find a $2.49 Kindle edition at Amazon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mislaid recording of Martin Luther King, Jr. speech found after 50 years

Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. On NPR I heard a story about how Archivist finds long-lost recording of Martin Luther King speech at UCLA

That speech from April 27, 1965 now is out on YouTube, along with others archived at UCLA by their Communication Studies Department.

Reading about that recording made me think about having a tape recorder in the home when I was growing up. In 1962 my dad made a business trip to Japan. He brought back a corrugated cardboard carrier holding a little salmon-colored Sony TC211 portable that used 5” reels. It still used vacuum tubes rather than transistors. You can see photos of that model and a YouTube video.

I remember being shocked the first time I heard what my voice sounded like. My four siblings and I carried the recorder from room to room, and accidentally dropped it many times.

Eventually the recorder needed repair, so I found the Sams Photofact service manual for the similar, later TC211TS (with a transistorized slide projector synchronizer) at the main public library. Finally we destroyed the tape transport, although the electronics were still fine.

Then I found an inexpensive surplus tape transport for a 7” reel-to-reel machine was being advertised in the classified ads at the back of Popular Electronics magazine. We bought one, mounted it in a homemade plywood box, and transplanted the Sony chassis. We replaced it with a cassette recorder after almost a decade.       

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Almost half of U.S. adults think that fear of clowns is ridiculous

On January 5th CBS TV’s 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair magazine reported results from their telephone poll on a sample of 1018 U.S. adults about Fears done back in November 2014. Their 4th and silliest question asked:

Which of the following fears do you think is the most ridiculous?

As is shown above it wasn’t even close. 49% said clowns; 13% said commitment; 10% said the dentist; 8% said needles; 8% said public speaking; 7% said flying; and the remaining 5% didn’t know or answer. I’m not sure whether commitment referred to being in a relationship, or involuntary placement in a mental institution.

This was one of eleven questions. Others and the answers were:

1) Which one of the following emotions do you think has caused the most harm in the world? 30% anger; 25% fear; 21% envy; 17% depression; 3% boredom; 1% pity; 3% didn’t know or answer.

2) Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Which comes closest to your view? 82% this is a good way to view the world, 14% this is silly nonsense, 4% didn’t know or answer.

3) Which one of the following situations makes you the most anxious? 37% walking alone at night on a city street; 27% being stopped for a traffic violation; 15% hearing a pilot warn of turbulence ahead; 9% having your annual physical; 6% answering a phone without caller ID; 6% didn’t know or answer.

5) Whose wrath do you fear the most? 57% God; 15% your spouse; 11% your parents; 7% your boss; 9% none of these; 1% didn’t know or answer.

6) Which is more likely to keep you awake at night? 77% things already on your mind; 20% the unknown and unexpected; 3% didn’t know or answer.

7) Which one of the following do you most fear will put an end to humanity? 35% a nuclear war; 23% a deadly virus; 15% the Rapture; 15% global warming; 8% an asteroid hitting the earth; 4% didn’t know or answer.

8) Do you think people who risk their lives to climb Mount Everest are mostly fearless, or mostly reckless? 61% fearless; 35% reckless; 4% didn’t know or answer.

9) What do you think would make the United States more secure? To be loved around the world, or to be feared around the world? 66% loved; 30% feared; 4% didn’t know or answer.

10) Which one of the following foreign powers do you fear the most? 38% ISIS; 29% China; 19% Russia; 2% Liberia; 2% Wikileaks; 10% didn’t know or answer.

11) Which one of the following episodes in American history took the most courage? 29% the passengers of Flight 93 stopping the hijackers on September 11th; 21% Harriet Tubman helping escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad; 16% Martin Luther King marching at Selma; 13% the Founders signing the Declaration of Independence; 10% John F. Kennedy holding steady during the Cuban Missile Crisis; 6% Jonas Salk testing the polio vaccine on himself; 4% didn’t know or answer.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a speech topic (or a startling statistic to use as an opener) you might look at previous 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair polls from months in 2014,  which also typically had 11 questions. Their topics were:

January: Sports

February: Lying

March: Fashion

April: Music

May:  The Perfect Child

June: Fitness

July: Etiquette

August: Ethics

September: Royals

October: Gratitude

November: Greed

December: Self-Improvement

Two recent surveys found most Americans are not very scared of clowns. In the Chapman Survey on American Fears released on October 20, 2014 only 2.6% were Very Afraid of clowns. Another 5.0% were Afraid, and 8.3% were Somewhat Afraid.  80.4% were Not Afraid At All, and just 3.7% Refused to answer. In the YouGov survey released on March 27, 2014 only 5% were Very afraid of clowns. Another 8.0% were A little afraid, and 15% were Not really afraid. The other 72% were Not afraid at all.

In 2013 Smithsonian had a serious article by by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie on The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary. On the TV sitcom Seinfeld, Kramer was scared of clowns, like Crazy Joe Davola.

A 1939 WPA poster of a clown came from here

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to infuriate readers of your blog

It’s easy to do, and on January 7th the Shapiro Negotiation Institute in Baltimore did it three ways with a post titled What TED Talks Teaches Us About Public Speaking. It is sad that much of their material is excellent, just poorly structured. Based on this blog post, I’d hesitate to buy one of their programs. 

First, that title should have been What TED Talks Teach Us About Public Speaking, but poor grammar just is a venial sin.

Second, their main problem, was how that post was organized. It’s a pretty but rather useless infographic titled LET TED DO THE TALKING: 8 TED TALKS THAT TEACH PUBLIC SPEAKING. Titles and brief descriptions for eight excellent talks are shown, but they doesn’t provide ANY clickable links to them. Instead those references are buried at the very bottom of the infographic inside the jpg image file. When you try to click on their red TED TALK text, you just get a smaller version of that infographic, which is worthless.

The sixth item in their infographic was titled Connect with the Audience, but they didn’t deliver. To find a talk you have to enlarge the image, save the very bottom part, and then retype the address in your web browser. Instead I went to the TED site and put the title into their search feature.

What could they have done instead? Put the discussion of each talk into a separate image, and then include a clickable link below it. Also, package those images and clickable links in an Acrobat .pdf file that can be downloaded. Another blog option would be to embed the YouTube version for each video, but including eight would make the blog post load slowly.  

Links to the pages at the TED web site (and the YouTube versions) for their eight topics are:

1) Follow the path of influential speeches
The secret structure of great talks by Nancy Duarte, also here on YouTube. 

2) Use the tools in your vocal toolbox
How to speak so that people want to listen by Julian Treasure, also here on YouTube

3) Be engaged
The best stats you’ve ever seen by Hans Rosling, also here on YouTube

4) Keep their attention
How to pitch to a VC by David S. Rose, also here on YouTube

5)“The Golden Circle”
How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek, also here on YouTube

6) Connect with the Audience
Once upon a time, my mother by Carmen Agra Deedy , also here on YouTube

7) Body Language
Your body language shapes who you are by Amy Cuddy, also here on YouTube

8) Break the Ice
How I beat stage fright by Joe Kowan, also here on YouTube

Third, begin your post with an irrelevant first paragraph citing a bogus statistic, like this one:

“If it wasn’t for that fact that the statistics haven’t really changed, it would be something of a cliché to point out that when polled, most people list public speaking as their worst fear, even worse than death. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as 74 percent of people feel that way. Basically, that means three out of four people, including so-called “extroverts,” would rather die than speak publicly. And yet, in the world we now live in, with the internet, smartphones, social media conference calls, and Skype, there has never been a time when developing skills in public communication could be more useful in our day-to-day lives.”

That 74% statistic came from the silly Statistic Brain web site. It isn’t actually from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), as I discussed last month. For U.S. adults, a serious national survey sponsored by NIMH found only 21.2% have a fear and only 10.7% have a phobia, both of which are drastically lower than that silly 74%. Anyhow, Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear.

The angry Rembrandt etching came from here at the Library of Congress.

UPDATE January 14, 2015

Yesterday YouTheEntrepreneur reposted that infographic followed by embedding the YouTube versions for those eight TED talks.

UPDATE September 10, 2015

On January 23rd the Shapiro Negotiation Institute put another version of that same imformation at Slideshare. In that presentation you can click on the title for each TED talk and be linked there. That's much better!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The hand-in-coat gesture, concealed carry, and oratory

Why do people in old paintings often have one hand tucked in their coat or shirt, like the famous portrait of Napoleon shown above?

In a recent Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon Zach Weiner explained:

“Photos were more expensive back then. So, if you needed a picture of yourself, what you’d do is point a gun at a painter and make him paint your portrait. But nobody wants a portrait of himself pointing a gun, so people would hide the gun in their coats while being painted.”

That’s funnier (and more obvious) than an article at Vigilant Citizen in 2009 titled The Hidden Hand that Shaped History which conspiratorially claimed it is a Masonic gesture.

There is a serious scholarly discussion on pages 45 to 63 in the March 1995 issue of The Art Bulletin. Arline Meyer wrote an article titled Re-dressing Classical Statuary: The Eighteenth-Century “Hand-in Waistcoat” Portrait. She discussed how textbooks about rhetoric had covered the use of gestures. On page 57 she described how:

“Directly bearing on the ‘hand in’ posture, and underpinning Nivelson’s description of it as ‘manly boldness tempered with modesty,’ is Bulwer’s ‘Sixth Canon for Rhetoricians,’ which claims that ‘the hand restrained and kept in an argument of modesty, and frugal pronunciation, a still and quiet action suitable to a mild and remiss declamation.’ The identification of modesty with ‘a hand withdrawn’ was first argued by Aeschines of Macedon (390 - 331 B.C.), an actor, orator, and founder of a school of rhetoric who was known for his magnificent voice and expressive gestures. Aeschines claimed that in the decorous days of Pericles and Themistocles, speaking with the arm outside the cloak was considered ill-mannered, and men of old refrained from doing so.” 

I saw a reference to Meyer yesterday in this newspaper article.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Speed geeking - a parallel series of brief presentations

What’s the best way to organize a series of brief presentations, aka Lightning Talks? One possibility is a Pecha Kucha or Ignite Night. Both these formats involve a ballroom, as shown above, with 20 PowerPoint slides being shown for a fixed interval of 20 or 15 seconds each. 

Another is Speed geeking. It is like speed dating but adapted to a group. The audience is divided into a series of small groups. Ideally each group listens to a presentation in a small conference room, and then rotates to the next one, as shown above. For a small group flipcharts might be preferable to PowerPoint (perhaps as printed handouts).

I recently saw Speed geeking mentioned under See also when I again looked at the Wikipedia page about Pecha Kucha. There is a better description of Speed geeking in the NHS IQ Learning Handbook

A table summarizes the differences between Speed geeking and Pecha Kucha or Ignite. It’s a more flexible way to organize a series of brief presentations that should be considered, particularly for planning educational sessions. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A guide for how to find things out - the NHS IQ Intelligence Handbook

Last fall the Improving Quality (IQ) organization at the National Health Service (NHS) released their Intelligence Handbook. It’s an excellent guide to researching that you can either view online with a web browser or download for free as a 42-page Acrobat .pdf file.

It is divided into ten sections titled:

Tools and Resources

Almost anyone who writes and delivers speeches will find something useful in this Handbook.

When you skim it, you likely will find things you had not seen before (and different British terminology for those you have seen).

For example, both under Gather and in Tools and Resources there is the phrase Grey Literature with a hyperlink to this page that discusses materials not from the usual commercial publishers (and how and where to find them). 

Under Report and in Tools and Resources there is the phrase Stakeholder Mapping with a hyperlink to another page about analyzing your audience.

NHS IQ also has a Learning Handbook that is worth reading.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Is public speaking universally feared? Of course not!

My Google Alert on public speaking yesterday led me to an article posted on January 3, 2015 at LinkedIn Pulse by Dr. Marla Gottschalk and titled Communication Hacks for 2015 and Beyond. In it she mentions that:

 “Public speaking is universally feared, but rarely conquered.”

Universally means:

“everywhere or in every case; without exception.”

But, there were two surveys done in 2014 that asked U.S. adults the level for their fear about public speaking. Both found that a significant percent of people were Not Afraid At All of public speaking.

One was a YouGov survey that was reported in March. I blogged about it in April. As shown above 23%, or almost a quarter of adults weren’t afraid. They also reported results by gender - 16% of women, and 29% of men.  

The other was the Chapman Survey on American Fears that was reported in October. (See page 66). I also blogged about it. As shown above 34.1%, or over a third of adults weren’t afraid.

Back in February 2014 I blogged about not using absolute statements in a post titled One track minds: Exactly, absolutely, always. Dr. Gottschalk’s statement is a good example of how doing that can get you in trouble.

The smiley icons among the mostly frowny icons shown above approximately represent results from that YouGov survey.

UPDATE January 14, 2015

I forgot to mention that in March 2014 YouGov also did a survey in Britain and got similar results, as is shown above. I had both blogged about that survey and compared it with the U.S. one.

UPDATE February 16, 2015

Here are a couple of smiley graphics summarizing the YouGov and Chapman survey results.

UPDATE October 4, 2015

I found a magazine article in the Nov-Dec 2014 issue of the Journal of Medical Practice Management by H. Harvey and N. Baum with an abstract that begins by incorrectly claiming:

"Nearly every person who has been asked to give a speech or who has volunteered to make a presentation to a group of strangers develops fear and anxiety prior to the presentation."

UPDATE November 29, 2015

The 2015 Chapman survey also found a significant number (36.7%) of American adults were Not Afraid of public speaking.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Can taking Vitamin C improve your public speaking and also do many other wonderful things?

Maybe, maybe not.  An article by Dale Cyphert on Managing Stage Fright says that Vitamin C:

“Reduces the effects of over-exertion, increases energy, stamina and general resistance to stress.  If you catch colds frequently are feel run-down, you night not have the energy left for giving a speech.”

But wait, there’s more! Vitamin C has been claimed to do all sorts of other amazing things. In a nine-minute infomercial, chiropractor Michael Pinkus claims that:

“....The bottom line is without enough Vitamin C and the right type of vitamin C you have low energy, pain, your immune system’s compromised, you’re more prone to cancer, heart attacks, cataracts, allergies, diabetes, the list goes on and on.”

He came up with a product called Super C22 which the Dr. Newton’s Naturals web page says:  

“ packed with 22 of the most powerful forms of vitamin C, with each serving delivering 1500mg of vitamin C, or 2500% of the Recommended Daily Value. Let Super C22™ help to boost your energy, lower your blood pressure, and even shield against heart disease and stroke...

... You should be getting 3000-4000 mg of vitamin C daily for optimal health....”

At the very bottom of the page (in tiny type) there is the usual disclaimer that:

*”These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Gee whiz! I have heard the longer infomercial on weekend early morning AM radio, and it sure sounded like claims to prevent lots of diseases. It aired Saturday after the 6:00 AM news on KBOI and ran till 6:30.

If you ask a chemist, he’ll tell you there really is only one form of Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid. It’s a fairly simple molecule of carbon (C), oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H), as shown above. What Pinkus should have said was they use Vitamin C from 22 different plant sources. Why 22? All I can think of is the irrelevant reason that there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  

The U.S. National Library of Medicine is part of the National Institutes of Health. They have a MedlinePlus page about Vitamin C with sections on How effective is it? that uses the following categories for organization:

Effective for...
Likely effective for...
Possibly effective for...
Possibly ineffective for...
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

The only thing Vitamin C really is effective for is Vitamin C deficiency. It is likely effective for... Iron absorption and tyrosinemia (a genetic order in newborns). Everything else falls in the third category possibly effective for or worse. (Under How it Works, it does say that Vitamin C also plays an important role in maintaining proper immune function). 

Under the last category, Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for, they list:

“Mental stress. Limited evidence suggests that vitamin C might reduce blood pressure and symptoms during times of mental distress.”

So, Mr. Cyphert’s claim about resistance to stress really isn’t supported.

Cataracts and Diabetes also are in that category, which disagree with Pinkus’s claims.

How about some cancers? Under the third category, Possibly effective for...,  they mention mouth cancer and other cancers. Under the worst category, Possibly ineffective for..., they list:

Lung cancer, Pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

Under the last category, Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for, they list:

Bladder cancer, Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Colorectal cancer, Endometrial cancer, Esophogeal cancer, Ovarian cancer, and Stomach cancer. Heart disease is also there.

What about pain? Chronic pain is listed under the third category, Possibly effective for.

How about low energy? That’s too vague to even be discussed.

What about that dose of 3000 to 4000 mg/day? It’s sky-high or mega - many times more than recommended. The MedlinePlus page says that the daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) are 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. For women, 3000 to 4000 mg/day is 40 to 53 times what is recommended. That MedlinePlus page also says for adults and pregnant and lactating women not to take more than 2000 mg/day.

What might happen if you take too much?

The MedlinePlus page says that:

“Amounts higher than 2000 mg daily are POSSIBLY UNSAFE and may cause a lot of side effects, including kidney stones and severe diarrhea. In people who have had a kidney stone, amounts greater than 1000 mg daily greatly increase the risk of kidney stone recurrence.”

The last thing you need before or during a speech is severe diarrhea!

On December 21, 2014 a web page of seasonal news at Consumer Reports discussed 5 reasons to skip taking vitamin C for colds. They were:

1) It’s probably too late.
2) You might get kidney stones.
3) Your body will just eliminate it anyway.
4) It could give you diarrhea.
5) It’s not worth the money.

So, skip the excess Vitamin C, since you’ll literally just be pissing away your money.

The ball model of Vitamin C that I added captions to came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Only YOU can prevent bad presentations

It’s New Year’s Day, and therefore time to point out, reflect, and make resolutions.

My title borrows from those Smokey Bear public service announcements that once said Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. Smokey Bear’s images are jealously guarded by the Ad Council. I went back a century at the Library of Congress web site and found another image to adapt  from a classic Navy recruiting poster.

I also went back even further to 1899 for a very different image.

Then I went forward to the late 1930’s for another more abstract image.

Any way you look at it, YOU have the responsibility for thinking before you write a speech, fire up PowerPoint (or Excel, or Word), or finally open your mouth before an audience. Please don’t make your audience do the Goren Lean - turn their heads  90 degrees to the left just to read a vertical caption on a vertical bar chart.

If you’re looking for inspiration, then download the text from the 2014 EAST Oriens lecture by Grace S. Rozycki, MD, titled The Strength That It Takes: Ten Lessons Learned From 28 Years on the Front Lines, which appeared in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, July 2014, V77, N1. (Just Google EAST 2014 Oriens lecture to find a link to the .pdf file). Her ten lessons are:

1. Walk the Walk and Earn Your Stripes
2. Crystallize Your Goals and Prioritize Them So That First Things Come First
3. Value Emotional Intelligence
4. Learn Leadership Skills and Ensure That They Develop Over Time
5. Learn to Work as a Team
6. Operate From a High Moral compass
7. Learn to Manage Stress
8. Be Service Oriented
9. Be Prepared to Fail, and More Importantly, Learn From It
10. Understand That Fleeting Success Comes Easy but Longevity Is Another Story

This also might be a good time to download and read Tom and David Kelley’s article on how to Reclaim Your Creative Confidence that appeared in the December 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review. It’s time to get beyond four fears of a) the messy unknown; b) being judged; c) taking the first step; and d) losing control of things.