Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is that an infographic or just a totem pole scroll?


An information graphic (infographic) provides real information enhanced by graphics. A totem pole just recounts tribal legends.

First, consider fear of public speaking. Matt Eventoff has an excellent infographic that describes 12 Tips to Overcome Public Speaking Jitters.

Contrast that with the silly Miami Public Speakers Fear of Public Speaking Infographic, which begins by claiming that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) said that 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety (73% of men and 75% of women). Those percentages instead just are legends from a web page at the Statistic Brain web site. There is an infographic from Best Master’s Programs in Counseling on Understanding Fear: What Are Phobias? that charts ten of them from another Statistic Brain web page.   

Second, consider body language. 3103 Communications had Public Speaking: A Whole Body Affair Infographic that repeats the silly Mehrabian Myth without referencing where those percentages came from. Another Body Language Infographic from Nick Morgan and Gengo also unfortunately included that myth - along with 15 useful points. 

Joe Shervell produced what he titled A 9-Step Cheat Sheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert that was posted several places including The Accidental Communicator, Moving People to Action, Inter-Activ Presenting & Influencing, and No one noticed that Joe's 10 headings actually were:

1.   Plan Real Speech
2.   The Importance of the Title
3.   What to Include
4.   Kiss and Tell Preparation
5.   9 Guaranteed Ways to Make an Impact
6.   4 Essentials for 24 hrs Before the Speech
7.   9 Tips for Taking the Stage
8.   10 Tips for Speech Delivery
9.   Some Tips from the Pros
10. 3 Ways to Make a Speech Memorable at the End

That reminded me of the infamous Monty Python skit about The Spanish Inquisition where they keep adding one more item to their lists.

Back on November 6, 2013 one of Zach Weiner’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal parodied infographics in a cartoon with The Top 6 Reasons This Infographic Is Just Wrong Enough To Sound Convincing.


As shown above, scrolls are an old way of packaging text - but usually horizontally. Vertical scrolls can be viewed on a computer via the up and down keys. Megillah (The Scroll) is a Hebrew word referring to The Book of Esther. The current Merriam-Webster dictionary instead derisively defines a megillah as:

“a long involved story or account.”

It sometimes is redundantly prefaced with the word whole, but I’ve never heard anyone ever refer to a partial megillah. Gavin Meilke noted at Inter-Activ Presenting & Influencing regarding infographics that:

“What I dislike is the way that they cram so much stuff into one enormously long image that doesn’t print out to any normal paper size. Why won’t somebody create an infographic that is paginated for printing – I like paper and I am sure I am not alone!”   

On January 13th I blogged about How to infuriate readers of your blog. That post described another disadvantage of the infographic format - one titled LET TED DO THE TALKING: 8 TED TALKS THAT TEACH PUBLIC SPEAKING couldn’t include clickable links to those presentations. 

The image of a Totem Pole came from Wikimedia Commons, and the image of a monk reading a scroll came from the Library of Congress.

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