Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is there really a movie titled Mission: Impossible - Rouge Nation?

No, there is not. The correct spelling for that next-to-last word in the title is Rogue, not Rouge. But, interchanging the letters g and u will slip right by a spelling checker program and has to be caught by a sharp-eyed human proofreader. It’s a reminder to be careful when preparing visual aids like PowerPoint slides for your speech.

The title is wrong in a review at Made In Hollywood. It also shows up in listings by movie theaters in Minnesota (IMAX), Australia, Hong Kong, and Ireland. Movie Madness Trailers even put that wrong title on a bunch that items they put out at YouTube: #1, #2, #3, etc.

If there really was a Rouge Nation movie, it might look like an extended version of the video for Taylor Swift’s song Bad Blood.

The rouge (blush) image is from Wikimedia Commons.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Thinking up speech topics

Coming up with topics for speeches is a perennial concern. On June 13th at her web site Susan Dugdale posted a page on Speech topics - 100’s of them with ten categories:

1)   Demonstration
2)   Children
3)   Persuasive
4)   Fun
5)   Interesting
6)   Informative
7)   Commemorative
8)   Contoversial
9)   Easter
10) Impromptu

Back in 2012 Toastmasters International put out a  six-minuteYouTube video on Finding Speech Topics  that advised you to: 

A) Think about your personal experiences
B) Check reference materials
     (websites, newspapers, books, magazines)
C) Focus on your audience’s needs
D) Recognize the occasion (or event)
E) Are you qualified to speak on that topic?

At his Expressions of Excellence web site Craig Harrison has a page with 110 speech topics to ponder. His #33 is The history of the VW. On July 28th USA Today had an article about how VW surpasses Toyota as world’s largest automaker in first half of 2015. On July 13 SlideGenius had a blog post on 6 Ways to Get Presentation Ideas from Volkswagen Ads.

Volkswagen has a very interesting history. The name means people’s car, and the idea was to make a German car that would do what the Ford Model T earlier did for the United States. At the BBC web site there is an article on The VW Beetle: How Hitler’s idea became a design icon. On YouTube you can watch a video titled From Hitler to Hippies: Evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle which at 11:40 shows the German dictator being driven in a prototype of the VW convertible. Production of the air-cooled rear-engined, rear wheel drive Beetle eventually exceeded the fifteen million for the Model T and totaled over 21 million.

In France Citroën also had a people’s car project that became the 2CV, which had a water cooled engine and front drive. About 4 million were sold, along with related models for a total of around 9 million. Later on British Motor Corporation produced loads of the Mini. You might remember that the 1969 caper film, The Italian Job, featured three Mini Coopers hauling the stolen gold. More recently in India Tata built the Nano.

When I was growing up, the family of a French-Canadian visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh had a little front-drive Swedish SAAB 96 hatchback sedan with a two-stroke three-cylinder engine that seemed very peculiar to me. I’d only seen two-stroke engines on outboard motors and motorcycles. Professor Lamy told me that his SAAB was the perfect car for Quebec winters, since there was no oil reservoir in the crankcase to freeze up like on a four-cycle engine. 

The painting of A Pensive Moment came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It always is okay to break the rules

In her June 30th blog post at Calculated Presentations Janice Tomich asked the rhetorical question Is it ever ok to break the rules? Then she said:

“Today I learned (again) that yes it is okay to challenge the rules.”


“Rules are often just gatekeepers that keep out people who won’t try to push the gate open.”

Let’s look at a well-known example. A decade ago Guy Kawasaki proclaimed The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint which is:

“It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”

Some people have taken that as a general rule, but it really just describes one style for boardroom pitches. It’s not the Ten Commandments. Two other effective presentation styles are Pecha Kucha and Ignite.

Kawasaki’s rule is to show slides at a rate of 0.5 per minute, while Pecha Kucha has three slides per minute and Ignite has four. As shown above in a bar chart, the rate for Ignite is EIGHT TIMES higher than what Kawasaki says.

When you look around, you occasionally will find other blog posts about using different styles (breaking rules) like Daren Fleming’s 2007 Breaking the Rules of Public speaking and Michael Port’s 2014 Break These Rules for Better Public Speaking.

The sledgehammer image came from the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Has Idaho’s Texting while Driving law had any effect so far?

On July 17th Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, blogged that Government meddling hasn’t stopped texting behind the wheel, despite a 2012 state law banning it. He said that:

“The state Transportation Department has historically kept track of the number of accidents caused by distracted driving—generally defined as crashes in which the driver takes his or her eyes or mind off the task of driving, or doesn’t keep control of the wheel. The department didn’t track the ‘why’ behind distracted driving until 2012, the same year lawmakers decided to regulate texting while driving.  And even still, the department does not distinguish between an accident caused by texting or talking on the phone. The department merely notes that an ‘electronic device’ was a contributing factor.

For several years, the number of automobile accidents has been dropping, without the need for new laws to ban texting or anything else for that matter. By 2012, there were 4,890 distracted driving crashes in Idaho. That number has stayed relatively constant since then, dropping to 4,757 in 2013 and going up to 4,781 in 2014. In 2012, 24 percent of distracted driving accidents were blamed on electronic devices. In 2013, 23 percent of these crashes were attributed to electronic devices. Last year, the percentage of accidents blamed on electronics went up to 27 percent.

In short, the law isn’t incredibly effective, at least as far as the data is concerned, a point reiterated this week by House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer of Meridian.

‘It’s not doing anything,’ Palmer told Thursday. ‘It has no effect.’ ”

Wayne also added that:

“....The other interesting thing gleaned from the data is that while electronic devices got a lot of attention from legislators and Nanny Government aficionados a few years ago, something else entirely gets blamed on in more than a third of distracted driving accidents year after year after year: passengers.

According to data from the Idaho Transportation Department, passengers contribute to around 36 percent of all this distracted driving crashes in the state, well more than the percentage of accidents caused by electronic devices.

Strangely, however, Idaho lawmakers haven’t been pursuing legislation to ban additional travelers from vehicles on Idaho’s roadways. At least not yet.”

On July 17th their sister web site Idaho also had an article by Dustin Hurst titled Devices caused even more crashes on Idaho roads in anti-texting law’s third year that quoted the same 24, 23, and 27% as having been noted by House committee chair Joe Palmer.

I was curious about whether the law really had no effect, so I looked up the Statistical Information page at the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) web site, which led me to their data pages about Distracted Driving for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Palmer are only half right. The following table shows the results (from the pie charts in Figure 16) that they quoted about electronic communication devices, which do not show a clear decrease.

But, those ITD results also show another pie chart for fatal crashes in Figure 15. In 2012, 40 percent of fatal distracted driving accidents were blamed on electronic devices. In 2013, 33 percent of these crashes were blamed on electronic devices, and last year it went down to just 22 percent. Ignoring this data is cherry picking, and it is reprehensible. See the following table for more.

Also note that Mr. Hoffman is just plain wrong about what Figure 16 says regarding passengers. The 36% (or 35%) he mentioned really is for Other Inside Vehicle. For Passenger it’s just 14%. Perhaps he needs a refresher course in how to read a pie chart.

What’s the biggest type of problem? Is it Impaired Driving, Distracted Driving, or Aggressive Driving? The following table shows that it really is Aggressive Driving.

Just how bad is it? The following table shows how many traffic fatalities and serious injuries there were over the past five years for six categories of Aggressive Driving. These categories aren’t “rocket science” - any competent driver should be able to reduce or avoid them completely. We should be asking what ITD can do to change driver behavior rather than whining about the anti-texting law allegedly being worthless.

UPDATE August 5, 2015

Mr. Hoffman also published that article in the Idaho Press Tribune on July 20, 2015. I discussed it in a letter to the editor that was published today.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Celebrating 1100 blog posts

I just reached the landmark of 1100 posts on this blog. So far I haven’t run out of things to say.

One of my pet peeves is seeing journalists follow like sheep, and reflexively copy the incorrect titles thoughtlessly put on press releases.

For example, on June 23rd Ford Motor Company said that Younger Americans Fear Other Drivers More Than Death, Public Speaking, and Spiders  New Study Finds. The next day the web site for the TV program Motor Week sheepishly claimed that Young Drivers Fear other Drivers more than Death.

When I blogged about it, I instead said correctly that Five most common fears for younger Americans ages 16 to 34 are other drivers, public speaking, death, snakes, and spiders.

The image of sheep was derived from this 1904 Puck magazine.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Stumbling right at the start

If you are looking for a startling statistic about medicine, you might be tempted to look at   Dr. Joseph Mercola’s popular, which claims to be The World’s #1 Natural Health Website. I suggest that you don’t, based on the example of an article there titled Anxiety is 800% more prevalent than all cancers combined that appeared on June 11th. He stumbles right at the start, and doesn’t manage to find the most startling statistics. You can do better. 

The first three paragraphs say that:

“According to recent research (Ref. 1) anxiety (characterized by constant and overwhelming worry and fear) is becoming increasingly prevalent in the US, now eclipsing all forms of cancer by 800 percent. 

Nearly 13 million adults have struggled with anxiety in the past year, the study found; including 4.3 million people who were employed full time, and 5.9 million who were unemployed.

In all, nearly six percent of adults over the age of 18 report having anxiety. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available, and some of the most effective treatments are also among the safest and least expensive, and don’t involve drugs.”

Reference 1 is a CBHSQ Report web page at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), dated May 21, 2015. But it says nothing about anxiety becoming increasingly prevalent. It also says nothing about cancer. That comparison really came from Reference 3, a May 27th article by Lindsay Holmes at the Huffington Post titled This Mental Health Issue is more prevalent than all forms of cancer combined.

What about Mercola’s Reference 2? That’s a non-working link to another SAMSHA web page from Reference 1 (that also appeared in the Huffington Post article).

Reference 1 also has a link to a much more detailed 94-page report from October 2014 titled Past Year Mental Disorders among Adults in the United States: Results from the 2008-2012 Mental Health Surveillance Study. Table 3.1 on page 7 lists percentages for other categories of past year mental health disorders.

How do they compare with the 5.7% for anxiety? As shown above in a summary bar chart, three others are higher than anxiety - Substance Use (7.8%), Mood (7.4%), and Adjustment (6.9%). Page 14 compares their results with those obtained earlier in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R).

The earlier results for anxiety disorders from the NCS-R (shown above in another bar chart) were higher than those in the MHSS, which doesn’t support Mercola’s claim that anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent. For example, 18.1% had anxiety versus the 5.7% in the MHSS. The 18.1% is what you will find when you look for Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults at  the website for the National Institute of Mental Health.

How can you get even more startling statistics? Instead of just the past year, cite the larger estimates for lifetime prevalence, as are shown above in another summary bar chart. But, note that substance abuse (35.3%) is more prevalent than anxiety (31.2%).

A more detailed listing of the full spectrum for lifetime prevalences is shown above in another bar chart. Under social phobia I have also listed the prevalence for the subtype of public speaking/performance anxiety. 

Differences in how the two studies were done have been discussed in a March 19, 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service titled Prevalence of Mental Illness in the United States: Data Sources and Estimates.   

So, Mercola didn’t manage to find the most startling statistics. I suspect that he focused on that combination of anxiety and cancer just because those both were very popular topics. Joe has been called an overwrought professional alarmist (opa). There’s much more in his article, but I’m not going to bother with dissecting it.

Back in 2006 an article in Business Week by David E. Gumpert described Mercola’s use of Old-Time Sales Tricks on the Net. Another article about him in the February 2012 issue of Chicago magazine was titled Dr. Mercola: Visionary or Quack?

The image of a fallen hurdler was adapted from an old poster.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Is a small audience one where the speaker doesn’t need a microphone?

At the LinkedIn Public Speaking Network group there was a thread started on July 1st by Tsufit which asked:

“Do you prefer speaking to a LARGE audience or a small INTIMATE audience? Why?”

But, she didn’t define either large or small. Also, on June 30th there was another by Ian Brownlee which linked to an excellent blog post about Presenting to Small vs Large Audiences. Ian said a small audience was one where the group size was less than 12 people. I think instead that a small audience might be more like a classroom with 32 people. 

Once I heard it claimed that:

“There are two types of people - those who divide things into two categories, and those who don’t.”

I don’t divide things into just two categories. Back in December 2008 I blogged about how Your presentation style should match both your intent and the size of your audience and Audience size determines working distance and thus presentation style.

I had pointed out that for dense seating in a square room you would need nine square feet per person, and could calculate the distance as shown above.

Also, you could list a large series of audience sizes (by powers of two) and the corresponding distances, as is shown above. Some of these have names, but many others do not. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

How public speaking isn’t like riding a bike

Today’s Savage Chickens cartoon is titled The Fear of Public Speaking. Doug Savage also recently has discussed why meditation might not help, and what being an introvert is like. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

On June 16th Donald J. Trump gave a speech announcing that he was running to become the 2016 Republican candidate for President. TIME has a full transcript of  it. You can watch the whole speech here on Cspan. I tried to, but it was so poorly done that I gave up in disgust. It looks like the ‘before’ reel that a speech coach would use as an example of how he helped a client to improve. 

Comedian Jon Stewart deftly summed up the speech: 

"what followed was over half an hour of the most beautifully ridiculous jibber-jabber ever to pour forth from the mouth of a batsh-- billionaire."

For example, at the 7-minute mark Donald claimed:   

“Last quarter, it was just announced, our gross domestic product - a sign of strength, right? But not for us. It was below zero. Who ever heard of this? It’s never below zero.”
What was below zero really was the rate of growth for GDP rather than GDP, as was discussed by Politifact

He’s an arrogant jerk, who seems to believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But Trump also made disparaging comments about Mexicans,which led to other businesses refusing to work with him. On July 2nd Forbes even began a Forbes Tracker: Who’s Dumped Trump Today? 

Near the end of his speech Trump noted:

“Somebody said to me the other day, a reporter, a very nice reporter, ‘But, Mr. Trump, you’re not a nice person.’ 

That’s true. But actually I am. I think I am a nice person. People that know me, like me. Does my family like me? I think so, right. Look at my family. I’m proud of my family.”

Saying Trump isn’t nice is putting things way too mildly. Even this year he has continued with ‘birther’ claims that President Obama’s birth certificate is questionable. Based on that idiocy, comedian Bill Maher has parodied Trump’s position by joking that there are now also ‘apers‘ who question whether Trump’s father was an orangutan (since that’s clearly the only other place in nature where his fluorescent orange hair color appears). Trump even sued Maher. Donald still hasn’t produced his long form birth certificate, although in late June The Guardian has begun asking for it too.   

Back in 2013 Trump’s birther statements led Jon Stewart to proclaim that Donald’s birth name was F*ckface von Clownstick. When Trump recently announced his 2016 campaign, all Steward needed to say was:

“Let’s dance, Clownstick.” 

I suspect it will take less than a year before Trump realizes he can’t win and drops his campaign. 

The image was adapted from a Mexican hunchback figure.


Mr. Trump has released a statement which attempts to explain comments about Mexican immigrants in his announcement speech.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2nd is Freedom From Fear Of Public Speaking Day

But, it also is World UFO Day, which has its own page on Wikipedia. Down in Memphis they’re even going to celebrate with a World UFO Day Festival. Meanwhile for the past month at Google, Bing, and Yahoo there was no mention of Freedom From Fear Of Public Speaking Day, which was downgraded from being a week.

How can you celebrate both days? Do one part of that famous speech from the 1976 movie Network:

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ “

The image is based on this World War I recruiting poster.


While last year she downgraded it to just a day, this year  Beverly Beuermann-King went back to having a Freedom from Fear of Public Speaking Week on July 1 through 7.