Friday, September 30, 2016

Communicating science to the public

At Pubmed Central I found a very interesting article by neuroscientist E. Paul Zehr titled With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility - A Personal Philosophy for Communicating Science in Society. It appeared in the September/October 2016 issue of eNeuro (Volume 3, No. 5). The abstract says:

“Many think that communicating science is a necessary and rewarding activity. Yet finding compelling, relevant, and timely points of linkage between challenging scientific concepts and the experiences and interests of the general public can be difficult. Since science continues to influence more and more aspects of daily life and knowledge, there is a parallel need for communication about science in our society. Here I discuss the ‘middle-ground hypothesis’ using popular culture for science communication and applying the ‘FUNnel model,’ where popular culture is used as a lead-in and wrap-up when discussing science. The scientific knowledge we find in our hands does not belong to us—we just had it first. We can honor that knowledge best by sharing it as widely as possible using the most creative means at our disposal.”

His text mentions several examples:

“For example, I used the Walking Dead to illustrate human motor control in a zombie context (Zehr and Norman, 2015), and Darth Vader to consider phantom limbs, embodiment, and neural prosthetics Zehr 2015a). The bulk of my work in this area, though, has been to use superheroes.”

“....I explored themes of plasticity in biological systems in ‘Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero’ (Zehr, 2008), and the enhancement of biological function with technology in ‘Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine’ Zehr, 2011b).”

The image was adapted from an 1856 lithograph of Michael Faraday giving a Christmas lecture at the Royal Institution.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How do you write 1300 blog posts? One at a time.

When I started the Joyful Public Speaking blog back in May of 2008 I never imagined that it would go on for this long - 1300 posts. But now that I am retired I plan to keep going since it provides me with a creative outlet.

As of today there have been 851,860 page views, which is comparable to the estimated current population for the city of Columbus, Ohio (where I once lived for most of a decade).   

How long does it take for me to write a blog post? Somewhere between three hours and three months. My September 20, 2016 post about Great versus small minds took about three hours from seeing the Sheldon cartoon to appearing here. Contrast that with my September 22, 2016 post about how Public speaking is not the most common fear for adults in British Columbia, which took three months because I had to sit down and use Excel to prepare a half dozen horizontal bar charts.

I have many inspiration for post ideas. They range from cartoons to serious magazine articles abstracted at PubMed Central, and other blog posts seen at Alltop Speaking.

The I-beam image was adapted from a Safety first poster by the WPA Federal Art Project seen at the Library of Congress.

Monday, September 26, 2016

PowerPoint slides or flipcharts shouldn’t give your audience an eye exam

At the very end of 2005 Guy Kawasaki described The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint which said:

“....a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”

The 30 point font size is a reasonable minimum. Dave Paradi has discussed Selecting the correct font size in more detail by including both the screen size and maximum viewing distance.

Back in 2008 my blog post on Don’t be a “Flip Chart Charlie” discussed how the same problem can rear its ugly head in flip charts:

“Keep reducing the size of your letters to indicate the headings, sub headings, sub-sub headings, sub-sub sub headings etc. With enough levels you can give your audience a free eye exam.”

In an article posted on April 23, 2014 Tim Themann described Some Data on the Current Use of PowerPoint - Font Sizes which revealed that people unfortunately seemed to follow PowerPoint defaults for hierarchical bullet point lists. Please don’t do that and then ask your audience to read 10 or 12 point letters!

The 1937 eye test image from the W.P.A. Federal Art Project was found at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Death vs. Public Speaking?

On March 19, 2015 Chad Biggs had a post on the blog for Red Sky (PR) here in Boise titled Death vs. Public Speaking? How to Harness Your Nerves. He opened by trying to scare folks with the claim that:

“It seems ridiculous. An anomaly. A statistical error. But according to research from two Bruskin/Goldring research studies more than 15 years apart, public speaking is the number one fear of Americans. That tops heights, illness and even death.”

He followed those words with a bar chart borrowed without attribution from my May 19, 2011 blog post titled America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking - that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring Survey. But actually the previous survey was done by Bruskin (not Bruskin/Goldring) back in 1973 - exactly twenty years earlier and not the vague more than fifteen. My post had ended by mentioning Geoffrey Brewer’s March 19, 2001 article on the GALLUP web site titled Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears. Public speaking came second in both their 2001 and 1998 surveys.

Another of my blog posts on April 2, 2014 discussed how a YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they most commonly were very afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, and being closed in a small space. For A Little Afraid public speaking came first, and for the sum of Very Afraid and A Little Afraid it came third, after snakes and heights.

On October 30, 2015 I blogged about how According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. That survey ranked public speaking #26 out of 89 fears.So the #1 fear claim really doesn't hold water.

An image of the martyrdom of King Louis XVI came from the Library of Congress.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Public speaking is not the most common fear for adults in British Columbia

Back in June there was a poll about fears. Insights West conducted online interviews with 802 adult residents of British Columbia, between May 31 and June 3. They reported detailed results on June 17, 2016 in an article titled Terrorism, heights, snakes are top fears in British Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

Residents were asked about the following 26 fears (shown here in alphabetical order):

Being the victim of a crime
Confined Spaces
Flying (Airplane/Helicopter)
Needles/Getting shots
Nuclear war
Open spaces
Open water (Ferry/Boat/
Public speaking

For each category, they were asked to choose how afraid they were on a scale from 1 to 4 where (0 = not sure, or don’t know):

1]   Not Afraid At All
2]   Not Too Afraid
3]   Somewhat Afraid
4]  Very Afraid

A bar chart shows results for Very Afraid. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). Terrorism (16%) was the most common fear, followed by nuclear war (15%) and snakes (14%). Heights and spiders (11%) tied for fourth place, while Being the victim of a crime and Public speaking (10%) tied for fifth place.

A second bar chart shows results for Somewhat Afraid. Heights (29%) was the most common fear, and Being the victim of a crime (28%) was second. Terrorism (27%) was third. For fourth place (26%) there was a three-way tie between Confined spaces, Public speaking, and Snakes. For fifth place (22%) there was another three-way tie between Death, Nuclear war, and Spiders.

 A third bar chart shows results for Not Too Afraid. Strangers (38%) was the most common fear. Germs (37%) was second, and Being the victim of a crime (36%) was third. Death (35%) was fourth. For fifth place (33%) there was a three-way tie between Terrorism, Water/drowning, and Insects. For sixth place (32%) there was another three-way tie between Confined spaces, Heights, and Public speaking.

A fourth bar chart shows results for Not Afraid At All. Open spaces (86%) was the most common unfeared item, and Fish (85%) was second. Birds (81%) was third, Clowns (79%) was fourth, and for fifth (69%) there was a tie between Ghosts and Open water (ferry/boat/ship). 31% had no fear of Public Speaking or Snakes.


A fifth bar chart shows results for the sum of Very Afraid and Somewhat Afraid. This sum was reported in the first online article about this survey on June 14th titled Terror attacks top list of B.C. residents’ fears, poll shows. Terrorism (43%) was the most common fear followed by a tie for second place (40%) between Heights and Snakes. Being the victim of a crime (38%) was third, Nuclear war (37%) was fourth, and Public speaking (36%) was fifth.

A sixth bar chart shows results for the grand sum of Very Afraid, Somewhat Afraid, and Not Too Afraid. Terrorism (76%) was the most common fear, and Being the victim of a crime (74%) was second. Heights (72%) was third, and there was a tie for fourth (68%) between Public speaking and Snakes. For fifth (65%) there was another tie between Nuclear war and Death. 

We commonly see claims that more people fear Public speaking than Death. This survey didn’t find that for Not Too Afraid, where Death (35%) was fourth - while for sixth place (32%) there was a  three-way tie between Confined spaces, Heights, and Public speaking.

For Very Afraid, Public speaking (10%) tied for fifth place, and Death (8%) was sixth. For Somewhat Afraid, there was a three-way tie for fourth place (26%) between Confined spaces, Public speaking, and Snakes. For fifth place (22%) there was another three-way tie between Death, Nuclear war, and Spiders.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Great versus small minds

Who said that:

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”?

A]  Winston Churchill

B]  Abraham Lincoln

C]  Eleanor Roosevelt

D]  Mark Twain

E]  None of the above

The answer is E]  None of the above. I saw that trio quote in a September 15th Sheldon comic strip, where it was attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. But an article by Garson O’Toole at Quote Investigator says no.

That quote is a good example of the speechwriting Rule of Three, Back on May 27, 2009 Andrew Dlugan discussed it in a post on his Six Minutes blog titled How to Use the Rule of Three in Your Speeches. Also, on February 12, 2015 on his Public Words blog Nick Morgan discussed the ‘I have a dream’ speech in a post titled Martin Luther King and the Rule of Three.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A great stuntman story - Eddie Braun rockets across the Snake River Canyon

On Friday, September 16th, Eddie Braun soared across the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho. He succeeded in doing what his boyhood idol, Evel Knievel, had failed at back on September 8, 1974. See the Wikipedia pages on Evel Knievel and the Skycycle X-2.

In a question and answer session with the local newspaper on the previous day, Hollywood stuntman Braun said the jump was how he would begin winding down his career. See the AP and TIME magazine stories on the jump.

Knievel’s attempt had a big buildup:

“A Time magazine reporter wrote about lots of bikers, drinking, partying and nudity before and on the day of the jump. He described the scene as ‘a bizarre spectacle, garnished with machismo and the threat of death.’ "

Friday, September 16, 2016

Spouting (Birther) Nonsense: After five years, Donald J. Trump finally admits that Barack Obama really was born in the United States

Today a CNN article reported that Trump finally admits it: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.” He didn’t say why he’d changed his mind, but it’s easy to speculate that he did not want to leave that brazen lie around as a subject for the upcoming debate. But his campaign also made a point of blaming Hillary Clinton’s campaign for originating it, as also was discussed in a New York Times article. Trump mainly ran a publicity stunt for his new D.C. hotel.

Back in 2011 Jerome Corsi was almost ready to release his book titled Where’s the Birth Certificate. Instead the president released his long-form birth certificate just three weeks before Corsi’s tome was published. That was like a ‘Roger Rabbitcomedy routine:

“Eddie: Do you mean to tell me you could have taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?

Roger: No, not at any time. Only when it was funny!”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Toastmasters International is moving its headquarters from southern California to the Denver area

An article by Anh Do in the September 9th Los Angeles Times described how Toastmasters is moving to Denver because O.C. is too expensive. Since 1990 its headquarters have been in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita, in Orange County (O.C.), south of Los Angeles. That nonprofit organization was founded in Santa Ana back in 1924.

The move probably will happen in another two years. Back on August 16th there was another article in the Orange Country Register by Keith Sharon and Hannah Madans on How one woman is fighting to keep Toastmasters from leaving Orange County.

Why Denver? Why not? Any of the top 30 cities or metro areas in the U.S. with lower costs and more affordable housing could be considered. Denver ranks 19th.

The image of a train of three freight wagons came from the Library of Congress

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dress for success, not like a ninja

On September 5th at the SketchBubble blog Ashish Arora posted on Look the Part: How to Dress for Success for Your Next Presentation. His  good advice included headings about:

Dress as well as your audience

Wear an outfit that allows movement

Dress Age-appropriate

Watch those colors

For the ladies...

And for you men...

What did he miss? Look at his image showing a man’s black suit coat against a slightly lighter gray background. Instead you should check out where you will be speaking. The clothes colors you choose should provide significant contrast with the background.

Otherwise you will be a stealth speaker, as I discussed on March 20th in a post titled Don’t dress like a ninja when you are going to speak! In an earlier 2011 post I also mentioned that you also should avoid finely spaced patterns like check shirts, which will produce moire patterns on video recordings. 

The ninja image is from Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 9, 2016

Where’s Jane? Western Ohio isn’t on the border by Pennsylvania

It’s on the border by Indiana. But in her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova made that mistake twice when describing her recent move to the eastern Ohio city of Austintown. Revealing that you are geographically challenged is not great storytelling. You’d expect a professional writer to stop and proofread her stuff after months of research.

In a post on September 8th titled Settling In - Not when making a good living requires non-stop pivots and also here she said:

“....Finally, western Ohio, on the border of Pennsylvania, turned out to be the right fit.”

In an earlier one on August 26th titled You age out of New York metro - Surprisingly, you can start up success elsewhere  and also here she proclaimed:

“....After about seven months of research, I zeroed in on western Ohio, next to Pennsylvania. I knew the region from going to school and working there.”


On September 16th she finally referred to eastern Ohio.

Also, her CONTACT INFO says she is in the Northeast United States. According to Wikipedia the Census Bureau would disagree - they consider Ohio to be part of  Region 2 - the Midwest. A more honest description would have said Eastern Ohio (and Eastern Time Zone).

Then on October 8th she again referred to being in Western Ohio! Lady, make up your mind where the hell you are!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why using FOPS as an acronym for Fear of Public Speaking is a lousy idea

At the Huffington Post (for Australia) on August 31st Libby-Jane Charleston had an article titled How Fear of Public Speaking Can Hold Back Your Career and subtitled It’s known as FOPS and it’s everywhere.

Arrgh! Why do we need another meaning for an  acronym that has widespread use in engineering? FOPS already means Falling Object Protective Structures.

They are discussed in an international standard, ISO 3449: Earth-moving machinery -- Falling-object protective structures -- Laboratory tests and performance requirements. SAE International has another standard, J1119_197609 about Steel Products for Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) and Falling Object Protective Structures (FOPS). There also were two SAE performance standards: SAE J231_199903 on Minimum Performance Criteria for Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) and J1043_199903 on Performance Criteria for Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) for Industrial Machines - both of which were canceled back in March 1999.   

What would be better than FOPS? How about the venerable old 1909 term speech fright?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A fairy tale about a space probe failure that never happened

I enjoy reading Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog. On September 5th he posted about The Great Kersten Blunder Blunder. That was a story about failure of a space probe due to a programming error. Among other places, the story appeared in an apparently reputable publication from the National Physical Laboratory titled Beginner’s Guide to Measurement in Mechanical Engineering (on page 8):

“Software controlling the Vigor space probe, on course for Venus, used 24.5 instead of 25.4 to convert millimetres to inches. The error meant that the probe missed Venus completely, and $2 billion worth of technology was lost. The eponymous Kersten was the programmer who made the error.”

What is missing from this story? It doesn’t say who launched the probe, or when. Phil pointed out that even a little Google search will reveal the story is a fairy tale. The moral is that you never should pass along a story without checking to see if it is real. See my August 27th post titled Stamp out fuzzy thinking: Please don’t confuse satire with reality

The image of a wolf and Red Riding Hood came from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, September 2, 2016

15 ChangeThis manifestos about public speaking and related topics

According to Wikipedia, a manifesto is:

“...a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.”

Similarly, a white paper is:

“... an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”

Back on November 29, 2011 I blogged about how you could Be your own Santa Claus - get these free holiday gifts right now, and linked to five ChangeThis manifestos. They are Acrobat .pdf files which are comparable to magazine articles. It’s time to revisit that site and link to more recent ones as well. These 15 are:

1]    #138-01 by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez - February 17, 2016
Ignite Change: How Empathetic Communication Helps You Illuminate a Path That People Will Want to Follow. (18 pages)

2]    #137-06 by Kenny Nguyen, Gus Murillo, Robert Killeen, and Luke Jones - January 27, 2016
3 Strategies to Persuade Any Audience. (19 pages).

3]    #136-03 by Michael Parker - December 17, 2015
This Is an Emotional Pitch. (13 pages)

4]    #134-04 by Jeffrey Hazlett -  October 14, 2015
Think Big, Act Big, and Do It Your Way - Because You Can! (15 pages).

5]    #115-03 by Joseph McCormack - March 12, 2014
The Brevity Mandate. (10 pages).

6]    #111-06 by Ron Shapiro - November 20, 2013
Perfecting Your Pitch. (13 pages).

7]    #100-04 by Scott Schwertly - November 14, 2012
The Snowflake Moment: Presenting the Future Today. (12 pages).

8]    #90-04 by Matt Eventoff - January 25, 2012
It Really is As Simple As ABC: What Leaders Can Learn from Masterful Orators of the Past. (17 pages).

9]    #70-04 by Kristin Arnold - September 8, 2010
15-1/2 Ideas to Make Your Presentation Go From Boring to Bravo. (16 pages).

10]  #66-04 by Frances Cole Jones - January 23, 2010
The Wow Factor Is You. (6 pages).

11]  #63-05 by Nancy Ancowitz - October 14, 2009
Self-Promotion for Introverts: Get Heard More. Even If You Talk Less. (13 pages).

12]  58-06 by Nick Morgan - May 6, 2009
Before You Open Your Mouth: The Keys to Great Public Speaking. (10 pages).

13]  #51-06 by Frances Cole Jones - October 8, 2008
Being a Gifted Speaker Isn’t a Gift. (8 pages).

14]  #50-06 by Andrew Abela  September - 10, 2008
Presenting to Small Audiences: Switch off the projector. (17 pages).

15]  #38-05 by Scott B. Schwertly - June 6, 2007
Presentation Revolution: Changing the Way the World Does Presentations. (17 pages).

The image was adapted from a statue of Major General Nathaneal Greene at the Library of Congress.