Friday, October 19, 2018

You probably won’t hear public speaking coaches discuss the 2018 Chapman Survey of American Fears

On October 16, 2018 Chapman University reported results from their fifth Survey of American Fears in a blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2018. That post contained what was claimed to be The Complete List of Fears 2018 (also available as a .pdf file). But when I compared them with the 97-page .pdf file about their Survey Methodology, I found they had omitted fear of Gang Violence, which was question 23m on page 66. Including it there were a total of 95 fears.

In 2018 fear of Public Speaking was ranked 60th out of these 95 fears (based on the sum of percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid). In 2017 it had been ranked 52nd out of 80 fears, in 2016 it had been ranked 33rd out of 79 fears, and in 2015 it had been ranked 26th out of 89 fears. On October 26, 2017 I blogged about How can you make a public speaking coach run away like a scared zebra? Just tell them where fear of public speaking ranked in the fourth Chapman Survey of American Fears. In that blog post I lamented that coaches instead would likely continue to refer to an article in the Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham on October 30, 2014 titled America’s top fears: public speaking, heights, and bugs. That article showed public speaking as the number one fear - but didn't really list all the fears.

Monday, October 15, 2018

My fiftieth high school reunion

On October 6th I attended the 50th reunion of my 1968 class at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh. Back then Allderdice was a junior and senior high school with about 3400 students in grades 7 to 12 (so my class would have had about 570). As shown above, in a pre-1945 postcard, the front entrances facing Shady Avenue had three long sets of terraces and steps. Perhaps 200 were at the reunion. Most looked grayer, fatter (and balder).

On January 15, 2017 I blogged about how the slogan for Taylor Allderdice was Know Something, Do Something, Be Something. In my varied career I wrote a couple of review articles. One I blogged about on March 18, 2013 in a post titled What is your hearing threshold? – the joy of statistics was presented in 1984 at the annual Corrosion conference held by NACE International. (I also presented at the 1982 and 2004 conferences). A decade later I wrote another article for SAE International titled Spot Weld Failure Analysis for Accident Reconstruction. My name also is on U.S. patent 4,832,757, Method for producing normalized grade D sucker rods.

The day before the reunion my wife and I visited Fallingwater, the famous summer home on a waterfall designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He conceived it when he was 68 years old – a reminder that those of us at retirement age still can be creative.   


Friday, October 12, 2018

How many floors does this motel have?

Your first impression would be just two, and wrong. But suppose I told you that this Days Inn is located on Mosside Boulevard in Monroeville, Pennsylvania - ten miles east of Pittsburgh. I was in Pittsburgh last Saturday for my fiftieth high school reunion (which I will discuss in another post).

Western Pennsylvania is quite hilly. When you instead look at the downhill side, you can see there are really are three floors.

Signs in the hall outside the elevator remind you that the lobby is on the second floor. We stayed in Room 333. Two of my friends at the reunion stayed at another motel in Monroeville - where the lobby was on the third floor.


A more extreme example of Pittsburgh architecture is the brutalist, concrete, eight-story Wean Hall at Carnegie Mellon University. The protruding ‘turtle head’ auditorium is Room 7500. At the right is the rear entrance for Doherty Hall, which is on the main quadrangle, and almost at the same level as the sixth floor for Wean Hall. The foundation for Wean Hall is at the bottom of Panther Hollow. Building it in 1971 at this steeply sloped location cost fifty percent more per square foot than if it had been on a level site.   

The image of Wean Hall came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Advantages and disadvantages of speaking ‘in the round’

At Medium on September 26, 2018 there was an article by Andy Nulman with the confusing title of Don’t Fear the Sphere and a clearer subtitle of How to speak in the round without going around in circles. A typical ‘in the round’ layout is shown above.

I found three other articles about speaking in the round. On October 16, 2015 Victoria Tomlinson of Northern Lights PR described her 9 tips for presentations ‘in the round.’ On February 18, 2016 at LinkedIn Pulse Adrian Kirk discussed Speaking in the Round – how to master the trickiest of public speaking platforms. Kristin Arnold at Powerful Panels also had three articles on Theater-in-the-Round: Speaking and Presenting Effectively. Think carefully about the following ten points before you attempt this difficult layout:

1]  What are the advantages? First, there is a shorter distance between speaker and audience than for a typical room layout, with all the audience on one side. Second, that closeness make the presentation more conversational.   

2]  What are the biggest disadvantages? Half the audience can’t see your face or frontal hand gestures.

3]  Should I try to spin around? No. Unless you are either a gymnast or a skater, you just will get dizzy and fall down, and look foolish.

4]  Should I plan to walk around the stage? Yes, Adrian Kirk has discussed three possible patterns (shown above).

5]  Does this round stage make my butt look big? It sure does. Get over it!

6]  Should I wear a basic black dress or a charcoal suit? Heck no! Don’t dress like a ninja - you just will blend into a dark background.

7]  Will I have a lectern to put notes on? Probably not, but you may have a small round table at the center of the stage.

8]  Will I have prompting or confidence monitors? Maybe - they probably will be at the edges of the stage, as shown above.

9]  Will there be screens for viewing video or PowerPoint? Maybe, either in a square cluster above the stage or up on the four side walls, as is shown above.  

10]  Will the stage revolve slowly, like the restaurants at the Space Needle or Tower of the Americas? Perhaps. Be sure to ask beforehand.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A capitalist cap – because it’s all about the dollars

Today’s F Minus comic by Tony Carrillo featured a green baseball cap similar to the one shown above with the caption:

“It’s called a Bizcap, and my haberdasher assured me it is appropriate for any business meeting.”

Back on June 7, 2011 I blogged about How many hats do you wear?

The image was adapted from one by Jesus Corius at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

More phony ‘LinkedIn’ phishing emails

On August 12th I blogged about getting Phony ‘LinkedOut’ and ‘Inlook’ phishing emails. The fakes claiming to be from from LinkedIn got the message grammatically wrong – “You appeared in 6 search this week.”

This week there has been a bunch of similar emails – including three so far just today. As shown above, they are ludicrously inept. A real message about searches this week should arrive only once. (Multiple messages would be expected to have the number of searches increse over time, but these three instead showed a decrease). The email addresses also are not consistent with LinkedIn.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Failure to communicate

Poor understanding of second language can get you into trouble. Back in 2006 Berlitz had a humorous TV commercial (made in Norway) with the punchline Improve Your English. As shown above on YouTube, it has a German Coast Guard trainee get confused between the words sinking and thinking. I was introduced to it via another recent YouTube video by Rashid N. Kapadia.

The set for that Berlitz commercial looks plausible. There are two relay racks full of equipment at the far left, and a table with what looks like a large marine radio receiver (presumably tuned to a distress frequency like 2182kHz). But there is another copycat YouTube video which uses the sound track from the radio, but hilariously instead just has the equipment for a recording studio – some graphic equalizers, level meters, and a cassette tape deck.

There is a blog post about that and other Berlitz commercials at the Marketing Mixed blog titled “Sinking” about strategy.

Another similar YouTube video has the situation switched to a trainee from the Egyptian Coast Guard.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why would you bet on a horse race that already has taken place?

You would not, unless you like to gamble on almost anything. But for the November election here in Idaho there is Proposition 1 - ludicrously given the brief ballot title of An Initiative Authorizing Historical Horse Racing at Certain Locations Where Live or Simulcast Horse Racing Occurs and Allocating Revenue Therefrom (and also titled the Save Horse Racing in Idaho Act).

Whenever we see an unusual word like THEREFROM we can smell that attorneys are telling us a pile of horse manure. This is the latest try to get back to a form of gambling which had been passed by our state legislature in 2013. In 2015 they came to their senses and passed another bill repealing it. Then our governor tried to veto that bill, but he waited too long.

How does Historical Horse Racing (HHR) work? The Wikipedia article titled Instant Racing explains that play begins when a customer deposits money in a terminal (resembling a slot machine), and a race is randomly selected from a video library. The customer is NOT shown details like the date and location of the race – just some information about the jockeys and trainers winning percentages. Based on that handicapping information the customer makes a pari-mutuel wager on the outcome (top three finishers in order). Then the customer sees a brief video clip of the finish (perhaps just a two-inch square).

Naturally there are groups running TV ads supporting and opposing Prop. 1. In favor is The Committee to Save Idaho Horse Racing, Create Jobs, and Fund Public Schools, or more briefly, Save Idaho Horse Racing. Against is Idaho United Against Prop 1.

A combination of money and politics creates peculiar rationales. Up north, the Indian casino operators who already have slot machines oppose Prop 1. (Paulette Jordan, the Democratic candidate for governor, once was co-chair of gaming for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians [ATN]). At the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) their chief honcho Wayne Hoffman supported Prop 1 with an article titled Prop 1 gives voters a chance to save an industry that politicians have nearly destroyed, which also was published as a column in the Idaho-Press Tribune. His stance contradicts the IFF’s statement that it:

“…exists to advance conservative principles – limited government, free markets and self-reliance – [that] made our country the envy of the world.”

Prop 1 instead has the government intervene in the market by granting a special privilege to some (which hardly is supporting self-reliance). But that’s OK, since they really are opposing a liberal Democratic candidate. By the way, the Idaho-Press Tribune had an editiorial against Prop 1 titled Vote ‘no’ on horse racing slot machines.     

If Prop 1 passes, then who else might line up to ask for similar forms of gambling with terminals resembling slot machines? First, there could be Historical Rodeo Riding (HRR). An eight-second ride is short enough to show completely on a video.  

Second, there could be Historical Car Racing (HCR) in both a drag race version (short enough to show completely) and a longer, boring oval track (NASCAR or Indy Car) version.

Third, sports bars could ask for Historical March Madness (HMM) with betting on either the Elite Eight or Final Four in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship.

Fourth, movie theaters could ask for Historical Movie Endings (HME). Bet on which characters will survive until the end of a slasher movie like one of the ten in the Halloween series. (Don’t ever bet against Jamie Lee Curtis!)    

And so on!

The 1894 image of a horse race came from the Library of Congress, and the image of horse manure came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stopwatch, countdown, and progress-bar timers for speeches

It is very helpful to have a timer you can glance at to keep track of where you are during a speech. One common type is a stopwatch function on a wristwatch or smartphone app, but knowing how much time has elapsed really is less useful than knowing how much you have left (via a countdown function on a lab timer, as shown above).  

It is more useful to have an analog progress bar that uses a color change to display what fraction of the allotted time has been used and is left. On December 14, 2017 I blogged about a Review of the Timer function on the Toastmasters International Mobile App. That app provides a progress bar display.

I just ran across a blog post from June 18, 2018 by James T. Jarc titled The Color-Timer Method: Exploring the use of a visual timekeeping application in introductory public speaking classes. He linked to his Colortimers web site, which displayed four working timers.

One titled Blow out the Candle has a vertical progress bar that burns downward. It inspired me to use PowerPoint to mock up the horizontal Fuse Timer shown above. As the fuse burns down the flame gets taller.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Teenage students need to learn how to speak up in classes

At The Atlantic on September 12, 2018 there was an article by Taylor Lorenz titled Teens are protesting in-class presentations. It was subtitled Some students say having to speak in front of the class is an unreasonable burden for those with anxiety and are demanding alternative options.   Presumably he meant those with the severe problem of a diagnosable social anxiety disorder (which used to be called social phobia). Public speaking phobia is a subset of social phobia. In his 13th paragraph he also claimed:

 “Anxiety is increasing at a faster rate than depression as the leading mental-health issue affecting teenagers, a recent study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found.”

That magazine article was titled Epidemiology and impact of health care provider-diagnosed anxiety and depression among US children. It covered a far wider age range than just teenagers (ages 6 to 17), and reported on all anxiety rather than just social anxiety.

But there are good statistics on social anxiety in U. S. teens, which came from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication - Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). As shown above in a bar chart, about 10% of teens have social anxiety disorder, which is an upper bound for the percentage with public speaking phobia. So, about 90% of teens don’t have a major problem with speaking up in class.

A magazine article about fears in the NCS-A reported that 24.9%, or one-quarter of teens feared speaking in class (and 35.8% feared performing for an audience). The other three-quarters of them had no fear. I blogged about this on June 11, 2012 in a post titled What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears.

After that Atlantic article there were some dissenting replies. At Quartz on September 13, 2018 an article by Annabelle Timsit said Students are resisting in-class presentations. Here’s why teachers shouldn’t cave. On September 15, 2018 the Las Vegas Review-Journal had an editorial titled In defense of public speaking which remarked:
“It’s understandable that children want to avoid difficult things, like public speaking. The job of adults isn’t to indulge these juvenile fantasies but to help them develop the knowledge and skills needed to overcome the challenges they’ll face in life. That includes public speaking.
A school that doesn’t do that isn’t doing its job.”

After all, schools aren’t requiring public speaking just to be mean. It is part of the English Language Arts (ELA) in the Common Core standards. One web site about them notes that for grades 11 and 12 students should be able to:

“Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.”

You can find a more detailed discussion of the standards in a 2011 document from the State of Washington titled The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics: Analysis and Recommendations. (See page 6).

Yesterday at Forbes there was an article by Carmine Gallo titled Don’t abolish in-class presentations, teach students to enjoy public speaking. 

The image of students in a class was modified from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Having your thunder stolen

On September 20, 2018 The Onion (a satirical newspaper) had an article titled 4th grader panics upon realizing classmate giving presentation had exact same summer as he did. It said that Bryan Gardner was freaked out by the preceding presentation being the same as what he had planned. (Their teacher was depressed because she also had the same summer).

This problem is known as stealing thunder. In a topical seminar it can be a big problem if you just do the same superficial research as another speaker. On January 22, 2014 I blogged about a cure -
Don’t just get on the bandwagon! Find your own speech topic and approach.

Both in litigation and crisis communication it may be better for persuasion to reveal negative information about your organization before an opponent can. Back on July 15, 2009 I blogged about it in another post titled Stealing Thunder: say the worst, but say it first. Laurie Kuslansky at A2L Consulting discussed it briefly on April 28, 2014 in an article titled 4 tips for stealing thunder in the courtroom. Kathyrn M. Stanchi had an exhaustive 54-page article in the 2008 Rutgers Law Review titled Playing with fire: the science of confronting adverse material in legal advocacy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Silliest quote for the month

At CNBC on September 8, 2018 there was an article by Elle Kaplan titled 8 simple ways public speakers overcome their own fears to impress and inspire that also was posted at Yahoo Finance. It had the following eight section headings:

1] Know what you’re walking into

2] Know your audience

3] Structure your speech

4] Focus just on your content and not yourself

5] Smile, and go on

6] Execute the right tone, volume, and pace

7] Eye contact

8] Practice

But the article failed to follow #4 and focus on the content. The very fourth sentence says:
“In a survey, public speaking is ranked as one of the top phobias for most Americans, according to the Chapman Survey on American Fears.”

The article referred to the web site for those Chapman Surveys, but Ms. Kaplan clearly had not checked on details for the 2017 survey. Their press release has a graphic showing the Top 10 Fears of 2017 – but public speaking isn’t there. It isn’t even in either the Top 20 or the Top 40. Their blog post has a list of fears showing public speaking really is ranked only #52 out of 80 fears! That is very far from the top, and not a phobia. (Back in 2011 I blogged about What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?).

When you look at the survey methodology for the question, you will find it is also about fear rather than phobia – it is question qn23m on page 12:

“How afraid are you of the following? – Public speaking”

Back on October 26, 2017 I blogged about How can you make a public speaking coach run away like a scared zebra? Just tell them where public speaking ranked in the fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears. And on  October 14, 2017 blogged about What do the most Americans fear? The fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears, and being innumerate.

The graphic came from here at Openclipart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A humorous typo

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Cartoonist Doug Savage lead up to it by posting a week of related Savage Chickens cartoons. On September 14th he posted the one shown above, claiming The Legend of Blackbeard came from the typographical error of adding an extra D.

Humor columnist Dave Barry was responsible for making International Talk Like a Pirate Day into a holiday event. There even is a 6-1/2 minute training video on YouTube. And the Toyota Yaris is the official car for this day, which I blogged about back in July 2011.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Tent cards for member names and meeting roles at Toastmasters club meetings

One detail of running Toastmasters club meetings is identifying members and their roles. At St. Al’s Toastmasters Club we use two-sided 8-1/2-inch wide by 2-1/2-inch high tent cards, as is shown above. (Capitol Club had reusable clip-on name tags which sometimes accidentally got taken home after meetings).

At the last District 15 Leadership Training Institute (TLI) Jerry Shaeffer from the  CommuniCreator’s Club mentioned his club was using tent cards identifying meeting roles. I did a Google search and found that District 58 in South Carolina had 11-inch wide by 4-1/4-inch high tent cards with the role name on one side and a description on the other, as is shown above. You can download their Meeting Roles Tent Cards as a PowerPoint file.

I realized that we could get even fancier and add one-inch high pink meeting role cards as ‘hats’ to slip over our name tent cards. That combination would let everyone know exactly who is doing what – even if there is no printed agenda. We tried them out today and voted to use them from now on.   

Avery makes some embossed tent cards. Their #5305 are 2-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches (two per sheet).
Their #5309 are 3-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches (just one per sheet).


Monday, September 10, 2018

Do you have a screw loose?

I mean literally, not figuratively. When we moved into our new house about five years ago there were some stripped screws on the door hinges for a few kitchen cabinets. I repaired them by inserting the ends of three round wooden toothpicks dipped in white glue to plug and refill the holes. That’s one common repair method reusing the same screw. You also could either use longer screws or larger diameter screws, or drill out the hole and glue in a wood plug (cut from a dowel rod). These options and others are discussed in an article at The Spruce Crafts titled How to fix a screw that has stripped out.

My repair on the most used hinge finally let loose. As shown above, this time I redid it by cutting three pieces from the middle of those 0.08” diameter by 2-1/2” long toothpicks, and using a lot more yellow Titebond PREMIUM Wood Glue.

When we had breakfast with one of my wife’s friends I mentioned doing that repair. She had also used the “toothpick trick” for fixing loose screws on her tap shoes. There is a risk of damage to wooden floors when a loose screw starts protruding. The Tight Taps web site sells three different sizes of screws, and they also have a 1-1/2 minute YouTube video on How to fix a tap shoe screw.    

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Is the glass half full or half empty?

A cliché about optimism and pessimism is that a pessimist says the glass is half empty, while an optimist says the glass is half full. There even is a Wikipedia page.

There are other more creative replies. A physicist says the glass really is half-filled with water and half-filled with air. An engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. A bartender says for $2 I can refill the glass with orange juice, or for $5 I can add a fifth of a glass of vodka, and make it into Screwdrivers. (That’s a specific version of a Tom Peters quote - that the real question instead should be how do I fill the glass?). If the glass scares you half to death, then you have glassophobia.

Back on January 30, 1997 a Dilbert cartoon had the following clever dialogue:

Ratbert: A pessimist says the glass is half empty. An optimist says it’s half full.

Dilbert: Did you put your lips on my glass again?

Ratbert: And the engineer says…

Dilbert: It’s a good thing I put half of my water in a redundant glass.

On September 1, 2018 another Dilbert cartoon which inspired this post had some less clever dialogue:

Pointy-haired Boss: A pessimist says the glass is half empty. An optimist says it is half full.

Dilbert: The engineer says the glass is too big.

Pointy-haired Boss: The manager says the engineer should shut his pie hole. 

There was an article by Diana Booher on pages 12 and 13 of the February 2010 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled The Link Between Language and Leaders which said:

“As a presenter and leader, you may be called on to deliver bad news. If your audience sees the glass as half empty, you have every right – even an obligation – to help them see it as half full.”  

I looked on Pubmed and found a pair of articles from 2011 in the Canadian Veterinary Journal by Myrna Milani on Half-empty and half-full communication – one in October about the client and one in December about the practitioner. There also is a definitive 27-page article with 320 references by David Hecht in the September 2013 issue of Experimental Neurobiology about The neural basis of optimism and pessimism.

Update on September 19, 2018

Fifteen years ago there was a magazine article by Craig R. M. McKenzie and Jonathan D. Nelson titled What a speaker’s choice of frame reveals: reference points, frame selection, and framing effects that appeared in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review for 2003, on pages 596 to 602, vol. 10 no. 3. Their abstract began [percentages added by me]:

“Framing effects are well established: Listeners’ preferences depend on how outcomes are described to them, or framed. Less well understood is what determines how speakers choose frames. Two experiments revealed that reference points systematically influenced speakers’ choices between logically equivalent frames. For example, [88% of] speakers tended to describe a 4-ounce cup filled to the 2-ounce line as half full if it was previously empty but [only 31% described it as half full or instead 69%] described it as half empty if it was previously full.”

They also looked at glasses one-quarter or three-quarters full, with the results shown above.