Sunday, April 22, 2018

How not to deliver a world-class infographic on presentation anxiety

On August 4, 2017 the Hong Kong based Malcolm Andrews issued a press release titled Leading Executive Coach Reveals the Tricks to Delivering a Killer Presentation Despite Common Anxiety that linked to an infographic titled HOW TO DELIVER A WORLD CLASS PRESENTATION.  

On May 20, 2015 I blogged about Is that an infographic or just a totem pole scroll? In that post I noted that an infographic provides real information, while a totem pole just recounts legends. Malcolm’s infographic is 9.6 times higher than it is wide, and it requires lots of scrolling to read.

The section on anxiety at the top of this infographic, shown above, begins with a pair of ‘statistics’ that just are legends – and are displayed via silly donut (hollow pie) charts.

The first claim is: “Around 75% of the population worldwide suffer from the fear of public speaking, and for many, their fear is so great it could derail their careers.” On February 3, 2014 I had blogged about Busting a myth – that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking. In that post I chased down where that old number came from. It really just is about the U.S., and likely university students.

The second claim is: “In fact, 19% of the population are more afraid of public speaking than death, spiders, heights, and dark.” That really comes from a pie chart by Jim Peterson on the
Fear of public speaking statistics factsheet web page at his Speech Topics Help web site (shown above as a bar chart). Jim doesn’t say where those percentages came from, and I doubt they are real. The percentage for the sixth fear on the list, of people or social situations is out of place, and should be larger than that for public speaking. I discussed that on December 7, 2014 in a blog post titled Statistic Brain is just a statistical medicine show where I debunked their fears list that clearly was inspired by Speech Topics Help.

The third claim (repeating the first) is that: “Roughly 3 out of 4 people admit to being scared of public speaking. Now that’s huge!” This is followed by column charts showing the percent of females and males in ten countries, as two rows of four and one of two.

That data actually came from a Reader’s Digest Canada survey (the eleventh link) but aren’t explicitly identified either in the infographic or in the table at the bottom. But there really were 16 countries, so there should have been four rows of four. Malcolm left off India, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Russia, and South Africa. I blogged about that survey on April 9, 2012 in a blog post titled Poll by Reader’s Digest Canada found fear of public speaking wasn’t ranked first in 15 of 16 countries surveyed. The table shown above lists both the percentages and the rankings by females and males. The averages for fearing speaking in public were 20.6% for females, and 17.1% for males – which are quite far from the 3 out of 4 people claim.

The fourth claim is titled “Top 10 fears of Office goers” but doesn’t say that data come from the United Kingdom, and just lists six of ten. Why not two rows of five, and why not use column bars instead of those silly donut charts with icons in their centers? Worse yet, the ninth link identifies my blog as the source – it points to a January 18, 2016 blog post titled Over a quarter of workers in the UK chose careers to avoid their office fears - although I had linked to the original source there.

Further down in the infographic, under Preparation it admonishes that “It is important to understand your knowledge gaps regarding the situation. About what you might know or not now (sic) about the subject and the presentation.” What is the knowledge gap for this infographic? That there was a social fears survey done for Hong Kong back in 2009. I blogged about it in a post on February 7, 2011 titled Fears of superiors and public speaking in Hong Kong. A bar chart with the results is shown above. Note that the percentages apply to 12-months, so the question would be “In the past year were you” rather than “In your life were you ever.”  Public speaking (public performance came second to talking with a higher-status person.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Playing with words: PRO or CON?

At a Toastmasters club meeting one role is that of the Grammarian, which may optionally include introducing a ‘Word of the Week’ to help members increase their vocabulary. At today’s meeting of the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club that word was Zeal, and the theme was National Humor Month. So, I was pondering whether it might be humorous to instead have a PAIR of related words, one PRO, and one CON – like Progress and Congress (which almost seem opposites).  

A half-dozen examples are shown above. (There also are some near-misses like Proceed and Concede).

Back on December 27, 2014 I had blogged about how to Have fun making up new words! Another way to do so is to notice there are other words where either the PRO or CON word is missing – as shown above in four examples each. If you are driving around in a Convertible, then you might be inspired to call someone else’s sedan a Provertible.

UPDATE April 21, 2018

Here are four more.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A cartoon for illustrating a humorous ‘how to’ speech

On April 17, 2018 Doug Savage had a Savage Chickens cartoon titled The Right Way. It goes perfectly with the following story, which I told slightly differently in a blog post on February 22, 2011 titled Return of the Table Topics Bunny:

Back in the early 1980s I had a two-story condo and a curious little black kitten named Finster. On a late-spring weekend day I opened windows for the upstairs master bedroom (front) and bathroom (rear) for cross ventilation. Then I left to run errands for a couple hours. When I returned and opened the front door, I found a mound of toilet paper on the landing. A trail led all the way up the stairs, and into the bathroom. Finster obviously had jumped on the windowsill to look out. As he jumped back down he had brushed the toilet paper roll in the holder on the back wall, and it began to rotate and unroll. Once he got it started he just kept unrolling it and playing. I turned the roll around to feed out underhand rather than overhand. Then I never had that problem again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fear of Public Speaking in Brazilian College Students

The January 2017 issue of the Journal of Voice (v31 n1) has an article by Anna Carolina Ferreira Marinho et al. titled Fear of Public Speaking: Perception of College Students and Correlates. You can read the abstract at PubMed, and a preprint of the full article at ResearchGate.  

1135 students at one  college or university replied to a questionnaire: 765 women (~2/3) and 370 men. As is shown above in a bar chart, 63.8% of them feared public speaking – 68.8% of females and 53.8% of males (significantly less). Age and field of study did not significantly affect the extent of fear.(Click on the chart to see a larger, clearer view).

A second bar chart shows how students perceived their own voice. 36.8% thought it was adequate. The majority did not – 30% thought it too high pitched, 18.5 % thought it too soft, 7.4% thought it too nasal, 4.9% thought it too deep, and 2.4% thought it too hoarse. An overwhelming majority of 89.3% expressed interest in getting speech language training.

The results shown in my first bar chart came from Table 1 of this article. If you go back and look at it you will find I calculated the percentages from the numbers rather than using those shown directly there. Those percentages are wrong – they were calculated by columns rather than rows. This is the sort of nonsense which can result in an article with multiple authors when a table is delegated to someone else but not carefully checked.  

Data by sex from Table 1 are shown above. For males, the percent answering yes should be 100*(199/[171 + 199]) or 53.8%. Instead it was 100*(199/[199 + 525]) or 27.5%. Obviously that percent for males should NOT depend on the percent of females who answered yes, and the row sum for yes and no should be 100%.

Data from Table 1 by age and field of study are shown above in two more tables. For age the percentages again were calculated by columns rather than rows. For field of study, the column sums reveal that the numbers for no and yes were wrongly switched as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Three out of five public speaking ‘statistics’ that are shockingly off the mark

On March 30, 2018 at Ethos3 Kelly Allison blogged about 5 Shocking Public Speaking Statistics, and opened by claiming:

“There’s a lot of misinformation and false statistics floating around out there with regard to public speaking and specifically public speaking fear (AKA glossophobia). For instance, maybe you’ve seen the ever-prevalent stat that 75% of people have a deep fear of it? Well, turns out that’s not even close to true. We did our homework and found some stats that are actually true. Below you will discover our findings.”

But she didn’t really do her homework (dig all the way down to primary sources), so her first three are way off the mark. (I knew they were nonsense, but have not bothered to chase down the other two). Their first two are that Fear of public speaking cuts wages by 10% and Fear of public speaking inhibits promotion to management by 15%. She linked to Peter Khoury’s awful December 13, 2016 blog post at Magnetic Speaking titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics (which talks about the 75%). Two days later I had blogged about it in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. Mr. Khoury claimed both percentages came from a publication at Columbia University, but it just had mentioned those results in the 13th slide, and actually referred to a magazine article by Daniel Katzelnick et al titled Impact of Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder in Managed Care which had appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry, December 2001, pages 1999 to 2007. But that article never ever uses the words public, speaking, or fear. As the title says, it really is about social phobia which is a broader topic than public speaking but apples to a higher level of fear. On page 2003 it  says that:

“…generalized social anxiety disorder is associated with 10% lower wages”

….and a 14-percentage point lower probability of being in a managerial, technical, or professional occupation.”

The third ‘statistic’ claims that your delivery matters more than your content. Specifically: 

Studies suggest that effective presentations are 38% your voice, 55% non-verbal communication, and only 7% your content.
That commonly is known as the Mehrabian myth. I blogged about it back on July 25, 2009 in a post titled Bullfighting the Mehrabian myth and again on September 15, 2010 in another post titled If the Mehrabian myth was true.

The astonished monkey cartoon came from Openclipart.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Right and wrong room setups

The January – February 2018 issue of Speaker magazine has a one-page article by Alan R. Zimmerman titled Smart Room Setups. He says you should plan ahead to get the right one. If you don’t you might wind up with something very wrong - like the century-old railroad car shown above (with 12 rows of seats, each for just four people). Alan’s article has a .pdf file download showing nine different setups for a wide range of audience sizes:

Boardroom (21)

Theater Curved Rows (30)

Small Group Rounds (35)

Classroom-Style with 2 aisles (36)

Small Group Angled Tables (40)

Classroom-Style with one aisle (60)

U-Shaped (72 )

Theater Style U-Shaped (254)

Theater (for 500+)

The 1903 railroad car interior came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Have you ever seen a flip chart stick out its tongue?

On November 27, 2017 at his Train Like a Champion blog Brian Washburn posted about 9 Tips for Better Flip Charts. His eighth one, to Make Dynamic Flip Charts, caught my eye. Brian showed how his colleague Jeremy Shuman emphasized new points. Jeremy taped a Z-folded strip of chart paper behind a page, but left a tab showing at the right. Pulling the tab revealed more information – like sticking out your tongue, as is shown above.    

In Robert W. Lucas’s The Creative Training Idea Book (2003) there is a section titled Flip Chart Magic on pages 279 to 292 (which you can view at Google Books). He has a web page with some brief articles about using flip charts you can download as Acrobat .pdf files. One also titled Flip Chart Magic mentions using tandem flip charts. As shown above, you might use one chart for your prepared presentation during a meeting, and another to capture comments from participants. (If you don’t have two easels, you could use Post-It self adhesive pages to put the comments pages on a side wall). Other articles are titled Enhancing Your Message with Flip Charts, 5 Super Tips for Enhancing Flip Charts with Color, Successful Flip Chart Usage, Spicing Up Your Flip Charts with Graphic Images, and even Transporting Flip Charts Effortlessly.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Misquoting Jerry Seinfeld and inflating fear five times

In his Seinfeld TV show on May 20, 1993 Jerry told this joke:

“…. According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Now this means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

On March 2, 2013 I blogged about how I read it in a book, so it must be true – and discussed a book which had misquoted death as instead being third. Doug Staneart has another version where death is fifth. It was at Ezine Articles on November 15, 2005 in an article titled Anxiety in Public Speaking. Mr. Staneart says:

“Speaking in public is often cited as the number one fear of adults. The Book of Lists places the fear of death in fifth place while public speaking ranks first. Jerry Seinfeld said, ‘That would mean at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.’"

He has other more vague versions in two of his books. One shows up in an excerpt from Chapter 1 of his 2002 book Fearless Presentations in a web article titled 10 Ways to Eliminate Public Speaking Fear:

“A number of years ago in an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld talked about a poll that had been conducted in which Americans said that their number one fear was public speaking, and that the fear of death was number five. He said, ‘…that would mean that at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.’ “

In his 2013 book Mastering Presentations, Mr. Staneart says:

“I often quote Jerry Seinfeld when I begin a seminar or class on presentation fear, because in one of his stand-up routines, he points out that the fear of public speaking is the number-one fear in America, and the fear of death is number five. ‘So, you are five times as likely to want to be in the casket rather than up giving the eulogy.’ “

Where did fear of death rank in that Book of Lists? On October 27, 2009 I blogged about The 14 worst human fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: where did this data really come from? As shown above in a bar chart, the fear of death in the 1973 Bruskin survey ranked seventh not fifth. Also, it is clearly wrong to multiply by the rank. Since 40.6% feared speaking before a group and 18.7% feared death you instead would multiply by the ratio 40.6/18.7 = 2.17, not 5. 

Was there another survey where fear of death ranked fifth? Yes. On May 19, 2011 I blogged about America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring Survey. As shown above in a bar chart, since 45% feared speaking before a group and 31% feared death you would multiply by the ratio 45/31 = 1.45, not 5.

The inflated man was derived from an August 1, 1900 Puck cartoon titled Pride goeth before destruction found at the Library of Congress.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Shouldn't acronyms be pronounceable?

On April 3rd there was a press release titled NASA Awards Contract to Build Quieter Supersonic Aircraft which said:

“NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award Tuesday of a contract for the design, building and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began April 2 and runs through Dec. 31, 2021.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.”

But, of course, Lockheed Martin referred to the aircraft by the unpronounceable acronym LBFD.

I think whoever at NASA came up with the name and acronym should have first run it past a person in their mythical Office Of Pronounceable Spellings (OOPS). The guy or gal in that office would have objected to that acronym, and told them to come up with something pronounceable – like QUAC (Quiet Unobtrusive Aerial Craft). If it’s a QUAC, then it sounds no louder than a duck quacking (rather than a car door closing).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Speech evaluation rubrics: how many levels should be on the scale, and which way should it point?

Back on May 8, 2010 I blogged about Rubrics and figuring out where you are. The fourth Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for a rubric is:

“a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects or tests”

An evaluation rubric includes several questions about both content and delivery, which are scored on some sort of a scale. How many levels should be on the scale? At least two, but would either three, four, or five be better, as is shown above. What names should be given to those levels?

A week ago on LinkedIn at The Official Toastmasters International Members Group ChenKeat Fan posted on Evaluation sheet for evaluator in Pathways: what’s your opinion of its usefulness? So far there have been over twenty comments (including one from me). He complained that having to quantify on a 1 to 5 scale is cumbersome as compared to the previous scale with three levels. (But Toastmasters actually used a five-level scale before in their course on The Art of Effective Evaluation).

I got curious and looked up some history about speech evaluations. Back in 1981 there was a 47-page booklet by Douglas G. Bock and E. Hope-Bock on Evaluating Classroom Speaking. You can download it as Document ED 214 213 on the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) web site. That booklet ends with a section showing 13 sample evaluation forms. The preceding section on constructing an evaluation instrument discusses the topic of Controlling Rating Errors on page 22. It says that:

“The error of central tendency can be controlled by the number of scale values used on the continuum. For example, if only three numbers are use, most raters are going to use the middle category. It has been found that a five-step scale usually results in three steps being used. A seven-step scale uses about four. A ten-step scale usually produces five. One way to get raters to use more of the scale is to have more steps.”

A second question is which way the scale should run. As shown above, graphs displayed with Cartesian coordinates typically have an x-axis using the right-hand rule, but the left-hand rule also could be used. A scale with the right-hand rule would have the worst category at the left, and the best at the right. Since we read English from left to right, there might be a primacy effect where we would overuse that left category. Those using languages read from right to left (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Urdu) might have a different bias than English speakers.

A third question is where the scale should start, as shown above. Should there be a zero? Some might object that it should begin at 1, since we all are heroes - not zeroes. One way to organize a speech evaluation form with five levels is to alternately list a question and the scale (so the score for it can be circled). Other pages of the form can show details of what those five levels mean.

One well-known rubric is The NCA Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form (2nd edition, 2007) from the U. S. National Communication Association, as shown above. It is described in a 49-page Acrobat .pdf file you can download free from their web site. This rubric lists eight competencies – four for Content and four for Delivery (in four columns) rated on a right-hand rule axis with three levels: Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, or Excellent. I have numbered them 0, 1, 2 – although the form omits that detail but nevertheless has a bottom row for General Comments and a Summative Score. The form also has a three-page explanation for those competencies. There is another NCA Competent Speaker Holistic Speech Evaluation Form that combines each set of four into just two categories labeled Preparation and Content, and Presentation and Delivery.  

In 2012 Communication Education magazine had an article by Lisa M. Schreiber, Gregory D. Paul, and Lisa R. Shibley titled The Development and Test of the Public Speaking Competence Rubric (PSCR) which you can download. As shown above, this rubric has eleven categories rated on a left-hand rule axis numbered from 4 to 0 and titled 4 = Advanced, 3 = Proficient, 2 =Basic, 1 = Minimal, or 0 = Deficient. You also can download a single-page Table with a detailed explanation for each item. I blogged about the PSCR in a July 9, 2012 post titled A new scale (rubric) for evaluating speeches.

In their Success Communication series, Toastmasters International has a two-hour course titled The Art of Effective Evaluation (Item 251). It has an Individual Speech Evaluation Form (Item 251D), which you can find at the end of a handout for it from the Park City club. As shown above, the form has 12 explicit categories (and room for two optional ones). The right-hand rule axis has five levels which from left to right are labeled 1 = Needs Considerable Improvement, 2 = Needs Some Improvement, 3 = Acceptable, 4 = Very Good, 5 = Excellent. The form is organized into three columns. Each row has a Category, followed by a Rating (1 to 5) and Recommendations for Improvement.   

In the new Pathways educational program from Toastmasters International, speeches are evaluated using a three-page form. The first page has a Purpose Statement, Notes for the Evaluator, and General Comments (with three categories – You excelled at, You may want to work on, and To challenge yourself). As shown above for the Icebreaker Speech, the second page in the form has seven categories on a left-hand rule axis with five levels labeled from left to right as 5 = Exemplary, 4 = Excels, 3 = Accomplished, 2 = Emerging, and 1 = Developing. Although those labels are  explained in detail on the third page of that form, I think they are way more obscure than those used in the PSCR.

As is shown above, perhaps a more honest revised set of labels would be 5 = Outstanding, 4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, and 1 = Poor (or Poop). Other evaluation guides from Pathways are discussed on a web page at UmErYouKnow with a link to a list of them.     


Monday, April 2, 2018

Fearless public speaking is a reality, not a myth

In a recent blog post at Corporate Communication Experts titled The Myth of Fearless Public Speaking, Peter Dhu claimed:

“With fear so prevalent and so debilitating do people ever get to a position of fearless public speaking? I personally think not and I think the concept of public speaking with no fear is indeed a myth.  Mark Twain said ‘there were two types of speakers; those with nerves and those that were liars’.”

Are there really people who are not afraid at all of public speaking? How might we answer that question? We could ask a random national sample of over a thousand adults how much they feared it and give them a choice of several levels (like Very Afraid, Afraid, Somewhat Afraid, Not Afraid At All). Has something that ever been done? Heck yes!

On December 20, 2016 I blogged about Bursting the overblown claim that 95% of Americans fear public speaking at some level. In that post I included a horizontal bar chart showing results from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears, and 2014 YouGov surveys of both Britain and the U.S. The table shown above list those results for Not Afraid At All, and adds that from the 2017 Chapman Survey. Roughly one or two out of five adults is fearless. (The percentage from the 2017 Chapman survey is 5.5% higher than the average [36.4%] for the other three, and the raw data is no longer available online and therefore perhaps slightly suspect).

The green traffic light was adapted from Wikimedia Commons.

Update April 5, 2018

Similarly, in an article titled Get Over Public Speaking Anxiety posted on April 1, 2018 by Barbara Busey at her Presentation Dynamics web site she opened by claiming that:

“The fear of public speaking – whether little butterflies in the stomach or full out panic – is almost a universal experience.”

Perhaps that was an April Fool’s Day joke. Perhaps not.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Do you have any idea who you are talking to?

Many articles about public speaking mention that you should know your audience. It also is important to know if an audience member (or someone else you speak with) is an expert with a capital E – the guy who ‘wrote the book’ on a subject.  

While in graduate school in fall 1973, I took a course on Mechanical Behavior of Materials. There was a quiet, older student who the professor, Jack Low, had addressed just as Gil. One day Jack was lecturing on fracture toughness testing. He casually asked Gil about how one test method had been developed by a committee of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Then we realized from Gil’s detailed reply that he really was J. G. (John Gilbert) Kaufman from the research lab of the Aluminum Company of America (aka Alcoa). Most of us knew of him as the author of many magazine articles and several ASTM books called Special Technical Publications (STPs) that were collections of presentations made at their conferences. Gil had worked at Alcoa for almost two decades. He had started there after getting a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering. But he wanted to learn more about metallurgy, so he was working part time on a second M.S. degree.  

In the late 1970s I worked at the Climax Molybdenum Company research lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One afternoon I was surprised to see Rick Zordan, who I’d known in graduate school. Rick told me about his faux pas. He had arranged to visit the lab to use our Quantimet 720 image analyzing computer. Rick was working in Kokomo, Indiana – doing research on wear resistant weld-overlay materials similar to tool steels. When he’d mentioned tool steels, the guy who arranged use of the Quantimet said you have to meet Dick Johnson (our tool steel R & D guy), and took him over to Dick’s office. Rick repeatedly referred to a standard reference book he’d been reading by the last name of the first author, Roberts. Finally Dick couldn’t stand it anymore. He turned his desk chair around, to face his bookshelf, and pulled out a book. Dick said look, this is the third edition (1962) of Tool Steels by Roberts, Hamaker, and Johnson – and I’m Johnson. Oops! But then he and Rick wound up happily discussing how data from a Quantimet could be used to relate microstructure with properties. Dick had co-authored some articles on that topic, and also knew what else had been done by others.  

In the mid 1990s I heard about a deposition in a civil court case involving the crash of a sports car. After it had settled, a mechanical engineer told me the story. The defendant manufacturer had hired Donald J. Wulpi as their metallurgy expert. (Don had worked in the lab at International Harvester for three decades, and written a series of Metal Progress magazine articles about failure analysis which in 1966 were compiled into a 56-page booklet titled How Components Fail). The plaintiff sent an unprepared, inexperienced attorney to Ft. Wayne, Indiana and he deposed Don in a meeting room of a hotel at the airport. He asked Mr. Wulpi a standard question - if he’d referred to any reference materials while preparing his opinion. Then Don started citing page numbers, and said they were from a more detailed 262-page book he’d written in 1985 - Understanding How Components Fail. (That standard reference book currently is in its third edition). The perplexed attorney asked him where he could obtain that book. Don said he had a stack of them in the trunk of his car, and could sell him one for $55! (I took the five-day ASM Principles of Failure Analysis course from Don in the late 1980s).

On January 1, 2012 I blogged about how you should Resolve to anticipate “shoelace failures” and plan around them. In the first chapter of his book Donald J. Wulpi talked about failures that were just what you would expect to find. Last April in her blog on failure analysis at Industrial Heating Debbie Aliya wrote about how when she discussed that example in Pune, India the audience just gave her very perplexed looks. Then she looked at their feet, and saw all of them were wearing open sandals rather than lace-up shoes!