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.

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