Sunday, July 15, 2018

Do the benefits of public speaking training outweigh their costs in money and time?

On July 15, 2018 there was an article by Mr. Coen Tan at the Asia Professional Speakers Singapore web site titled Is public speaking training a waste of time and money? (His answer is no). He wrote it in response to an article at Forbes that he did not fully identify or link to, but was by Kristi Hedges back on April 19, 2012. It was titled Confessions of a former public speaking trainer: don’t waste your money. I blogged about it back on April 23, 2012 in a post titled Does the cost for public speaking training outweigh the benefits?

Mr. Tan’s article has five sections titled:
1] Starting out in public speaking

2] Invest in sharpening your speaking skills

3] Body language is over-rated

4] Develop your authentic style

5] Drop the show!  

In the first section he said that: “If you want to get started and overcome your fear of public speaking, join a platform like Toastmasters.” But Mr. Tan did a lot more than join – he stayed until he received the highest award, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM).   

In the second section Mr. Tan said he invested tens of thousands of dollars to learn from top speakers, kept what worked, and discarded what didn’t. (A Singapore dollar is 0.73 of a U.S. dollar, so that’s still a lot of money). He also said he learned NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), of which I am very skeptical, and mentioned Andy Harrington, who I thought gave silly advice on eye contact.  

Do the benefits of public speaking training outweigh their costs? My answer is sometimes. There are different types of training, and costs involve both money and time. Before you buy you need to obey the railway warning sign shown above – to stop, look, and listen.

Toastmasters costs relatively little money, but calls for lots of time. Conversely coaching by a professional takes relatively little time, but calls for lots of money. If you need help to give an important speech in less than a month, Toastmasters wouldn’t be a good idea and coaching would be. But what Jane Genova did was to try Toastmasters, as I blogged about in a June 19, 2016 post titled Running away from Toastmasters.      

The railway warning sign came from Darren Glanville at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fairy tales about first impressions

One common piece of advice on communication (and to speakers) is you only have a few minutes (or seconds) to make a first impression on your audience. For example, a blog post on August 3, 2015 by Amanda Johns Vaden titled The Nuts and Bolts of First Impressions said:

“The Harvard Study of Communications claimed that it only takes seven seconds for you to make a first impression on another human being, only seven seconds.

…. In fact, one of the parts of this study actually says that 38% of what makes up a first impression is how you sound. Only 7% of a first impression are the words you say. So all together, only 45% of a first impression has anything to do with the words coming out of your mouth. That leaves 55% of a first impression to visual. It’s how you look, it’s how you dress. It’s how you stand. It’s how you shake a hand. It’s if you make solid eye contact. It’s your personal appearance.

…. Not only does it take seven seconds to make a first impression, they also found that on average, it takes meeting that same person seven more times to change that first impression that you made on them.”

That Harvard Study of Communications sounds impressive, but it’s just a Nebulously Authoritative Place (NAP). She didn’t say if it was a book, a report, or a magazine article, who wrote it, or when it was published. I went to my local public library web site and searched all of the databases at EBSCOhost for the exact phrases ‘Harvard Study of Communications’ and also ‘Harvard Study on Communications’ but came up empty. It’s apparently a fairy tale, just like the claim that men think about sex every seven seconds.

Did someone else say that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression? Yes, Roger Ailes (1940 – 2017) did three decades ago in the very first chapter of a book titled You Are the Message: secrets of the master communicators. Cheryl Dahle discussed it in an article at Fast Company on May 31, 1998 titled Your first seven seconds. John Zimmer also blogged about it on October 22, 2010 in a post in his Manner of Speaking blog similarly titled The First Seven Seconds. Lately few quote Mr. Ailes, after he had resigned from Fox News in July 2016 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

How about 7% of an impression being the words? That really comes from Albert Mehrabian, who was at UCLA – about 2600 miles away from Harvard. I blogged about it back on July 25, 2009 in a post titled Bullfighting the Mehrabian myth.

An image of a fairy in happy far away land was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Failing upwards

At his Bad Astronomy blog on July 10, 2018 Phil Plait posted about Science, humanity, and the necessity of making mistakes.

That post was based on his TEDx Boulder talk, Failing upwards: science learns by making mistakes. It’s a great 12-minute presentation on how scientific research is a very human activity.

One example from metallurgy is the allotropes of iron found on the iron-carbon phase diagram. At room temperature pure iron is alpha (ferrite), with a body centered cubic crystal structure. At higher temperature it changes to gamma (austenite) with a face centered cubic structure. And at even higher temperatures it changes to delta (ferrite), again with a body centered cubic crystal structure. But beta is missing.

Why isn’t there a beta iron anymore? The phase behavior or iron was first investigated by thermal analysis. That was back before we knew how to use x-ray diffraction to determine crystal structures, or about ferromagnetism and that it disappears at the Curie temperature, and can only be understood using quantum physics (as discussed in a chapter of the Feynman lectures). Beta iron just was the paramagnetic form of alpha iron, above the Curie temperature. It’s not really a different phase, so it got removed from the diagram.     

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Don’t torpedo your credibility with the very first sentence!

I read an article titled Writers and public speaking from July 9, 2018 by Olivia Rana at the online magazine which opened by claiming:

In 2012 researchers at Nebraska University carried out a study, which found that public speaking was the most common fear amongst students, ranking higher than hundreds of other fears, including death!

The only thing Olivia got right was that public speaking was reported as the most common fear. There really were 815 students, but only 14 fears. The article about that study was by Karen K. Dwyer and Martina M. Davidson of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It was titled Is Public Speaking Really More Feared Than Death? You can read that article here. I blogged about it on May 17, 2012 in a post titled More university students in the U.S. fear public speaking than fear death, but death is their top fear.

On May 23, 2018 at Olivia had another article titled Where do writers get their ideas from? For her July 9th article the answer is via superficial research.

The image of a torpedoed ship was adapted from this poster at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Don’t just carp about networking

Today on her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova superficially posted about Networking – so many victims of bad career advice. She began by whining:

“In good career times and bad career times, the supposed experts tell professionals to network. That simplistic advice is often useless. It can be counterproductive – positioning and packaging the eager networkers as pests or worse.

….Until parties have something to trade, they better not approach the network.

….Takeaway: Beware of off-the-shelf career advice. Each professional’s situation is unique.”

That’s just carping – complaining about what is wrong without suggesting a useful alternative. For almost two decades the pay-it-forward alternative to networking has been netweaving. I blogged about it in a December 28, 2014 post titled Netweaving versus just networking.

Brad Gruber also had an article at LinkedIn Pulse on April 22, 2016 titled Move over traditional networking – make way for netweaving.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Don’t forget about flip charts

Flip charts are useful visual aids before, during, and after presentations.

One upon a time the agenda for one of our Toastmasters club meetings almost fell apart. People who had volunteered for roles were out sick, including speakers. Previously I had stepped up as Toastmaster. In the first few minutes of the meeting I wrote the list of roles on a flip chart, and then the few of us present volunteered to fill multiple ones. Our improvised meeting went smoothly, with a long Table Topics section where everyone spoke twice. That flip chart instantly replaced the normal preprinted agenda.  

A flip chart can be very effective during a presentation, as was discussed by Ray Anthony and Barbara Boyd on pages 235 to 237 in their 2014 book Innovative Presentations for Dummies. The same advice appears in an article at the Dummies web site. Older but still useful advice from 1992 on How to prepare effective flip charts is in another article at the Educational Research Information Center (ERIC) web site.
And after a presentation a flip chart can be used to record questions.

Friday, July 6, 2018

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

In communication details like spelling and grammar are important. This week I received another pair of phishing emails that immediately revealed their fraud via simple mistakes in spelling or grammar.

One was a bogus ‘PayPal’ alert, with a salutation that misspelled customer!

The other was a 'Microsoft’ account update with an extra "will’ – a glaring departure from English grammar.

The 1939 turnip truck image for illustrating that idiom came from the Library of Congress.

UPDATE July 14, 2018

I got another phony PayPal email warning me "your account was opened form another devices." LOL!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What should you do if a Toastmasters club member signs up to speak at every one of your meetings for the next 25 weeks?

In a Toastmasters club one important position is that of the Vice President Education (VPE):

“As vice president education, you schedule members’ speeches and projects and serve as a resource for questions about education awards, speech contests, and the mentor program. You are an important source of Toastmasters knowledge for club members, and it is your job to become familiar with all aspects of the Toastmasters education program.” 

The Toastmasters fiscal year starts on July 1st. Typically the VPE has a mechanism for planning meetings for the next quarter or six months, like a manual sign-up sheet, an Excel spreadsheet emailed to the club, or software like easySPEAK. Over at LinkedIn, on the Official Toastmasters International Members Group, someone had an unusual sign-up problem:

What should you do if one member has signed up to speak at EVERY meeting until the end of the year, and is unwilling to back down? Does the Vice President-Education have the authority to remove their name?

Yes, you do have that authority when someone is being emotionally tone deaf, and behaving like a spoiled child. Often each meeting has three speakers, so by asking to speak at each meeting that inconsiderate person is demanding to use a third (0.333) of those slots. Their fair share would be a much smaller proportion, one divided by the number of club members. For example, if there are 21 people in the club the fair share would be 1/21 or 0.0476. They are trying to be 0.333/0.0476 = 7 times as important as others. The VPE could tell that person to give a persuasive speech to the club at the very next meeting, with the subject being Why I Am Seven Times As Important As The Rest of You. After that speech the club could immediately vote YES or NO on whether they were persuaded. Problem solved.

A decade ago I was VPE for a club two years in a row. I never had that problem. Instead it was hard to fill all the speaker slots for the summer because members were gone on vacation. But in late spring all the slots would be filled. People were trying to finish up whatever program (CC, ACB, etc.) they were working on, so the club could get credit for and recognition as a Distinguished Club.  Some members might contact other clubs to find an open slot where they could be a guest speaker. My club, Saint Al’s, is small enough that we almost always can add a guest to our meeting program.    

The easySPEAK software has a person request a speech. Then the VPE replies by scheduling them in an opening.  

Being VPE is a balancing act. There may be some enthusiastic members who want to speak often, and have several speeches already prepared. They could be designated as back-up speakers, to fill openings that become open at the last minute due to others with illness or work conflicts. (I did that myself a decade ago). There also may be nervous new members who have to be reminded that they should schedule to speak or fill other roles. One of the rewards of being VPE is watching members gain confidence, grow, and blossom.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

How to torpedo your credibility in the very first paragraph

At the CollegeInfoGeek web site on June 29, 2018 Roxine Kee had a blog post titled 5 Tips for Crafting Great Speeches and Presentations which opened with:

“If you’re like most people, you would probably rather die than present in front of a classroom. I’m not exaggerating: in this Gallup poll from 2001, the fear of public speaking is ranked #2, ahead of the fear of death (#6).”

But death is not mentioned at all in that poll. The #6 fear really is of Needles and Getting Shots. Oops!

The torpedoed ship image was adapted from this poster at the Library of Congress.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Accents - rhoticity or rotisserie?

Your accent marks you either as belonging where you speak - or as an outsider. Rhoticity and rotisserie are words that almost sound alike (homophones).  But a rotisserie is an apparatus for roasting food (like the chicken shown above) on a spit. And rhoticity refers to an accent or dialect of English where an /r/ sound is retained before consonants and finally in a word at the end of an utterance. In a rhotic dialect you would say to ‘park the car in Harvard Yard,’ not to ‘pahk the cah in Hahvad Yahd.’ At ThoughtCo. on March 26, 2018 there is an article by Richard Nordquist giving a Definition and examples of rhotic and not-rhotic speech.

Folks in the Midwestern U.S. don’t think they have an accent, but of course they do. My parents both grew up there, so that became my accent. There was another article by Edward McClelland in the January 3, 2017 issue of Belt Magazine titled Introduction to How to Speak Midwestern. He shows a map and explains that there are three Midwestern dialect regions: Inland North, Midland, and North Central. Mr. McClelland said:

The steel mills and auto plants drew millions of Southern and Eastern European immigrants who adopted Inland North as their dialect model. Perhaps most importantly, the nation’s leading pronunciation expert was John S. Kenyon, a philologist at Ohio’s Hiram College, which is just east of Cleveland. Kenyon was the author of two books, American Pronunciation (1924) and A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English (1944), and was pronunciation editor of Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language. In these roles, Kenyon championed rhoticity, the pronunciation of r’s wherever they appear in words: he preferred ‘war’ to the Transatlantic ‘waugh.’ Kenyon also favored pronouncing ‘not’ like ‘naht,’ instead of ‘nawt.’ These were both features of the Inland North speech he heard in northeastern Ohio.

Dialect regions also have different idioms. After about five years of living in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Inland North), I was visiting my mother (Midland) and gave her some driving directions, that included the phrase ‘hang a right’ (meaning to make a right turn). She glared at me and asked why a change in direction had to be suspended in midair!