Monday, January 21, 2019

In 2009 persuasion likely accounted for 30% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or about 4.56 trillion dollars. What percent of GDP was due to persuasive public speaking?

On January 4, 2019 at Inc. there was an article by Carmine Gallo titled Public speaking is no longer a ‘soft skill.’ It’s your key to success in any field. A section on The Growing Value of Changing Minds began:

“In a world built on ideas, the persuaders – the ones who can win hearts and change mind – have a competitive edge. I’ve spoken to economists and historians like Deidre McCloskey at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She conducted an impressive research project to prove that old fashioned rhetoric – persuasion – is responsible for a growing share of America’s national income.

McCloskey analyzed 250 occupations covering 140 million people in the U.S. She created a statistical model based on the amount of time people in each category spent on public speaking and persuading another person to take action. In some cases persuasion played a more limited role than others (think firefighters versus public relations specialists).

McCloskey reached the following conclusion: Persuasion is responsible for generating one-quarter of America’s total national income. She expects it to rise to 40 percent over the next twenty years. McCloskey’s research was taken up by another economist in Australia who reached a similar conclusion.”

The Australian economist was Gerry Antioch, who discussed his research on the percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in an article from 2013 in issue 1 of Economic Roundup titled Persuasion is now 30 per cent of US GDP (revisiting McCloskey and Klamer after a quarter of a century). That earlier article by McCloskey and Klamer was published in the May 1995 issue of The American Economic review on pages 191 to 195 and titled One Quarter of GDP is Persuasion. Table 1 of Antioch’s article shows the details of McCloskey and Klamer’s “inspired guesstimate,” of 26% for 1993 - which actually includes just 21 of those 250 occupations. There were four categories with weights of 1.00 (4 occupations), 0.75 (9 occupations), 0.50 (6 occupations), and 0.25 (2 occupations). They also made estimates from data for the years 1983, 1988, and 1991. Antioch made estimates for 2003 and 2009.

The first bar chart shown above presents the percentages for persuasion from all six estimates. A second bar chart restates them in current dollars based on GDP. A press release on November 16, 2015 from the Association of National Advertisers reported that research sponsored by them found that advertising alone contributed 19% to the U.S. GDP in 2014, or $3.4 trillion.

How much of these percentages or dollars can be attributed just to either storytelling or public speaking? Back in 2002 Stephen Denning published an article in the RSA Journal titled How storytelling ignites action in knowledge-era organizations in which he guessed storytelling made up two-thirds of persuasion. Then on page xvi of his 2005 book The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling he said it conservatively was at least half of persuasion.  In their 2014 book Business Storytelling for Dummies Karen Dietz and Lori Silverman mention Denning’s 2005 book and link to Antioch’s article.

What about public speaking? Page 324 in Chapter 15 of Stephen Lucas’s book The Art of Public Speaking (10th edition, 2008) just mentions the 26% persuasion estimate as being from a Wall Street Journal version of a January 10, 1995 Associated Press article about McCloskey and Klamer by Amanda Bennett titled Economists + Meeting A Zillion Causes and Effects. If Stephen Denning can guess a half for storytelling, than I can take a wild guess of a fifth for persuasive public speaking, and come up with the dollar estimates shown above in a third bar chart. So, it might be over $912 billion! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Did you turn off the power and pull the plug?

On January 9, 2019 at Computerworld there was a Shark Tank story about following through titled Details, details. The short version is that an information technology security team at a university found someone outside had hacked into one of their servers and was using it for denial-of-service attacks. The server turned out to be in the alumni office. There were databases with lots of personal information still on it. Officially it had been decommissioned months earlier, but no one actually had switched it off or unplugged it from the network.

Half a century ago my father and I also had a problem with something electrical that should have been disconnected long ago. One Friday morning my mother noticed that when she opened the refrigerator door the light didn’t come on, and it wasn’t cold as usual. We found the fuse for that wall outlet had blown, and used an extension cord to plug the refrigerator into another circuit in the adjacent pantry.

That large brick house had been built in Pittsburgh back in 1912, so the wiring for the kitchen outlets circuit was located on the ceiling of the unfinished basement. On Saturday morning we disconnected power upstream of the fuse. Then we began breaking that circuit into branches to isolate and locate the short. This process involved standing on a stepladder, opening overhead junction boxes, unwrapping electrical tape, and unwinding wire splices.  

We were using an analog multimeter to check for resistance between the hot and neutral wires. One branch with low resistance was not the real problem – just the primary winding of a transformer for the back doorbell. Eventually we found the short was in wiring leading through the back wall and underground - out from a long unused safety switch box. The switch mechanism was rusted until it was stuck in the ON position.

We guessed that it had been for the electric motor of a turntable for turning around a car. A neighbor told us the turntable once had been located at the back end of the driveway. It was not still there when we moved in during 1955. But no one ever had disconnected the wiring!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Two library databases and a web site for exploring both sides of controversial issues

At the back of the January 2019 issue of Toastmaster magazine, on page 30, there is a single-page humor article by John Cadley titled At the Library. (His columns are a series titled Funny You Should Say That). John opened by claiming:

“I’m sitting here in the Fayetteville Free Library in Upstate New York wondering if ‘free library’ is redundant.”

Then he just told us a bunch of Tall Tales about libraries. Unfortunately he didn’t bother to ask a reference librarian there if she had anything that would be particularly useful to Toastmasters (or others) trying to write speeches.

She would have replied that yes, they had a database from Gale called Opposing Viewpoints in Context that lets you explore both sides of an issue. EBSCO has a similar one called Points of View Reference Center (supplied, for example, by the Ohio Web Library or Utah's Online Library). And, if (like here in Idaho) your state library system does not supply either of those for your friendly local public library, then you instead can use a web site called ProCon. I mentioned ProCon in a comprehensive blog post on Feb 14, 2015 titled How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries).

Librarians can keep you out of blind alleys. They are used to subject indexing, and are excellent at figuring out the right search terms to describe a topic. On August 22, 2012 I blogged about Avoiding blind alleys in research. On June 25, 2017 I blogged about how Pteromechanophobia is just a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying – from a satirical cartoonist.

One of the Tall Tales Mr. Cadley spouts is:

“America didn’t have a library until 1731 when Benjamin Franklin, who invented everything the Chinese didn’t, founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. This prompted U.S. Presi­dent James Madison to propose the Congressional Library in 1783. A section of the executive order for the Library read: ‘It is no longer permissible for politicians to know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Every member of the House and Senate is now required to read at least ONE BOOK so he knows something. ANYTHING.’ ”

He should have gotten smarter than a fifth-grader before cooking up the part about President Madison. In 1783 we didn’t have a Constitution, so we didn’t have a President. Our first, George Washington, served from 1789 to 1797. Our sixth, James Madison, was president from 1809 to 1817.

The real history of the Library of Congress is more interesting than his Tall Tale. It began in 1800 with President John Adams and $5000 worth of books in the Capitol building. After that building was burned by the British during the War of 1812, Congress accepted former president Thomas Jefferson’s offer to sell his comprehensive personal library of 6,487 books to restart the Library of Congress.

The image of arguing was adapted from one of a couple arguing at Openclipart. The image of a blind alley came from Francisco Anzola at Wikimedia Commons. I lightened it, and changed the sky to blue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why was a Nazi swastika on the ends of those cracker boxes?

It is not what you might think, and demonstrates how our perception of symbols can change. The ad for Snowflakes shown above is from back in 1914, before a swastika carried that historical baggage. Pacific Coast Biscuit Company was up to something completely different. According to the entry for the National Biscuit Company in a 2007 book called The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries, back in 1898:

“A several month-long national advertising campaign introduced the public to the Uneeda Biscuit, the company’s signature soda cracker, which was the first national cracker brand. Ads also promoted the innovative package, which was made of moisture-proof cardboard with an air-tight, waxed paper inner seal devised for freshness. The biscuits became an immediate success, and a succession of new products followed throughout the first half of the 20th century.”

Ends of National Biscuit packages had a trademarked IN ER SEAL label with clipped corners, as is shown above. (The label actually was red).  

Starting in 1907 Pacific Coast Biscuit Company put a swastika label (also with clipped corners and in red) on the ends of their packages, perhaps to suggest they were using similar packaging. 

But that provoked a trademark infringement lawsuit by National, with court records including the color image comparison (from page 174, which I retitled) shown above. Pacific lost, was enjoined to stop in 1915, and in 1930 was bought up by National. I stumbled over that Pacific Coast Biscuit Company ad when I looked up images of crackers on Wikimedia Commons while writing my last blog post about A simple geometry demonstration using crackers.  

In this decade snowflake became a slang term that implied a person felt he was unique, special, and entitled. My wife Elaine told me that on Reddit it sometimes gets a special spelling -  sneauxflake.  

Monday, January 14, 2019

A simple geometry demonstration using crackers

Props used for demonstrations don’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. As is shown above, the Pythagorean theorem say that, for a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (c ) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides (a and b).

In Bobby Mercer’s new book, Junk Drawer Geometry: 50 awesome activities that don’t cost a thing, he has a clever demonstration of it on page 60 using fifty square cheese crackers. (You can read it on Google Books). As shown above, this example is for a = 3, b = 4, and c = 5.  I used 1” square Kellogg’s Reduced Fat Cheez Its. Of course, you could instead use larger crackers like Saltines.

Junk Drawer Geometry was preceded by two other books by Mr. Mercer with the exact same subtitle on the topics of Physics (2014) and Chemistry (2016).

When you look on YouTube for demonstrations of that theorem you can find another version using square Starburst candies, one with 4.5 mm diameter bearing balls, and several using water in connected flat containers. In The Wizard of Oz the scarecrow incorrectly states the theorem as being for an isosceles triangle. So does Homer Simpson, but he gets corrected immediately.

An image illustrating the theorem was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Is this gizmo a walker or a rollator?

In my blog post on November 24, 2018 titled A very competent and cheerful medical center I referred to the $70 gizmo shown above as a four-wheel walker. (Its maker Harbor Freight calls it a Sit-or-Stand Behind Rolling Walker). It is useful for getting around after you have been off your feet, or after surgery (like a knee replacement). Hand brakes lock the rear wheels in position, and you can sit and rest on the seat, or use it as a platform for holding objects like a plate of food. But when I looked at the Wikipedia page for Walker (mobility), I found it instead calls that a rollator. That is insider medical jargon for those involved with orthopedics or rehabilitation.

They call this other two-wheel gizmo a walker. Web pages from equipment suppliers or manufacturers describe choosing a walker or rollator. GrahamField has an article discussing The Great Gait Debate: Walker vs. Rollator and the Avacare Medical Blog has another article titled Walker vs. Rollator: How to Choose with a nice infographic.

That Wikipedia page also claims walkers began appearing in the 1950s, based on looking up patents. When I looked instead at PubMed Central, I found a 1990 article by professor Graham Mulley on Walking Frames in the British Medical Journal which reported they originated three decades earlier:  
“The first walking frame was designed and make in 1924 by a 12 year old Cincinnati boy, Charles Williams. His aunt had broken her hip and after hospital treatment could move around her hospital room only by standing at the back of her armchair and pushing it in front of her. Charles fashioned a simple wooden walking frame that enabled his aunt to walk with more ease and confidence. The local hospital was impressed with his design and made several metal frames out of gas piping. In the 1950s aluminium frames were produced, and subsequently many modifications and additions were developed. The frame is now one of the most widely used walking aids in the world.”

Professor Mulley also humorously noted:

“Frames are used not only for ambulation. Other uses have been as plant stands, as a television aerial (apparently they give good reception), and as a clothes horse to dry ‘smalls.’ “

A rollator with only one wheel appeared in a Heath Robinson cartoon on the Habits of the night moth.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Free cartoon images of people presenting graphics at Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I blogged about Free cartoon images of public speakers at Wikimedia Commons.

That huge Wikimedia Commons database also includes dozens of cartoon images of people presenting graphics, two dozen of which are shown above. A few examples are a man with a flip chart, a man with a bar chart, a woman with a line graph, and a woman with a pie chart.

Those presenting are described as a Guy, a Man, a Businesswoman, or a Woman. Other keywords include presenting, presents, and discussing, and either graph or chart.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Free cartoon images of public speakers at Wikimedia Commons

At Wikimedia Commons there is a collection with more than a dozen free cartoon images showing public speakers. Two examples are Charismatic Male Public Speaker Cartoon and Pretty Woman Public Speaker Cartoon. You can find more by searching with the terms Public Speaker Cartoon.

Those images can be downloaded either in the Portable Network Graphic (.png) or Scalable Vector Graphic (.svg) formats. I horizontally rotated them to face to the right, recolored some (with Photoshop Elements) and used PowerPoint to create the two images of Toastmasters shown above. Cartoon images also can be found elsewhere at Wikimedia Commons, like the Clueless Cartoon Man I used as a befuddled speaker by erasing the background.     

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

When you see the phrase ‘a fully-immersive experience’ what do you think of?

Many of you likely would say a baptism, like the sailor shown above. But on January 6, 2019 at The Verge there was an article by James Vincent titled Kohler’s smart toilet promises a “fully-immersive experience.” He got that phrase out of their thoughtless press release for the $7000 Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet shown in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

To me the combination of toilet and ‘fully-immersive’ sounds like a small child’s nightmare about potty training. The only worse thing would be going down the drain. Fred Rogers had to reassure kids that can’t happen.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A good (but not great) article on how to give a scientific talk

In an editorial supplement to the venerable Nature magazine called the Nature Events Guide 2019 there was an article by Nic Fleming on December 19, 2018 titled How to give a great scientific talk (which also can be downloaded as a two-page pdf file). He provides a good grab bag of advice from several people. But curiously he doesn’t provide links to any of those advisors.  

Nic opens by describing how PhD candidate Eileen Courtney was a bundle of nerves, and realized she needed help getting over her fear of speaking. Then he mentions Susan McConnell, a neurologist at Stanford who for over a decade has been doing presentations on how to give a talk. This would be a good point for a link to her five-minute YouTube video on The importance of giving a good talk.

And then he has an insert from Ramona J. Smith, the 2018 Toastmasters World Champion, with her Top 10 Tips. In the next to last paragraph he talks about Toastmasters International, and how Eileen Courtney joined them, got over her fear, and was runner-up in the 3 Minute Wonder Competition held by the Institute of Physics with her presentation on Graphene you can watch on YouTube. There is another insert with Eileen Courtney’s tips on how to Conquer Nerves.

Then he gives some advice from Dave Rubenson, who has a company called You will find more specific advice from Dave in an article from 2016 on the naturejobs blog titled A David Letterman-like countdown to the 10 biggest pitfalls in scientific presentations.  

Then he goes back to Susan McConnell and mentions her popular 42-minute online video, which is from 2011, is titled Designing effective scientific presentations using PowerPoint and structuring your talk, and can be viewed here on YouTube. He says that that Matt Carter’s 2013 book Designing Science Presentations is another source of advice. But McConnell relied instead on (and referenced) Michael Alley’s book The Craft of Scientific Presentations. Her slide design method (at 22:50 in the video) is Alley’s, which I blogged about on February 19, 2014 in a detailed post titled Assertion-Evidence PowerPoint slides are a visual alternative to bullet point lists.   

On October 3, 2012 I had blogged about a Free ebook on Communicating Science and other geeky topics. That 33-page publication still is available from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund as a free .pdf file.

An image of a mad scientist holding a key came from Openclipart.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Calling an elephant a zebra doesn’t make it the other animal

The lowest level of executive competence we should accept from a President is that he manages to keep the federal government running. Instead our present for Christmas from Donald J. Trump was a partial shutdown.

On Saturday he hit a new low. An article at CNN was titled Trump told lawmakers he prefers word ‘strike’ to government shutdown, sources say. Another article at The Hill was titled Trump, in a profanity-laced meeting with lawmakers, said he preferred ‘strike’ to refer to government shutdown: reports.

That’s fraudulent language. Calling an elephant a zebra doesn’t magically turn it into the other animal.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

How shallow research will destroy your credibility

Shallow research can destroy your credibility. Be careful to check your references. When you give a link to a survey with results that belie what you just said in the text of an article, people will decide you simply do not know what you are talking about.

On December 26, 2018 there was an article by Jason Unrau at the Atlanta Small Business Network titled Tips to master public speaking. His second and third sentences said:

“It’s no surprise that speaking in public is one of the top fears for Americans, according to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears. More than 26 percent of the population reports being afraid to speak in public.”

When you click his link to the Chapman Survey blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2018 you won’t find public speaking in their graphic with the Top 10 Fears of 2018. It’s not in the Top 20 or even the Top 50. Looking at their Complete List of Fears it’s listed as #59 out of 94. Calling it a top fear is quite misleading. (26.2% were Afraid or Very Afraid of public speaking).    

On December 6, 2018 there was another article by Shelley Baur at LinkedIn Pulse titled Who’s still afraid of public speaking? She opened with:

“Over the years, public speaking has fallen from being the #1 fear on the planet. Recent research by Chapman University says public speaking now ranks #29 on the list, with 26.2% still being fearful of public speaking. Know anyone still in that situation?”

Shelley said Chapman ranked it at #29 instead of #59 (for 2018). But as far as I know, no one really has ever surveyed the whole planet. But back on April 9, 2012 I blogged about how Poll by Reader's Digest Canada found fear of public speaking wasn't ranked first in 15 of 16 countries.surveyed. For the U.S., back in 2001 a Gallup Poll already had ranked public speaking at #2 rather than #1. Their article was titled Snakes top list of Americans’ fears. Back on October 19, 2018 I blogged that You probably won’t hear public speaking coaches discuss the 2018 Chapman Survey of American Fears, and noted it really was ranked as #60 of 95 fears.
On December 5, 2018 there was yet another article by Tatyana Meshcheryakova at Dumb Little Man titled How to thrive at public speaking. Her third paragraph said:

“Public speaking regularly pops up on the top of most-feared lists in the U.S. A few years ago, the annual Chapman Survey of American Fears reported that 25% of responders reported being afraid or very afraid of public speaking.”

When you click her link to the Chapman Survey blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2017 you won’t find public speaking in their graphic with the Top 10 Fears of 2017. It’s not in the Top 20 or even the Top 50. Looking at their Complete List of Fears it’s listed as #52 out of 80. Calling it the top fear is quite misleading. And 20.0% were Afraid or Very Afraid of public speaking, not 25%! On October 14, 2017 I blogged about What do the most Americans fear? The fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears, and being innumerate. I found public speaking instead really was was #51 out of 81 fears, and feared by 23.3%.

On December 3, 2018 there was still another article by Sue Shellenbarger at The Wall Street Journal titled How to overcome your terror of making an off-the-cuff speech. Although it otherwise was excellent,
-->her second paragraph said:

“Impromptu pitches, toasts and talks outnumber planned presentations in the workplace. Such challenges strike terror in the hearts of one in four Americans, making them more daunting than snakes, stalkers, or spiders, according to Chapman University’s annual fear survey.”

Her claim one in four are terrified is based on the same 26.2% mentioned previously - but that is a sum for Very Afraid and Afraid. Sue was too lazy to look up the relevant data – for Very Afraid only (on page 60). For Very Afraid it is 10.5%, for Afraid it is 15.7%, for Slightly Afraid it is 32.1%, and for Not Afraid it is 41.4%. (The final 0.3% is blank). What she reported is too large by a factor of 26.2/10.5 or 2.5. Only one in ten Americans actually are terrified. Matt Abrahams also put that article in a post on his No Freaking Speaking blog with the same title. He also should have known better.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Going ‘postal’ about delivery vehicles

Topics for speeches are around in your neighborhood.  I was used to seeing the U.S. Postal Service bring mail and packages in compact right-hand-drive delivery trucks -  venerable Grumman LLVs (long life vehicles), as shown above. Before Christmas I happened to look out a front window to instead see them deliver a package to my door from a tiny Subaru Sambar microvan. What had changed? The LLV is a relatively old design, but the USPS still has about 100,000 of them. They have been looking at replacing the whole fleet, but still have not decided what should come next.

Canada Post also uses the LLV, but in 2010 they decided to replace it with the Ford Transit Connect (front views of both are shown above). The Transit Connect is a compact cargo van designed by Ford in Europe. It is built in Turkey and Spain, and was cleverly imported to the U.S. as a passenger vehicle. An article in the Chicago Tribune on July 9, 2018 described Ford’s creative efforts to avoid $250 million in ‘chicken tax’ tariffs under scrutiny.

What about the big brown package delivery competition? United Parcel Service (UPS) has a whole series of delivery trucks (known in their jargon as package cars) specially built for them. Two car types are shown above. Some package cars have translucent white fiberglass roofs, so their interior cargo area is illuminated by sunlight. An article by Mack Hogan at Jalopnik on July 6, 2018 discussed how I don’t care how rich you are, you can’t buy a UPS truck.

Images of an LLV, LLV and Transit Connect, and UPS package cars all came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In 2019 only YOU can prevent bad presentations

I can’t bear bad presentations. Once again for the new year, I’m showing a set of five images on that topic. I previously did this in 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

There is no shortage of resolutions for this new year. At Inc. on December 26, 2018 Fia Fasbinder had an article that said to Ignite Your Speaking Skills in 2019 With These 3 New Year’s Resolutions:
1]  Improve your practice

2]  Push yourself

3]  Perform with presence

Also, on December 30, 2018 at his Manner of Speaking blog John Zimmer had a post with Five Public Speaking Resolutions for 2019:

1) Arrive at least one hour before you are scheduled to speak.

2) Seek out speaking situations that make you uncomfortable.

3) Give a presentation without slides.

4) Analyze other people’s speeches and presentations.

5) Tell more stories.

The image of a bear, painting of a dentist, cartoon woman, cartoon man, and painting of a woman all came from Wikimedia Commons.