That is because a very popular Washington Postarticle on
October 30, 2014 titled Americas’s top fears: public speaking, heights and bugs
reported that in the 2014 survey public speaking was the number one fear out of
twelve fears (based on what people were Very Afraid or Afraid of). It’s a
startling statistic that public speaking coaches cite over and over. But, as
shown above, it is far different than what the following four surveys found. In
the 2015 survey public speaking ranked #26 out of 88 fears, in the 2016 one it
ranked #33 of 79 fears, in the 2017 one it ranked #52 of 80 fears, and in the
2018 one it ranked #59 out of 94 fears. Any time you read or hear just the 2014
survey discussed as being ‘recent’, you should ask about the other four.
For example, a blog post by Amy Boone at Ethos3 on July 24, 2019 titled Summoning the courage to speak stated:
“We talk a lot about fear of public speaking at Ethos3 because, well, lots of people are afraid of it. It is nearly always in the top 5 on any given list of fears. Citing research from Chapman University, The Washington Post has even published it at the top of the list in recent years with over 25% of people surveyed saying they are afraid of public speaking.”
That top ranking in the 2014 survey came because it only
considered 12 ‘phobias’ although there were questions about 61 fears, worries,
or concerns. You can find detailed results if you look at Chapman’s Fear Survey
FAQ page. You will see those questions were asked in seven different ways: Safety
(6 questions) – How safe do you feel? Internet-related Fears (5 questions) –
How concerned are you about the following internet-related problem? Environmental
Attitudes & Concerns (12 questions) - Indicate the extent to which you feel
concerned about the following environmental issue. Disasters (14 questions) - How
worried are you that the following natural/manmade disasters or event could
occur in the United States in the next 25 years? Governmental Concerns (4
questions) – How worried are you about the following? Fear of Criminal
Victimization (8 questions) – How afraid are you of being victimized in the
following way? Phobias (12 questions) – How afraid are you of the following?
As shown above in a bar chart for the 2014 survey, the percentages
from four questions for worries about Governmental Concerns suggest those would
be larger fears than public speaking. In the 2015 and following surveys all the
questions were asked consistently.
Another bar chart for
all five surveys compares ranking for four questions: Corrupt Government
Officials, Obamacare (or Trumpcare), Identity Theft, and Public Speaking. The other
three fears all outranked Public Speaking. Corrupt Government Officials ranked
#1 in all the following surveys. Comparing the averages, Corrupt Government
Officials was feared by 66.7% versus just 25.1% for Public Speaking. I previously discussed the surveys in a September 19, 2019
blog post titled Stop playing – do serious digging before you come up with an
At Feedspot on January 22, 2020 there was an article by Anuj
Agarwal titled Top 25 public speaking podcasts you must follow in 2020. But it only
listed 22 podcasts, and the only one I recognized was Fred Miller’s No Sweat Public
I easily thought of three more he had missed though. First,
there is the Toastmasters Podcast hosted by Bo Bennett, Ryan Levesque and Greg
Gazin – which currently has 153 episodes. Second, there is Speak + Deliver by
Rich Hopkins, which has over a hundred episodes. Third, from right here in
Boise, there is AlejAndro Anistasio’s One Hand Speaks, which has ~143 episodes.
Then I thought further and also remembered Michelle Mazur’s Rebel Rising
I detest being told what I must follow. And, I don’t listen
to very many podcasts. When I go for a walk with an iPod in my coat pocket, I
more often listen to NPR radio or to a CD of recorded music. Generally I’d
rather read a blog post than listen to a podcast.
On January 24, 2020 there was a Savage Chickenscartoon
titled Expert, which is shown above. Doug Savage noted that a speaker only
needs to be more of an expert than everybody else in the room.
You still have to do your homework. You can’t get away with
quoting information from somewhere on the web without going back to its source.
I just ran across a blog post from January 10, 2020 by Andrew Stapleton titled Fear
of public speaking facts. It has a section titled Fear of public speaking facts
from around the web. The second reference (an article at Magnetic Speaking)
says public speaking fear has 10% impairment on wages and a 15% impairment on
promotion to management. The third reference (a blog post at ethos3) mentions those same percentages, and it actually
got them from the second reference. Another blog post on January 16, 2020 from
Cynthia Kay titled Do You Have Glossophobia [Public Speaking Fear] also referred
to that Magnetic Speaking article.
But, as shown above, if you follow links back four more
levels to the original source, then you will find it instead says that
generalized social anxiety disorder is associated with 10% lower wages when
looking at direct effects and 19% lower wages when looking at total effects. It
also says generalized social anxiety disorder is associated with a 14% lower probability
of being in a managerial, technical, or professional occupation. If you search
the text of the original source, you will not even find either the word public
or the word speaking. Back on December 15, 2016 I blogged about the Magnetic
Speaking article in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about
fears and phobias of public speaking.
UPDATE February 25, 2020
An article at the KSL web site on February 25, 2020 by the Salt
Lake Chamber also referenced that 2005 PowerPoint presentation, and incorrectly
claimed the 2001 report (really an article) said fear of public speaking had a
10% impact on ability to earn.
When people talk about props, they usually say something
like John Zimmer did in an article at Presentation Guru on April 25, 2017
titled How to “prop up” your next presentation:
“The word ‘prop’ comes from the term ‘theatrical property’.
If you watch a play, props are objects used by actors on stage to add realism
to the story and to help advance the narrative.”
But prop also is short for propeller - a device used to propel
a vehicle such as the Spitfire airplane (shown above). A prop can simplify describing
an object by modeling one feature in a situation – shown either much smaller or
larger than in reality.
For example, one danger during landing an aircraft is a
ground loop - catching a wing tip on the ground, and then having a rapid
rotation causing damage as described above in a YouTube video.
A balsa wood toy airplane small enough to be held in one
hand can be used to demonstrate a ground loop, by using the other hand to
represent the wing tip hitting the runway or grass.
About fifteen years ago I gave a speech to insurance claims
adjusters about lamp analysis after vehicle accidents. As shown above, a
halogen headlamp is only about 4- 1/2
inches tall and the filament is about 1/4 inch long. Tail lamps and
their filaments are even smaller.
I used a plastic Slinky Jr. toy, as shown above, for a greatly
enlarged model of a filament. I held an end in each hand and then moved my
hands rapidly upwards and then stopped to ‘twang’ it like the string from a
The filament is a coil of tungsten wire. When electrical
current is applied, it is heated to a temperature of above 4000 F and it glows.
In air, a filament would react with oxygen and burn out in seconds. It is
surrounded by a quartz or special glass bulb filled with an inert gas plus a
small amount of a halogen (iodine or bromine).
Many vehicle accident will deform or break the filament even
if the bulb remains intact. Careful examination of the filament with an optical
microscope will often determine its condition at impact. Tungsten is hard and
brittle when cold, but soft and ductile when hot, The type of deformation the
filament displays shows whether it was cold (off) or hot (on) at the time of
impact. A clean break of the filament means it probably was cold at impact. A
deformed filament with looping or twisting of the wire means it probably was
hot at impact. But if the impact was not severe enough either to deform or
break the filament in an intact bulb, then it is not possible to determine
whether it was on or off.
When the bulb is broken, two additional microscopic
observations can be made. First, if the bulb was on, then the air that enters
causes the filament to burn up and produce tungsten trioxide, a yellowish powder.
Second, the operating temperature for a filament is above the melting point for
a bulb, so there may be melted particles attached to the filament.
There is a natural tendency to view ourselves as the center
of everything. How would Argentinians or Brazilians do that? As shown above, yesterday’s
xkcd web comic, titled Bad Map Projection: South America, showed a phony
Mercator projection with other continents replaced just by versions of South
America (expanded or contracted, rotated, or stretched). Antarctica is missing
though. An earlier comic explained What your favorite map projection says about
When I watch TV, it’s hard to avoid 30-second ads for the
dietary supplement Prevagen like this one and that one (on YouTube) which both claim:
“In a computer assessed, double-blinded, placebo controlled
study, Prevagen improved recall tasks in subjects.”
On January 2, 2020 there was an article by Jann Bellamy at Science
Based Medicine titled AARP Report: insufficient evidence that dietary
supplements benefit brain health which linked to a 2019 report by Global
Council on Brain Health titled The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements. On December
9, 2019 there was another article by Ashlee Kieler at Consumer Reports titled Feds,
New York accuse maker of Prevagen dietary supplement of false advertising.
I went to the research section of the Prevagen web site and downloaded
the .pdf file of their clinical trial, the Madison Memory Study. But that file
omitted significant details of the study, like the gender of participants. I
looked around and found them in a February 2016 magazine article published in Advances
in Mind-Body Research titled Effects of a supplement containing apoaequorin on
verbal learning in older adults in the community. As shown above, the first thing
you would look for in results of a clinical trial would be a main effect – a significant
difference between two groups given a placebo and a treatment (apoaequorin). Also
note the strange grouping of subjects - both by gender and between placebo and treatment.
The results section from the file on the Prevagen web site instead began by
“While no statistically significant results were observed
over the entire study population, there were statistically significant results
in the AD8 0-1 and AD8 0-2 subgroups.”
A decade ago on January 25, 2010 I blogged aboutBach Rescue
Remedy and Anxiety and discussed another clinical trial that did not find a
main effect. What they next did instead was data dredging (also known as
p-hacking) – dividing the data into subgroups until they found an apparently
significant effect. As is shown above, for the Madison Memory Study you can do
this if you keep just 29% or 46% of the data - and ignore the rest. On June 21, 2018 there
was another article by Jann Bellamy at Science-Based Medicine titled Prevagen
goes p-hacking. A five-minute Prevagen video titled What you need to know about
Prevagen eventually (at 3:22) gets around to mentioning just a subgroup.
According to a pair of professors things are even worse. There
was an article by chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz on January 14, 2019 at the McGill
Office for Science and Society titled Prevagen for mental clarity? that questioned
whether the active ingredient apoaequorin could survive digestion, enter the
bloodstream, and cross into the brain. Another article by Gary L. Wenk on May
4, 2019 at Psychology Today titled Prevagen: The 21st-century placebo also raised
that same objection.
Superficial research might lead you to believe that brief, 3
to 7 minute, speech formats are a 21st century phenomenon. That’s what I
thought back on September 8, 2008 when I blogged about
Recent formats for brief presentations: Lightning Talks,
Pecha Kucha, and Ignite. (Lightning Talks and Ignite have a length of five
minutes while Pecha Kucha uses six minutes and forty seconds).
Similarly, in an article at Forbes on January 14, 2010 Scott
Berkun proclaimed The end of boring presentations. Even Toastmaster magazine
(who really should know better) published another article in their May 2018 issue by
Dave Zielinski titled Tick – Tock – Tick – Tock and subtitled Fast, fun formats
like Ignite and PechaKucha help speakers get to the point. The previous Toastmasters
basic Competent Communication manual had eight five to seven minute speeches
out of the ten. And most speeches in the current Pathways program also are five
to seven minutes. That length goes way back, perhaps to the founding of
Toastmasters in 1924. But brief formats are still older.
On August 9, 2010 I blogged aboutThe power of brief
speeches: World War I and the Four Minute Men. Back in 1917 Americans spoke in
movie theaters while the film reels were being changed. So, a brief speech
format (just four minutes) goes back to the time of biplanes, not smartphones. I
tried to go even further back via desk-chair research at Google Books and the
At the Internet Archive I found that back in 1886 there were
two books V1 and V2 of Five-Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the
Year (by Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul in New York City). These were
their sixth edition. These ‘sermonettes’ first were given toward the close of
the year 1876 – in the time of steam locomotives and four decades before the
Four Minute Men. In 1891 there was another book by Rev. Richard Newton of Five-Minute
Talks for Young People. And in 1896 there was a book by Rev. Clinton Locke,
D.D. of Five Minute Talks, followed in 1904 by his bookFive Minute Talks
What about books teaching public speaking (or oratory or
elocution)? There was a series of educational handbooks on elocution by Walter
K. Fobes, four of which had titles beginning with Five-Minutes. An ad for them
appeared in front of the title page for a later edition of his 1877 bookElocution Simplified, as is shown above. In 1886 there was his book of Five-Minute Readings (for school and college).
There also were Five Minute Declamationsfirst part and second part, and Five-Minute
Recitations (which is not in the Internet Archive). In 1890 there was a book of
Three Minute Declamations for College Men by Harry C. Davis and John C.
Bridgman. The Internet Archive has the 3rd revised edition from 1894. In 1897
there was another book of Three Minute Readings for College Girls just by Harry
C. Davis. So brief presentation formats really go back to the nineteenth century rather
than the twentieth or twenty-first.
In Walter K. Fobes book Elocution Simplified, on page 15, the Acknowledgements include one: “to Prof. A. Graham Bell of Boston for valuable instruction in articulation and inflection;”
Most of us are more familiar with Bell as the inventor of the telephone.
The cartoon woman using her laptop while sitting on an hourglass
was adapted from an image at Wikimedia Commons, while the biplanes and
locomotives came from the Library of Congress.
You might open a presentation by asking your audience: What
Idaho agricultural product is most valuable? Some would say that’s a silly
question - right on our license plates it says FAMOUS POTATOES.
But on October 11, 2019 the United States Department of
Agriculture had a press release titled Value of Idaho’s 2018 Agricultural
Production Totals $7.69 Billion, which listed the top five products (as are shown
above in a bar chart). Potatoes ($1.03 billion) only were third, exceeded by
both milk ($2.38 billion) and cattle
I saw that press release discussed in a newspaper article by
Nicole Foy in the Idaho Statesman on January 4, 2020 titled These products top
the list for driving Idaho’s ag economy. (Hint: it isn’t spuds). Where does all
that milk go? Some goes into a million-square-foot Chobani facility in Twin
Falls - the world’s largest yogurt plant.
An image of an Idaho license plate came from Wikimedia Commons.
Speaker magazine from the U.S. National Speakers Association
is subtitled The Art and Business of Professional Speaking. There is a web page
with a directory of bimonthly issues you can read for free.
The latest issue is January-February 2020. Pages 22 to 25 have
an excellent article by Ben Glenn titled Tips for a Creative Mindset. The seven
he describes are: Research, Write it down, Be curious, Incorporate pop culture,
Travel, Go for a walk, Test your material. Pages 26 to 29 have a great article
by actor coach Tom Todoroff titled Sharpen Your Stagecraft. Tom advises:
“There are essentially five motivations that bring an
audience to the theater or cinema: to laugh, to cry, to learn or be enlightened,
to be scared, or to be stimulated….
It’s your job as a speaker to take the audience on a
journey. Unlike acting, though, the script comes from you! Strive to craft a
story, first on paper and then in performance, that touches on all five of the
essential audience motivations. By engaging ‘the head and the heart and the
hips’ you will leave your audience feeling deeply moved, inspired, and
motivated by your words.”
On November 6, 2019 I blogged aboutExcellent advice on how
to deal with a distraction or an emergency during your speech, and linked to
another article from Speaker magazine.
A cartoon in my dummy magazine cover was modified from one
at Wikimedia Commons.
Starting in 2014 the annual Chapman Survey of American Fears
was released before Halloween. In 2019 it did not emerge to replace the 2018
one at their Division of American Fearsweb page. But back on August 12, 2019
there was a blog post titled Research students work all summer long collecting
data for fear survey.
And for Halloween there was another post at From the Square
(the NYU Press blog) titled Fear of Muslims in American Society with some data
from the 2019 survey. At the bottom of that post is an image with the cover of
a forthcoming book titled Fear Itself: the causes and consequences of fear in
America which is supposed to appear in March 2020. Perhaps the survey finally will
appear after the book is finished.
A 1930 Western Union Telegramimage from Wikimedia Commons was
Photoshopped for background.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionarydefines oratory as: “The art
of speaking eloquently or effectively.” Let’s resolve to deliver effective
presentations. Bad presentations are the opposite of that, as illustrated above
via four PowerPoint posters. I started doing this annual series in 2015 with
Smokey Bear’s “Only You” catchphrase.
article on December 29, 2019 by Amy Oberlin at the Herald Republican (Angola,
Indiana) says to Make resolutions that make you happy.
This blog is about public speaking. The author is Richard I. Garber, ACS, a Toastmaster. From July 2008 to June 2010 he was Vice President-Education for Capitol Club Toastmasters in Boise, Idaho. From July 2017 to June 2019 he was Vice President Public Realtions for Saint Al's Toastmasters. Opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author alone, and are not the official positions of Toastmasters International, etc.
Richard is retired. He has over twenty years of experience as a consultant on failure analysis (figuring out why things busted or rusted) and a Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering & Materials Science.
His email is r_i_garber at hotmail.com
We don’t necessarily believe what we write, and neither should you. Information furnished to you is for topical (external) use only. This information actually may not be worth any more than what you paid for it (nothing). The author may not even have been either sane (or sober) when he wrote it down and posted it. Don’t worry, be happy.