Sunday, December 10, 2017

Use the right tools to give a great speech

If I was speaking in a conference room that holds about twenty people, then either a whiteboard or a flipchart would be suitable for displaying a limited amount of text to my audience.

Suppose instead that I wanted to discuss teamwork, and convey that I did not want my co-workers to go off in eight different directions. Then I might want to present a projected image like the one shown above as part of a PowerPoint presentation.  

Next I might present another image with all nine of us going in the very same direction (in a very precise diamond formation).

And I might also present an image with one of us putting on the brakes (arrow) in order to line up with a couple others. The three images shown above are of the RCAF Snowbirds, and were taken on October 15 during the Gowen Thunder airshow held at the Boise airport (also known as Gowen Field).

Those images were taken with my Olympus E330 8-Megapixel digital single-lens reflex camera   equipped with a 40-to-150-mm zoom lens, as shown above. I was about two miles from the airport control tower, on Cole Road.  

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds also were there, and a bottom view of one of their four-plane formations is shown from about a mile away. The camera was hand-held, with both elbows braced against my chest. Photographing the Thunderbirds F-16 fighters going perhaps 400 mph is much more challenging than photographing hot air balloons, as I blogged about back on August 30, 2012 in a post titled After all… tomorrow is another day.

Those balloons were moving slowly enough that I could probably instead have used a little, pocket-sized Nikon Coolpix L110 camera which later bought and more commonly carry. The Coolpix has an LCD viewfinder, and a shutter lag of a few tenths of a second, which is completely unacceptable for catching fast- moving F-16s. But for most subjects it is far easier to use than the E330. The E330 runs on lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and I have to remember to take a charged-up spare along with me. The Coolpix runs on four AA penlight batteries which can be purchased almost anywhere if I forget to take along a spare set.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Not quite my name

Getting names of organizations or people right matters. Yesterday at the blog for the Nashville-based presentation design agency Ethos3 Kelly Allison posted about 5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Toastmasters Group:

The good news is that she mentioned those five reasons are:

Combat fear

Build Confidence

Sharpen Leadership Abilities

Improve Improvisation

Expand Your Network

The bad news is that, even in her title, she got the terminology wrong. What you join is not called a Group, it is a Club. She never mentioned the organization's full name either, and refrerred just to Toastmasters. She said:

“There are groups and chapters all over the United States and even across the globe, so there’s bound to be one within your vicinity, no matter where you are.”

The organization has been called Toastmasters International since back in 1930. And she linked to a page from Toastmaster magazine rather than a web page about Who We Are or how to Find a Club.

In the TV show Criminal Minds, from 2005 to 2017 actor Shemar Moore played FBI profiler Derek Morgan. He currently stars in S.W.A.T. But on November 17, 2017 at her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova instead posted with the title “S.W.A.T.” – Shermer Moore Makes a Lousy Bet.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The joy and frustration of modern nightlight technology

I recently heard a nurse mention there were inexpensive motion-activated nightlights that could help prevent falls. Nightlights once used little 7-watt incandescent lamps, like the replica of a Coleman lantern shown above. It used a photocell so it was off during the day.

When I looked at the nearest Walmart I found that for just $8 I could buy a GE Ultrabrite Motion-Activated Light #12201 using two soft-white LEDs with an output of 40 lumens (slightly more than the 36 lumens from an incandescent lamp). It stayed on for only 90 seconds after sensing motion. As shown above, it plugs into the upper socket of a duplex wall outlet, and only consumes 1.5 watts when lit up. We got two of them for our bedroom, and put another two in the hall.

For $10 Walmart also had a GE LED Motion-Boost Light #38769 whose light output increased from 3 to 25 lumens. I thought that model would be perfect for putting on the wall above our cat’s food bowl, but found instead it has a major design flaw. The plug on its back is positioned so high that it blocks both sockets on a duplex wall outlet. I'm going to take it back for a refund.

Of course, there are other simple options with just light sensing rather than motion sensing. SnapPower makes ones that can almost instantly replace the cover plate for either a wall switch (SwitchLight) or a duplex outlet (GuideLight).

The image of a Coleman lantern nightlight is from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

We are carried along by our mentors

Recently I was listened to one of AlejAndro Anastasio’s One Hand Speaks podcasts titled The difference a few kind words can make in a person’s life. He described how his high school art teacher inspired his career in art. That got me thinking about some similar mentoring experiences I had. My first also happened in high school. I had blogged about it in a March 1, 2013 post titled Does your speaking voice sound like a little girl? One of my dad’s old friends, Dr. John F. Kahles, had visited us and after dinner told me a fascinating story about metallurgical engineering. It started me toward majoring in metallurgy at Carnegie-Mellon University. (His memorial tribute is at the National Academy of Engineering).

John told us about selecting materials for the teeth on the bottom of the scoop to a front end loader or bulldozer. Those teeth have to deal with contacting both sand and rocks. Sand is abrasive and will rub and wear away material.

Repeatedly hitting rocks causes cracking (impact fatigue) at the surface, and the cracks can grow inward until a tooth breaks off.  An obvious solution for reducing the abrasive wear rate from the sand would be to make the teeth harder, so they would wear out less rapidly.

But if that’s all that is changed, then you just switch failure modes. The impact fatigue cracks were not a problem before because they grew so slowly that they just were worn away. When you just increase the hardness, the cracks can grow faster until the teeth now can break off rather than wear out. So, before you can raise the hardness, you need to think about how to change the impact fatigue behavior. 

Another experience happened when I was a junior, and finally got to choose a metallurgy course as an elective. Our class advisor, professor Robert Dunlap, told Bob McIntyre and I to take a big leap and enroll in the graduate course on Alloy Steels. It was taught by the department head, Harold W. Paxton, using  E. C. Bain and H. W. Paxton’s book, Alloying Elements in Steel. Professor Dunlap said that a lot of the course will probably go right over your heads, but it might be the only chance you get to learn that topic from a true master. I struggled to get a B, but was fascinated. Six years later I got a job doing applied research on alloy steels at the Climax Molybdenum Company lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan.     

Much later I got to be the mentor. On April 28, 2009 I blogged about the Joy of teaching college students – talking about corrosion and materials selection in a guest lecture at Boise State University.

Ernst Nowak’s painting of a piggyback ride, and a photo of a front end loader both came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Student became a professional wrestler after he watched news debates to improve his oratory skills

On December 1st there was an article about India by Santosh Pradhan headlined Person who started watching news debates to improve his oratory skills finally becomes a professional wrestler at a satirical web site called Faking News. It claimed student Sanil Jain started watching news debates to improve his speaking skills, but learned so many wrestling moves that he decided to become a professional wrestler.

The previous day there was another article by the same author titled Workers dig potholes which were filled up for Ivanka’s visit after citizens complain about not recognizing the roads.

These humorous articles are similar to those at the more famous satirical web site The Onion. Two recent brief ones there were titled Glitch in country allows citizens to temporarily walk through tables and Buick introduces self-buying car.

An image of wrestlers was retouched and cropped from an 1899 painting by Thomas Eakins at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ruby Lee and the VERY BIG DEAL is a good short story for kids with a fear of public speaking

Boise speech coach Nancy Buffington’s 50-page 2013 paperback children’s book Ruby Lee and the VERY BIG DEAL is about a fifth-grader who wins a school essay contest, but then finds out she will have to read her essay in front of the whole town.

Her Great Aunt Alice, helps her by telling her the following nine secrets:

1]  You just have to be yourself.

2]  Practice, practice, practice.

3]  Don’t even try to be perfect.

4]  What the audience doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

5]  Take charge.

6]  Give yourself credit.

7]  Have fun!

8]  Get ready to do it again.

9]  Feel the love.   

(Those secrets already were spelled out in a review at Amazon).

On November 14, 2014 at her Boise Speakwell blog Nancy posted about My new book – public speaking for kids of all ages. She said it is for ages nine and up. Consider it as a Christmas gift for someone it might help.

Back on December 5, 2016 I blogged about a longer book by Susan Cain in a post titled A brief book review of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts.

The painting of a young girl reading by George Goodwin Kilburne came from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Guardian Angels are a belief the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears blog post on Paranormal America wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole

The 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears included eight questions about Paranormal Beliefs, which were originally shown on pages 74 to 76 of the 99-page detailed results file titled Methodology Report (which now is censored to just 31 pages).

The general question was: “Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements” and those eight statements were:

Aliens visited Earth in our ancient past q27a.

Aliens have come to Earth in modern times q27b.

Fortune tellers, and psychics can foresee the future q27c.

Places can be haunted by spirits q27d.

Bigfoot is a real creature q27e.

I have been protected by a guardian angel q27f.

Ancient advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis, once existed q27g.

Some people can move objects with their minds q27h.

For each question people were to answer with one of the following five levels:

Blank (no answer given)

Strongly Agree



Strongly Disagree

Results were reported on October 11, 2017 in a blog post titled Paranormal America 2017. It included a vertical bar chart showing the sum of percentages for Agree and Strongly Agree for seven statements, which were:

        (55.5%) OMITTED [I have been protected by a guardian angel.]

55% (54.5%) Ancient advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis, once existed.

52% (52.0%) Places can be haunted by spirits.

35% (34.8%) Aliens have visited Earth in our ancient past.

26% (26.0%) Aliens have come to Earth in modern times.

25% (24.9%) Some people can move objects with their minds.

19% (19.3%) Fortune tellers, and psychics can foresee the future.

16% (16.1%) Bigfoot is a real creature.

I have shown (in parentheses) the percentages stated to the original tenth of a percent rather than rounded to the nearest percent. The Chapman blog post omitted the sixth one, q27f I have been protected by a guardian angel, which was ranked a percent higher than the highest one they showed.

Why might that be? Chapman University is a church-related school. I suspect they decided that a religion-related question was a topic they didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole - because of justifiable paranoia that they might upset either university or church leaders.

That’s nothing new. Last year they didn’t report results on the Guardian Angels question, or another about how Satan causes most evil in the world. See my October 16, 2016 blog post, Guardian Angels and Satan are paranormal beliefs the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.  

The image of a logger holding a long pole was adapted from one found at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What is our government sweeping under the rug? Paranoia in the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears

In the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears the most common fear was Corrupt Federal Government Officials. This year’s survey also included eight questions about the government hiding things.

The general question was: “The government is concealing what it knows about...” and eight specific questions were about:

Alien encounters (q28a)

The 9/11 attacks (q28b)

The South Dakota crash (q28c)

Global warming (q28d)

The JFK assassination (q28e)

The moon landing (q28f)

Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials (q28g)

The Illuminati/New World Order (q28h)

For each question people were asked how they felt about that event. That is, whether they:

Strongly Disagree



Strongly Agree

There also was a Blank category of Refused for those who did not reply to a question. Results for the sum of Agree and Strongly Agree were:

56.1% Global warming

55.7% The JFK assassination

55.0% Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials

46.7% The 9/11 attacks

39.9% Alien encounters

39.0% The Illuminati/New World Order

27.7% The South Dakota crash

25.2% The moon landing

In the 2016 survey the very similar general question was: “The government is concealing what they know about...” and ten specific questions were about:

Alien encounters Q32_1

The 9/11 attacks Q32_2

The North Dakota crash Q32_3

Obama’s birth certificate Q32_4

Global warming Q32_5

The JFK assassination Q32_6

The moon landing Q32_7

The death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia Q32_8

The origins of the AIDS virus Q32_9

Plans for a one world government Q32_10

I blogged about it on October 15, 2016 in a post titled What is the government concealing from us? Paranoia in the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears.
Results for the sum of Agree and Strongly Agree were:

52.4% The 9/11 attacks Q32_2

47.9% The JFK assassination Q32_6

40.8 Alien encounters Q32_1

40.3% Global warming Q32_5

31.5% Plans for a one world government Q32_10

30.6% The North Dakota crash Q32_3

28.9% Obama’s birth certificate Q32_4

28.8% The origins of the AIDS virus Q32_9

26.7% The death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia Q32_8

23.2% The moon landing Q32_7

From 2016 to 2017 the sum for global warming went up by 15.8%, and that for the JFK assassination by 7.8%. But the sum for the 9/11 attacks went down by 5.7%. The South and North Dakota crashes were meant to be made-up events, but their vague descriptions didn’t work and about 3 of 10 folks thought they referred to real events.

Very curiously Chapman University also swept the results for their 2017 survey under the rug. The Acrobat .pdf file linked to under Methodology Report shrank from 99 pages to 31 pages. The bottom line on the second page which said that Weighted Data Frequencies would be found on page 31 was erased.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is a large audience one where the speaker needs a microphone? Is a small audience one where everyone can see a flipchart?

Our terminology is vague, and assumes people magically know what our dichotomy means. Is a small audience where everyone can see a flipchart? Is a large audience where the speaker needs a microphone?

On November 8, 2017 at Ethos3 there was an article by Stephanie Fulton titled Public Speaking Tips for Speaking to a Large or Small Audience. She referred to a September 28, 2017 article by Anett Grant in The Business Journals titled 3 differences between speaking to large groups and small groups. Anett discussed Movement, Concentration Level, and Style. Under Style she said:

You may think that the larger your audience is, the ‘bigger’ your style needs to be — that you need to be larger than life to grab the attention of a big crowd. In reality, the opposite is true. If you’re speaking to a large group, your style should be more personal — especially if you’re being projected onto a screen. The audience doesn’t need to be drawn to you because the camera is already giving them a close-up.

The ‘especially’ is confusing. Back on June 16, 2010 I had blogged about how Gesture size usually should match audience size, and showed the above graphic to illustrate how projected live video changed things. On October 19, 2016 Anett had a longer, clearer Fast Company article titled 5 Speaking Habits You Need To Adjust Depending On The Size Of Your Audience.

Another dichotomy is via room sizes, like boardrooms and ballrooms. In his The Extreme Presentation Method blog back on January 16, 2008 Andrew Abela posted about Ballroom vs. Conference Room Style Presentations.

How many people can be in an audience before you need a microphone? In his 2001 book 10 Days to More Confident Public Speaking on page 63 Lenny Laskowski says that:

“…speaking to a group of more than fifty people requires a microphone and a good sound system.”

Others divide audiences into more than two groups. In an article titled Size Up Your Audience by Cliff Suttle on pages 18 to 20 of the December 2007 Toastmaster magazine he used four –

“Here’s the basic breakdown:

Talking to 10 people or fewer is a conversation.

Getting up in front of 20 people is a speech.

If there are 40 people in the audience, it’s a performance.

100 people or more is a show.”

Anthropologist Edward T. Hall used four distances to discuss different types of spaces (Proxemics), as shown above. Can we relate audience size to distance?

As shown above, we can assume that (for dense, theater seating in a square room) a person requires a 3 by 3 foot square, so the distance will be the square root of 9 times the audience size. I first discussed this in a December 7, 2008 blog post titled Audience size determines working distance and thus presentation style.

When we look at audience sizes defined by different powers of two, we can make a table relating audience size, distance, and venue name, as shown above. 21 types will cover the range of audiences from one to about a million. I first discussed this in a December 6, 2008 blog post titled Your presentation style should match both your intent and the size of your audience. Hall’s four types of spaces fit neatly into the table. Many other audience sizes don’t have venue names though.

Real venues usually are not square, may have stages, and they will offer event planners a variety of seating options. A speaker needs to check on how his room will be set up. For example, at the Riverside Hotel here in Boise the 76’ x 120’ Grand Ballroom could be set up with Theater seats for 1000, Round tables for 600, or as a Classroom for 500. The 27’ x 15’ Garnet meeting room could be set up with Theater seats for 40 or Conference seats for 20.