Monday, July 10, 2017

Is ACB an initialism or an acronym? Both!

An article by Bill Brown in the July 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine discussed The ABCs of Toastmasters Acronyms. He decoded some of them:

ACB - Advanced Communicator Bronze
ACS - Advanced Communicator  Silver
ACG - Advanced Communicator Gold
ALB - Advanced Leader Bronze
ALS - Advanced Leader Silver

CC - Competent Communicator
CL - Competent Leader

DCP - Distinguished Club Program
DTM - Distinguished Toastmaster

VPE - (Club) Vice President Education
VPM - (Club) Vice President Membership
VPPR - (Club) Vice President Public Relations

But he left off the B’s, like BSS for Better Speaker Series. And when he talked about organizational structure he left off that there are 14 Regions above the 102 Districts. Also, he didn’t provide acronyms for the directors above clubs in the organizational structure - area directors, division directors, and district directors.  

If you look up acronym (as a noun) in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find two definitions. One is:

“A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter or part being pronounced separately; an initialism (such as ATM, TLS).

The other is:

“A word formed from the initial letters of other words or (occasionally) from the initial parts of syllables taken from other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word (such as NATO, RADA).”

If we ignore those occasional initial parts of syllables, then we can draw a Venn diagram including both definitions with three ovals (shown above) that resembles the simple masks worn by Zorro or the Lone Ranger.

Over at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn Mike Raffety posted a link to his Toastmasters Vocabulary web page, which is like having a secret decoder for this alphabet soup. Mike’s page resolves how to avoid confusion between a division director (DivD) and a district director (DD). Relatively few of the acronyms he lists can be pronounced as words (although he left off BoD for Board of Directors):

AD - Area Director
COT - Club Officer Training
DOT - District Officer Training
GE - General Evaluator
PIP - Past International President
PRO - Public Relations Officer (of a District)

Also at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn Sharon Horgan commented that the magazine article refers to acronyms, but they are actually initialisms. She referred to a definition for initialism. But their definition for acronym also includes initialism.

The exalted rank of DTM (Distinguished Toast Master) breaks the rules for making an acronym. If we didn’t, we’d get DT, which is uncomfortably close to DTs (for delirium tremens).

Finally, how might we unofficially refer to those who haven’t yet finished the Competent Communication manual? Should they be known as Incompetent Communicators?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why is your audience tilting their heads sideways?

Perhaps they just are trying to read a vertical y-axis label on one of your slides, like the one on the following graph.

It is another version of the one shown in my previous blog post on July 1st, which more sensibly used a horizontal label. Your software may default to a vertical y-axis label, but please don’t use it.

On July 3, 2017 at SlideMagic Jan Schultink posted about Vertical Axis Titles. He suggested that you skip both the vertical and horizontal axis text labels. Instead you can use a slide title (headline) with your message. In this case it would be:

How many millions of viewers watched the first four weeks
     of Megyn Kelly’s Sunday Night TV show on NBC?

That audience posture is known as the Goren Lean (from Vincent D’Nofrio’s portrayal of Detective Robert Goren in the TV show Law and Order - Criminal Intent). I blogged about it in a post on October 5, 2013 titled Hiding data in a Harlequin PowerPoint chart.
The image of a Jack Russell Terrier came from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Does this data look like a downward spiral, or just the bottom of a ski hill?

Some people normally think visually. They can easily imagine what a graph will look like. Others may need to learn to think that way, and to use software like Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint to turn a dull data table into an informative graph.   

On June 26 the Daily Mail had an article by Chris Spargo titled Megyn Kelly ratings dip for third straight week hitting new season low of 3.41M viewers on NBC as host announces she will be off the air next Sunday during limited summer run. But when Jane Genova blogged about it that day she instead claimed Megyn Kelly’s ‘Sunday Night’ – Ratings in Downward Spiral.

That show had led off with a highly-advertised episode. It was highlighted by an interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Then from the first to the second week viewers dropped from 6.1 million to 3.61 million, or by a horrible 41%. But from the second week to the third, with 3.50 million, the drop was just 3%. And from the third week to the fourth, with 3.41 million, the drop again was by just 3%. When you graph those numbers, you will see Jane was being overly dramatic. It’s just the bottom of a ski hill.  

Megyn Kelly’s show still had fewer viewers than either the 7.21 million for 60 Minutes, and 3.92 million for America’s Funniest Home Videos. But 60 Minutes has been on for almost five decades. Going against it with a similar news show almost is a suicide mission.

Another way to analyze those numbers is by looking at differences and slopes. We can ask a simple question - when will the show have no viewers left? After two weeks things looked dire – like no one would be watching by week four. But that was not what happened.

In my first career as a research metallurgist I reviewed magazine articles submitted for publication in both a metallurgy magazine and a corrosion magazine, I learned to carefully check whether the data meant what the authors claimed. On March 18, 2013 I blogged about What is your hearing threshold? – the joy of statistics. There I discussed how the same statistics also apply to stress corrosion cracking (SCC) tests. Once I read a submitted article where the highest stress level for SCC tests didn’t make the specimens crack. The author wrongly assumed that if they just had gone one step higher they would have. That’s wishful thinking, not engineering, so I rejected it. (D. J. Finney’s book on Statistical Method in Biological Assay warns researchers NOT to ever make that assumption).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

77 Principles of Public Speaking from Nick Morgan

I always enjoy reading Nick Morgan’s thoughts on public speaking. Starting on May 11th, in his Public Words blog, he presented an eleven part series on the Principles of Public Speaking that included 77 items. Nick gave a brief explanation of that series that said:

“My goal in these principles is to explore the implicit rules of public speaking, the kind that people rarely bring up in lists of the 10 rules for public speaking, which almost always start with ‘follow your passion’ and end with ‘always end on time. Both are true and good bits of advice, but they don’t help speakers much beyond the absolute beginning steps.” 

They are:

1: A speech should be about one idea and one only.

2: A successful speech leaves room for the audience to participate.

3: What you don’t say is as important as what you say.

4: The speaker cannot simply assert, however, any foundational aspect of her argument that is a matter of debate without acknowledging the sleight of hand.

5: Everything you do say is subject to the standards of proof that prevail in your field of knowledge. 

6: Emotional truth is as important in public speaking as intellectual truth.

7: Speakers can reaffirm what the audience already believes or take them on a journey to a new belief. The former are entertainers and motivational speakers. The latter are true teachers.

8: A good speech is a contract that exchanges attention for insight.

9: A speech should be particular to a certain audience, time, and place.

10: The organizer of the speech should arrange to have the speaker introduced to the audience.

11: A great speech foreshadows, teases, anticipates, and builds suspense.

12: A great speech addresses a particular problem that the audience has.

13: A speech begins with a point of view.

14: Nonetheless, that point of view should be heartfelt, credible, and supported by the facts.

15: A speech is performance art - and science.

16: The more immediately relevant a speech is, the more it is likely to be well-received.

17: A speech should offer connection to the audience in a minimum of two ways.

18: A great speech presents hierarchical thinking.

19: A great speech is fully human.

20: A speaker is a fox, a speech is a hedgehog.

21: A great speech strives for objectivity, but acknowledges its particular subjectivity.

22: The science of public speaking lies in getting the basic persuasive structure right. The art of public speaking lies in getting all the details right.

23: The structure of a speech should be informed always by its main purpose - and you should be able to state that in a sentence.

24: A good speaker should be prepared to improvise in the moment.

25: A good speech begins with specifics and ends with generalities.

26: Good speakers save their best stories for the end of the speech. Great speakers start with their best story and find even better ones.

27: A great speech is a process, not a product.

28: A great speech is anchored in a specific topic, time, and place.

29: Great speakers immerse themselves in the craft of speaking.

30: If you’re talking about a particular topic in your speech, the values of the topic need to be reflected in the speech - and the speaker.

31: Nevertheless, a speech never should be mistaken for its subject.

32: Facts in speeches establish the speaker’s credibility. Stories in speeches create trust.

33: A great speech almost always invokes the opposite emotion in counterpoint to the main one of the presentation.

34: A great speech addresses the past, present, and future of a topic.

35: Speeches should present ideas to their audiences in odd numbers.

36: A great speech opens the audience to wider territory at the close.

37: A great speech should be simple in structure and rich in detail.

38: Good speeches present complicated subjects with all their complexity. Great speeches present complicated subjects with simplicity.

39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three.

40: If you can’t give your speech to your children or grandchildren and hold their attention throughout, you’re not ready to speak yet.

41: For those speaking globally, your content will need to vary by culture, but your body language should stay the same.

42: The length and tone of your speech should vary depending on the time of day it is given.

43: A speech is a whole, not a collection of parts.

44: A great speech is fractal.

45: A great speech asks questions.

46: But a great speech doesn’t ask its audience for things it cannot do.

47: All speeches are persuasive.

48: A great speech begins by framing a problem the audience has in a way that it hasn’t thought about before.

49: A great speech solve a profound problem the audience has.

50: In public speaking, as in architecture, form should follow function.

51: Speeches should be just long enough to persuade the audience, no longer.

52: Most great speeches follow a problem-solution format.

53: But if you vary from this classic speech structure, then do so for a reason.

54: There are two ways to deal with the structure of the speech during the speech itself: to reveal it or conceal it. The more complicated the structure, the more the audience needs to have it revealed.

55: The structure of a speech itself can influence the act of persuasion.

56: Structure your speech to have a strong overall flow, but learn it in sections.

57: Props enhance a speech more than slides.

58: Every speech at least implicitly addresses the three limitations of the form: the limit of the audience to retain information, the limit of the speaker to convey information, and the time limit.

59: The speaker and speech are both in service to the audience.

60: Prepare more material than you intend to give.

61: It is more important to move even one member of the audience than it is to deliver a perfect speech.

62: Success in public speaking, like everything else, follows the 80-20 rule,

63: The more successful a speech is, the more chaotic it will feel to the speaker and to the audience.

64: The most important factor for success in a speech is not the brilliance of the content, or even the persuasiveness of the ideas - it is the voice of the speaker.

65: Speeches reflect the tenor of their times.

66: More important than the accuracy of a particular speech is the power of its narrative.

67: A great speaker is the vehicle for a great message, not the message itself.

68: A great speech induces the audience to believe that it owns the ideas therein rather than the speaker.

69: Create a speech from back to front.

70: Always remember the context in which the speech is given.

71: Find ways to protect your soul even as you make yourself vulnerable.

72: Speeches and speakers must ultimately remain optimistic, even the ranters.

73: Own both your successes and your failures.

74: The most important quality of a speaker is presence.

75: Speakers must embrace authenticity and transparency.

76: Let your performance go.

77: Never court the emotional favor of the audience.

For each principle he also provide a short explanatory paragraph. You can find the whole series of posts as follows:

Part I (May 11, 2017): No. 1 to 7
Part II (May 16, 2017): No. 8 to 14
Part III (May 18, 2017): No. 15 to 21
Part IV (May 30, 2017): No. 22 to 28
Part V (June 1, 2017): No. 29 to 35
Part VI (June 8, 2017): No. 36 to 42
Part VII (June 13, 2017): No. 43 to 49
Part VIII (June 15, 2017): No. 50 to 56
Part IX (June 20, 2017): No. 57 to 63
Part X (June 22, 2017) No. 64 to 70
Part XI (June 27, 2017): No. 71 to 77

Without the explanations 39 and 47 may seem contradictory.

“39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three. It’s no accident that motivational speakers often leave their audiences wondering what was said. An emotion was conveyed, but little was taught. Similarly, a speech that teaches a method or system rarely causes audiences to leap to their feet. The emotional ground that persuasion, teaching, and motivation cover is too broad to manage all three at once. Pick any two to be successful. Focus on one to be truly world class.

....43: All speeches are persuasive. Aristotle famously categorized speeches as informative, persuasive, or ornamental, but all speeches at least implicitly seek to persuade their audiences of the value of the speech, if nothing else.”

An image of Giles Penny’s sculpture of a Man with open arms came from Chris McKenna at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pteromechanophobia just is a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying - from a satirical cartoonist

There are a lot of books about public speaking. I recently glanced at a 2017 one by Mary Fensholt Perera titled The Polished Presentation (the complete speaker’s guide). You can look inside it at Amazon, or preview it at Google Books. Part I is about Presentation Anxiety. Chapter 1 is titled You Are Not Alone. Her second paragraph begins by claiming:

“Anxiety about public speaking earned the scientific name “glossophobia” from the Greek terms for ‘tongue’ and ‘dread.’ “

I disagree. In a blog post on March 7, 2011 titled Taking the gloss off glossophobia, I concluded:

“Using the word glossophobia says something - that you don’t actually know what you are talking about. It’s really just pseudo-technical terminology.”

Then on page 5 she says:

“Today’s most common phobias show us how our body is designed to deal with our long history of dangerous environments, with the world our ancestors knew. Here are some fears that make virtually every list of the most common phobias:

Arachnophobia              Fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia               Fear of snakes
Murophobia                   Fear of rodents
Claustrophobia              Fear of small spaces
Nyctophobia                  Fear of the dark
Agoraphobia                  Fear of open spaces, of leaving a safe place
Pteromerhanophobia     Fear of flying (height and enclosed space)
Cynophobia                   Fear of dogs (wolves, predators)
Glossophobia                Fear of public speaking”

I’d previously seen fear of flying called either aerophobia or aviophobia, but not pteromerhanophobia. Aerophobia is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, where it is defined as fear or strong dislike of flying. Aviophobia similarly is in the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, and defined as fear of flying.

But where the heck did that silly word, pteromerhanophobia, come from? A Google search showed that it seemed to only have popped up on July 17, 1995 on a web site called The Phobia List where it was defined as fear of flying.

Ptero is Greek for wing or feather, and famously shows up in a name for a flying dinosaur, pterodactylus - “feather finger.” And phobia is Greek for fear.

Merhano doesn’t really sound Greek. It seems vaguely Spanish or Basque, and might mean something like “stubborn donkey” (but really does not). Was Merhano a name the marketing department at Mitsubishi Motors dreamed up for a new sport-utility-vehicle, but rejected as being too close to Nissan’s Murano? Not really. Actually Merhano just is a place five miles southeast of Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.

A further broader Google search lead me to a page at a web site called ABC word which had another word - pteromechanophobia. Apparently the compiler of The Phobia List used some hand-printed notes, and the bottom from a lower-case c got lost and thus turned into an r. The clearly Greek mechano (mechanical) became the obscure merhano. 

Looking around on Google Books led me to the source for pteromechanophobia. It appeared in a 1971 book by satirical cartoonist Robert Chesley Osborn and Eve Wengler titled An Osborn Festival of Phobias. A page there says:

“His own phobias are pteromechanophobia...”

The Wikipedia page about Robert Chesley Osborn says that during World War II he and Captain Austin K. Doyle came up with a comic character for Navy training manuals - a pilot named Dilbert Groundloop, which eventually inspired Scott Adams to use the first name to title his famous comic strip.     

The Fear of Flying Monster was photoshopped from a little finger monster named Saurn from Archie McPhee - who I got at Re-Pop Gifts here in Boise, while the pterodacytl image came from Wikimedia Commons.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Just in time for summer - an outlaw country song from Steve Earle about hotshots and the legendary Ed Pulaski

It’s officially summer, which is the season for wildland fires out here in the intermountain west. During the Soda Fire, on August 15, 2015, I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes. Hotshots are elite 20-man firefighting crews.

The Firebreak Line is a country song on the latest album from Steve Earle & the Dukes titled So You Wannabe an Outlaw. You can listen to it here on YouTube.

Further back on October 20, 2009 I blogged about A Heroic Forest Fire Story: Ed Pulaski and the Big Blow Up. In that post I quoted a 390 word version of the story from a 2007 publication on Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. But in the second verse of his song Steve Earle tells the Ed Pulaski story using just 80 words: 

“...Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine
When I’m cuttin’ out a firebreak line
He invented this thing like an axe I swing
And he never left a member of his crew behind
When the fire jumped across the line
Took ‘em down in an abandoned mine
Then he drew his gun, said he’d shoot the first one
That got it in his head to try and step outside
Got everybody out alive, Ed Pulaski is a friend of mine”

Steve’s version is almost five times shorter. It’s not totally correct, but some poetic license is allowed. There’s a live solo version of The Firebreak Line from Good Records in Dallas. In it Steve jokingly claims that, along with the axe-mattock Pulaski, there is another combination tool called a chingadera. But that really is a rude, indefinite Spanish noun which means “that f*cking thing.”    

The statue in Boise is in front of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.