Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fear of Public Speaking in Brazilian College Students

The January 2017 issue of the Journal of Voice (v31 n1) has an article by Anna Carolina Ferreira Marinho et al. titled Fear of Public Speaking: Perception of College Students and Correlates. You can read the abstract at PubMed, and a preprint of the full article at ResearchGate.  

1135 students at one  college or university replied to a questionnaire: 765 women (~2/3) and 370 men. As is shown above in a bar chart, 63.8% of them feared public speaking – 68.8% of females and 53.8% of males (significantly less). Age and field of study did not significantly affect the extent of fear.(Click on the chart to see a larger, clearer view).

A second bar chart shows how students perceived their own voice. 36.8% thought it was adequate. The majority did not – 30% thought it too high pitched, 18.5 % thought it too soft, 7.4% thought it too nasal, 4.9% thought it too deep, and 2.4% thought it too hoarse. An overwhelming majority of 89.3% expressed interest in getting speech language training.

The results shown in my first bar chart came from Table 1 of this article. If you go back and look at it you will find I calculated the percentages from the numbers rather than using those shown directly there. Those percentages are wrong – they were calculated by columns rather than rows. This is the sort of nonsense which can result in an article with multiple authors when a table is delegated to someone else but not carefully checked.  

Data by sex from Table 1 are shown above. For males, the percent answering yes should be 100*(199/[171 + 199]) or 53.8%. Instead it was 100*(199/[199 + 525]) or 27.5%. Obviously that percent for males should NOT depend on the percent of females who answered yes, and the row sum for yes and no should be 100%.

Data from Table 1 by age and field of study are shown above in two more tables. For age the percentages again were calculated by columns rather than rows. For field of study, the column sums reveal that the numbers for no and yes were wrongly switched as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Three out of five public speaking ‘statistics’ that are shockingly off the mark

On March 30, 2018 at Ethos3 Kelly Allison blogged about 5 Shocking Public Speaking Statistics, and opened by claiming:

“There’s a lot of misinformation and false statistics floating around out there with regard to public speaking and specifically public speaking fear (AKA glossophobia). For instance, maybe you’ve seen the ever-prevalent stat that 75% of people have a deep fear of it? Well, turns out that’s not even close to true. We did our homework and found some stats that are actually true. Below you will discover our findings.”

But she didn’t really do her homework (dig all the way down to primary sources), so her first three are way off the mark. (I knew they were nonsense, but have not bothered to chase down the other two). Their first two are that Fear of public speaking cuts wages by 10% and Fear of public speaking inhibits promotion to management by 15%. She linked to Peter Khoury’s awful December 13, 2016 blog post at Magnetic Speaking titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics (which talks about the 75%). Two days later I had blogged about it in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. Mr. Khoury claimed both percentages came from a publication at Columbia University, but it just had mentioned those results in the 13th slide, and actually referred to a magazine article by Daniel Katzelnick et al titled Impact of Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder in Managed Care which had appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry, December 2001, pages 1999 to 2007. But that article never ever uses the words public, speaking, or fear. As the title says, it really is about social phobia which is a broader topic than public speaking but apples to a higher level of fear. On page 2003 it  says that:

“…generalized social anxiety disorder is associated with 10% lower wages”

….and a 14-percentage point lower probability of being in a managerial, technical, or professional occupation.”

The third ‘statistic’ claims that your delivery matters more than your content. Specifically: 

Studies suggest that effective presentations are 38% your voice, 55% non-verbal communication, and only 7% your content.
That commonly is known as the Mehrabian myth. I blogged about it back on July 25, 2009 in a post titled Bullfighting the Mehrabian myth and again on September 15, 2010 in another post titled If the Mehrabian myth was true.

The astonished monkey cartoon came from Openclipart.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Right and wrong room setups

The January – February 2018 issue of Speaker magazine has a one-page article by Alan R. Zimmerman titled Smart Room Setups. He says you should plan ahead to get the right one. If you don’t you might wind up with something very wrong - like the century-old railroad car shown above (with 12 rows of seats, each for just four people). Alan’s article has a .pdf file download showing nine different setups for a wide range of audience sizes:

Boardroom (21)

Theater Curved Rows (30)

Small Group Rounds (35)

Classroom-Style with 2 aisles (36)

Small Group Angled Tables (40)

Classroom-Style with one aisle (60)

U-Shaped (72 )

Theater Style U-Shaped (254)

Theater (for 500+)

The 1903 railroad car interior came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Have you ever seen a flip chart stick out its tongue?

On November 27, 2017 at his Train Like a Champion blog Brian Washburn posted about 9 Tips for Better Flip Charts. His eighth one, to Make Dynamic Flip Charts, caught my eye. Brian showed how his colleague Jeremy Shuman emphasized new points. Jeremy taped a Z-folded strip of chart paper behind a page, but left a tab showing at the right. Pulling the tab revealed more information – like sticking out your tongue, as is shown above.    

In Robert W. Lucas’s The Creative Training Idea Book (2003) there is a section titled Flip Chart Magic on pages 279 to 292 (which you can view at Google Books). He has a web page with some brief articles about using flip charts you can download as Acrobat .pdf files. One also titled Flip Chart Magic mentions using tandem flip charts. As shown above, you might use one chart for your prepared presentation during a meeting, and another to capture comments from participants. (If you don’t have two easels, you could use Post-It self adhesive pages to put the comments pages on a side wall). Other articles are titled Enhancing Your Message with Flip Charts, 5 Super Tips for Enhancing Flip Charts with Color, Successful Flip Chart Usage, Spicing Up Your Flip Charts with Graphic Images, and even Transporting Flip Charts Effortlessly.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Misquoting Jerry Seinfeld and inflating fear five times

In his Seinfeld TV show on May 20, 1993 Jerry told this joke:

“…. According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Now this means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

On March 2, 2013 I blogged about how I read it in a book, so it must be true – and discussed a book which had misquoted death as instead being third. Doug Staneart has another version where death is fifth. It was at Ezine Articles on November 15, 2005 in an article titled Anxiety in Public Speaking. Mr. Staneart says:

“Speaking in public is often cited as the number one fear of adults. The Book of Lists places the fear of death in fifth place while public speaking ranks first. Jerry Seinfeld said, ‘That would mean at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.’"

He has other more vague versions in two of his books. One shows up in an excerpt from Chapter 1 of his 2002 book Fearless Presentations in a web article titled 10 Ways to Eliminate Public Speaking Fear:

“A number of years ago in an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld talked about a poll that had been conducted in which Americans said that their number one fear was public speaking, and that the fear of death was number five. He said, ‘…that would mean that at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.’ “

In his 2013 book Mastering Presentations, Mr. Staneart says:

“I often quote Jerry Seinfeld when I begin a seminar or class on presentation fear, because in one of his stand-up routines, he points out that the fear of public speaking is the number-one fear in America, and the fear of death is number five. ‘So, you are five times as likely to want to be in the casket rather than up giving the eulogy.’ “

Where did fear of death rank in that Book of Lists? On October 27, 2009 I blogged about The 14 worst human fears in the 1977 Book of Lists: where did this data really come from? As shown above in a bar chart, the fear of death in the 1973 Bruskin survey ranked seventh not fifth. Also, it is clearly wrong to multiply by the rank. Since 40.6% feared speaking before a group and 18.7% feared death you instead would multiply by the ratio 40.6/18.7 = 2.17, not 5. 

Was there another survey where fear of death ranked fifth? Yes. On May 19, 2011 I blogged about America’s Number One Fear: Public Speaking – that 1993 Bruskin-Goldring Survey. As shown above in a bar chart, since 45% feared speaking before a group and 31% feared death you would multiply by the ratio 45/31 = 1.45, not 5.

The inflated man was derived from an August 1, 1900 Puck cartoon titled Pride goeth before destruction found at the Library of Congress.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Shouldn't acronyms be pronounceable?

On April 3rd there was a press release titled NASA Awards Contract to Build Quieter Supersonic Aircraft which said:

“NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award Tuesday of a contract for the design, building and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began April 2 and runs through Dec. 31, 2021.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.”

But, of course, Lockheed Martin referred to the aircraft by the unpronounceable acronym LBFD.

I think whoever at NASA came up with the name and acronym should have first run it past a person in their mythical Office Of Pronounceable Spellings (OOPS). The guy or gal in that office would have objected to that acronym, and told them to come up with something pronounceable – like QUAC (Quiet Unobtrusive Aerial Craft). If it’s a QUAC, then it sounds no louder than a duck quacking (rather than a car door closing).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Speech evaluation rubrics: how many levels should be on the scale, and which way should it point?

Back on May 8, 2010 I blogged about Rubrics and figuring out where you are. The fourth Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for a rubric is:

“a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects or tests”

An evaluation rubric includes several questions about both content and delivery, which are scored on some sort of a scale. How many levels should be on the scale? At least two, but would either three, four, or five be better, as is shown above. What names should be given to those levels?

A week ago on LinkedIn at The Official Toastmasters International Members Group ChenKeat Fan posted on Evaluation sheet for evaluator in Pathways: what’s your opinion of its usefulness? So far there have been over twenty comments (including one from me). He complained that having to quantify on a 1 to 5 scale is cumbersome as compared to the previous scale with three levels. (But Toastmasters actually used a five-level scale before in their course on The Art of Effective Evaluation).

I got curious and looked up some history about speech evaluations. Back in 1981 there was a 47-page booklet by Douglas G. Bock and E. Hope-Bock on Evaluating Classroom Speaking. You can download it as Document ED 214 213 on the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) web site. That booklet ends with a section showing 13 sample evaluation forms. The preceding section on constructing an evaluation instrument discusses the topic of Controlling Rating Errors on page 22. It says that:

“The error of central tendency can be controlled by the number of scale values used on the continuum. For example, if only three numbers are use, most raters are going to use the middle category. It has been found that a five-step scale usually results in three steps being used. A seven-step scale uses about four. A ten-step scale usually produces five. One way to get raters to use more of the scale is to have more steps.”

A second question is which way the scale should run. As shown above, graphs displayed with Cartesian coordinates typically have an x-axis using the right-hand rule, but the left-hand rule also could be used. A scale with the right-hand rule would have the worst category at the left, and the best at the right. Since we read English from left to right, there might be a primacy effect where we would overuse that left category. Those using languages read from right to left (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Urdu) might have a different bias than English speakers.

A third question is where the scale should start, as shown above. Should there be a zero? Some might object that it should begin at 1, since we all are heroes - not zeroes. One way to organize a speech evaluation form with five levels is to alternately list a question and the scale (so the score for it can be circled). Other pages of the form can show details of what those five levels mean.

One well-known rubric is The NCA Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form (2nd edition, 2007) from the U. S. National Communication Association, as shown above. It is described in a 49-page Acrobat .pdf file you can download free from their web site. This rubric lists eight competencies – four for Content and four for Delivery (in four columns) rated on a right-hand rule axis with three levels: Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, or Excellent. I have numbered them 0, 1, 2 – although the form omits that detail but nevertheless has a bottom row for General Comments and a Summative Score. The form also has a three-page explanation for those competencies. There is another NCA Competent Speaker Holistic Speech Evaluation Form that combines each set of four into just two categories labeled Preparation and Content, and Presentation and Delivery.  

In 2012 Communication Education magazine had an article by Lisa M. Schreiber, Gregory D. Paul, and Lisa R. Shibley titled The Development and Test of the Public Speaking Competence Rubric (PSCR) which you can download. As shown above, this rubric has eleven categories rated on a left-hand rule axis numbered from 4 to 0 and titled 4 = Advanced, 3 = Proficient, 2 =Basic, 1 = Minimal, or 0 = Deficient. You also can download a single-page Table with a detailed explanation for each item. I blogged about the PSCR in a July 9, 2012 post titled A new scale (rubric) for evaluating speeches.

In their Success Communication series, Toastmasters International has a two-hour course titled The Art of Effective Evaluation (Item 251). It has an Individual Speech Evaluation Form (Item 251D), which you can find at the end of a handout for it from the Park City club. As shown above, the form has 12 explicit categories (and room for two optional ones). The right-hand rule axis has five levels which from left to right are labeled 1 = Needs Considerable Improvement, 2 = Needs Some Improvement, 3 = Acceptable, 4 = Very Good, 5 = Excellent. The form is organized into three columns. Each row has a Category, followed by a Rating (1 to 5) and Recommendations for Improvement.   

In the new Pathways educational program from Toastmasters International, speeches are evaluated using a three-page form. The first page has a Purpose Statement, Notes for the Evaluator, and General Comments (with three categories – You excelled at, You may want to work on, and To challenge yourself). As shown above for the Icebreaker Speech, the second page in the form has seven categories on a left-hand rule axis with five levels labeled from left to right as 5 = Exemplary, 4 = Excels, 3 = Accomplished, 2 = Emerging, and 1 = Developing. Although those labels are  explained in detail on the third page of that form, I think they are way more obscure than those used in the PSCR.

As is shown above, perhaps a more honest revised set of labels would be 5 = Outstanding, 4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, and 1 = Poor (or Poop). Other evaluation guides from Pathways are discussed on a web page at UmErYouKnow with a link to a list of them.