Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sound conduction through your head bones is why you hate your own voice on recordings

When you listen to yourself, some of what you hear is conducted to your ears through your head. Other people just hear your voice carried by the air. Reader’s Digest just had a web article explaining that, and there was another one by Jordan Gaines at NBC News back in 2013.

The first few times you hear (and watch) yourself rehearsing on recordings that feedback may be disconcerting. You may think you’re the worst speaker ever and want to cover your ears, as is shown above. Get over it, and see what you could be doing better.

The image was adapted from a sculpture of Three Wise Monkeys on Wikimedia Commons.

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).