Public Speaking – Not for Engineers

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It is no secret that engineers do not do well, as a whole, in public speaking. Anyone who has slept, make that sat through a presentation where an engineer has shown slide after slide of data that cannot be read, let alone fully understood, knows what I mean. Monotone does not help, either.

From our files of extrapolated data (meaning we didn’t actually measure anything, but it is likely good data from our perception), we see a bar chart with various professions and their level of ability in public speaking vs. how they perceive themselves. Here is the chart:

Comparing Different Professions on Their Actual Ability vs. How They Perceive Their Public Speaking Ability

Here are a few notes regarding this graph:

– Lawyers, Surgeons, and Professors are far better at public speaking than engineers, but they think they are far better than they are.

– Teachers are generally very good at public speaking, but lack confidence.

– Engineers, although very close in their perception of how they make presentations, are, in technical terms – BAD.

– If you ever get a chance to see a rodeo clown talk, take it.

Public Speaking – An Explanation

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This week at engineeringdaze, we are going to follow the exploits of the first engineer, the caveman named Tork. Tork was so advanced for his era, being an engineer, that he was frequently shunned by other cavemen. But that is another story. Today, we will discuss how Tork influenced the public speaking ability of engineers, or lack thereof.

Tork mass-produced the wheel for caveman consumers.  Actually, Tork was a consultant, making many rocks and skins for his services.  One fateful day, Tork was asked to speak before the caveman business association and unwittingly stood up on one of his wheels to give his speech.  Since a firm understanding of all the rudiments of friction was not yet in the engineers’ learning, the wheel, with Tork on it, began rolling, toppling Tork on his, shall we say, solid waste disposal unit.  After that, Tork and all engineers throughout history, when placed in front of an audience, have felt like they are trying to stand on a wheel, hopelessly teetering back and forth for a long time before finally falling on their – well, you get the picture. This not only explains why engineers are poor at public speaking, but also explains why engineers now often assume that there is a frictionless surface for most engineering problems.  Better safe than sorry.

Engineers have Tork to thank, or blame, for their public speaking woes. Tork did many good things for humankind, as engineers do now. But public speaking is not one of them.