Archive for May, 2011

May 16, 2011

Relay For Life: PR and teamwork at its finest

For the past two years, I volunteered as the Team Development Co-Chair for the University of Oregon’s Relay For Life Committee. Relay For Life is a fundraising event that raises money for the American Cancer Society. This past weekend, nearly 800 students celebrated raising more than $40,000 during UO Relay For Life 2011 ‘s 15-hour event. Teams form months before the event and fundraise by sending letters and emails to family and friends and hosting events like bake sales and sports tournaments. The day of Relay For Life is a celebration of all the money that participants have fundraised for cancer research and care, plus a day of recognition and remembrance of all who have been touched by cancer. See the Oregon Daily Emerald’s article to know more details about this year’s event.

UO Relay balloon sign and sponsor banners

My role as Team Development Co-Chair involved recruiting and retaining participants, and I was also responsible for training and motivating team captains. From “pitching” the opportunity to campus groups about getting involved, to helping teams brainstorm fundraising ideas, my job involved establishing and maintaining relationships — can you say PR? 

My work as Team Development Co-Chair wasn’t in a vacuum. It involved TEAMWORK to the max. I had a co-chair, as well as three sub-committee members working with me. Additionally, we were part of a 30-person committee that included other chair members who were each responsible for specific components of the event planning and execution. For a successful year, it required in-person meetings with our team development crew, and with the full committee, plus continuous communication via email and phone with committee members and participants.

The most important take-aways I’ve gained from my experience on the Relay For Life committee and in my role as Team Development Co-Chair are the following:

Timely communication is paramount to happy participants and fellow committee members.

When the work seems overbearing, remember WHY you are doing it — whatever that reason may be.

Additionally, take time away from the work every now and then, or at least do something social with your co-workers instead of work-related. Good relations with your co-workers leads to more fun doing work together!

Positivity is productive. Nay-sayers, complainers and grumpy-gills don’t get anything of value done. Attitude is everything.

Conflicts and challenges will arise. These are best dealt with immediately and maturely. Vent up, and work together, not against, to find solutions.

We’re human, we’re busy, we make mistakes. Forgive and move on. Be understanding and supportive. But also, keep your co-workers accountable for their responsibilities.

Be reliable and authentic. Do what you say you’ll do. Lead by example. No one will follow if you’re not exemplifying what you expect others to do.

Recognize your time to follow and your time to lead. This may depend on the mixture of personalities and talents of your team members and what responsibility you’ve taken, and it will vary based on the time and availability of others to take charge or not.

Be open to new ideas. Your brain only knows so much. That’s why you work with other people on a team.

Be thankful and show appreciation. When a co-worker or participant does something well or lends a hand, thank him or her! Those two little words go a LONG way.

A lot of us cringe at the thought of another group project. But the reality is that we need to work in teams to accomplish big goals. It may be time consuming and frustrating at times, but it can be oh-so-rewarding in the end. Yes, each individual is powerful with one heart, one mind and two hands, but we can do so much more when we combine our energies and assets. And, who knows, maybe you’ll make new friends along the way.

UO Relay For Life Committee 2011 at the end of our successful event. (I’m in bright pink on the right!)
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May 3, 2011

Say “I Do” to Public Speaking

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

In spirit of the Royal Wedding, let’s talk about delivering meaningful words in front of large audiences. Let us vow, “I take you, Public Speaking, from this day forward, to love and to honor, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These words may scare people because apparently Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking,  is greater than fear of death. I recently presented to Kelli Matthew’s Intro to PR class of 150 students, and afterward, I was asked for advice on how to calm nerves when speaking to a large audience. Here are a few techniques “I Do” to help stay poised and deliver the message effectively:

1.  You have to be familiar with the content you are going to deliver, which means take the time beforehand to prepare and practice what you’ll be saying. Also, arrive early (but not too early!) so you aren’t frantic before it’s your time to go on.

2.  Practice, Practice, Practice. Take every opportunity you can to speak in front of groups. Even if that’s just your family or friends.  Monitor how you speak one-on-one with people. Practice making eye contact and speaking clearly. This will help you when speaking to a large crowd.

3.  Even if you aren’t confident, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I can’t remember who told me this, but someone else deserves the credit. If you appear confident, the audience will respond positively which should make you calm down and actually feel more confident.

4.  Remember that you’re human and everyone you’re speaking to are humans as well (unless you’re flying to the moon to speak to aliens, in which case, I can’t help you!). We all make mistakes and forgive, so relax. You want to be there to share information and the audience wants to hear it – they’re on your side!

5.  S-L-O-W down — and accept the fact that pausing is OK. Instead of using filler words like “um,” “like,” and “uh” (yuck!), pause, collect your thoughts or that word you’re looking for and then move on.

Side note on reducing filler words: I’ve learned there are three phases to ridding your speech of filler words.* 1) Filler word oblivion: you have no idea that you use them. 2) Filler word recognition: you realize (usually after you say them) that you use them. 3) Filler word replacement: you stop yourself before you say them and pause instead. What phase are you at? Have a friend remind you every time you say one and soon you’ll be at phase three!

*Dr. Tiffany Gallicano taught me the phases of filler word reduction. If you choose the PR sequence, I highly recommend taking her J452 class because she instructs a public speaking activity in class each week.

6.  Breathe. Deliver oxygen to your brain.

7.  When you aren’t the one presenting, be a good audience member – engage and observe. A good audience helps the speaker relax, and think how you would feel if you were up front! Pay attention when you’re in the audience to observe what the speaker does well and model your own speaking after that.

8.  Smile and have fun! It’s not everyday that you have a captive audience for what you have to say. Live it up!

I hope these suggestions help you say “I Do” to public speaking. Remember, it’s a life-long commitment and you’ll get better with time. For additional advice, here are 10 tips from Toastmasters, an international organization that offers public speaking guidance. University of Oregon has a Toastmasters club that meets weekly. I’ve never been, but I encourage you to check it out.

The crowd of 1 million stands in front of Buckingham Palace to watch a kiss between Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, during the Royal Wedding. (AP Photo/APTN)

Prince William speaks to his bride Kate as she holds her father's hand at the altar. (Getty Images)

Wedding day jitters heightened by billions of gawking viewers — can you imagine? Prince William and Kate stay cool and collected even on their big day — what PR pros!