Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Where Can You Find Humor? Everywhere!

If you are going to a holiday party or a networking event and you want a quick way to break the ice with new or old friends, have a little humor in your hip pocket. Even if you need to give a serious presentation, laughter will help you quickly grab the audience’s attention.

But where can you find good, clean humor appropriate for a business or professional audience? Everywhere! If you’ve stopped at a red light, I’m sure you’ve read a bumper sticker that made you laugh out loud (LOL).

Veteran Toastmaster International speaker Karl Righter listed 12 sources of funny material in his book, “How to Win Your Audience with Bombproof Humor”. Four great suggestions Karl mentioned were to:

1. Be observant – If you know you have a speech or presentation coming up soon, start a humor journal. Write down everything that makes you laugh. You’ll come up with authentic, believable and original humor. The best humor comes from your own personal experiences. And every parent knows that their kids are a walking comedy gold mine. I once opened a Toastmasters speech by recalling the time my six-year-old daughter slept on Silly Putty and we couldn’t get it out of her hair! The punch line—and the truth—was that she cut the sticky putty-filled hair out and left a two-inch bald spot on the left side of her head!

2. Surf the Internet – You can Google “business humor” to find jokes or visit websites such as: www.comics.com, www.comedy.com, www.humorpower.com.

3. Watch TV Comedians – Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Steve Harvey bring humor into our homes (or computer screen or mobile device) every day and night. Local, state, national, and international news stories are often dripping with easy-to-spot humor that television talk show hosts love to exploit.

4. Read cards, bumper stickers, T-shirts – Greeting cards, bumper stickers and T-shirts are also reliable sources of funny material you can use to establish a good rapport with an audience of one or many.

When you find a great joke or funny story, don’t forget to personalize it to fit your style and your audience. And please keep it tasteful—even if you’re cracking a joke about Rob Ford, the Canadian crack-smoking mayor of Toronto!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Are You A Great Storyteller?

Soon we’ll be gathering with family and friends at Thanksgiving. And no holiday meal is complete without hot food and memorable stories. “Do you remember the time…” kicks off an endless series of childhood stories, family legends and embarrassing tales from the past.

Every family has one person who can captivate the room with colorful stories that make you laugh, cry or feel very uncomfortable. In my family, my father takes the storytelling cake. No one can match his skills when it comes to recreating visions of his Grandma Sally (who knew all the neighborhood gossip), his uncle who got sucked up into a tornado while riding on a horse, or the day he drove his new 1957 DeSoto sedan home from the car dealership (and taught himself how to drive a car on that first solo trip behind the wheel).

But you don’t have to have the gift of gab of a Daddy Gist (my father) to be a great storyteller. If you can tell a joke, explain why you like or dislike a movie or recall—in some detail—a sporting event or past experience, then you can tell a story to a friend, co-worker or meeting audience. The storytelling skills are the same (use descriptive words that make your listeners visualize what you’re talking about). If you are talking to an audience of one or 1,000, paint a word picture that lets them hear, see, feel, smell and get a taste for everything that went on.

I recently heard Mark Brown, the 1995 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, talk about storytelling. Mark (he is in the photo with me) said that every life tells a story and there’s always a message you can share. During the recent Toastmasters International conference in Daytona Beach, FL, he identified three ways to find stories to share with family, friends or business associates. Mark says:

1. MINE FAMILY STORIES – Keep your ears open at family events. During the holidays, family reunions or at the dinner table, someone is always telling a funny story.

2. USE POP CULTURE – Explain the impact that a movie, book or blog post had on you. “It’s all about lessons learned…and what you can share,” said Mark.

3. RETELL YOUR LIFE LESSONS – Everyone has had some experience that knocked some sense into our heads. Share what you’ve learned the hard way from your biggest mistakes. “Your life tells a story and there’s always a message that someone out there needs to hear. Sometimes a lesson we learned can be valuable and powerful to someone else,” said Mark. “You have no idea the impact you can have by sharing one simple story!”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

As Smooth as Pumpkin Pie

Are you a smooth talker? Do words just roll off your tongue like sweat rolling down your face on a sweltering hot summer day? If both answers are “no”, there are five things you can do to make your next speech, presentation or job interview come off as smooth as pumpkin pie:

1. PRACTICE – If you are not comfortable talking off the top of your head—impromptu style—don’t! Rehearse your key talking points ahead of time. Make sure you emphasize the points you want your audience of one or more to remember.

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Do your homework (audience research) before you walk in the door. Know what issues your audience cares about and how you can help them solve that problem. Then, keep your job interview, speech or presentation remarks relevant to whoever you’re talking to. When you talk, you want your audience to listen. But they will only listen if you care enough to talk about topics/issues that they value.

3. EYE CONTACT – To establish a rapport with your audience, you must look at them. If you have prepared written remarks, memorize your opening and closing lines so your audience can see the sincerity in your eyes, your face and in your words.

4. PACING – Even if you’re nervous, don’t talk too fast or too slow. Rushing through your sentences can make you sound like a fast-talking used car salesman (they have no credibility). But don’t talk so slow that your listeners lose interest. Your voice should have energy. Get louder for emphasis and pause when you get to commas, periods and paragraph breaks. Vary the speed and the volume of your voice so you don’t sound like a boring, monotone Al Gore-type speaker.

5. SMILE – When I was a little girl, I used to watch the Buckskin Bill television show in Baton Rouge, LA. At the end of each show Bill said, “Remember, you’re never completely dressed until you put on a smile”. And he was right. Smiling lets your audience know that you are friendly, you like them and you care about whatever you’re talking about. Show off your personality, your emotions and your passion with a warm friendly smile.

Use these five tips during your next job interview, work presentation or community speech. I bet you will be impressive as a speaker and your delivery will be as smooth as pumpkin pie!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Speech is Like a Three-Course Dinner

Do you have glossophobia or fear of public speaking? Don’t worry. You are not alone. Some experts say 75% of all people experience some form of anxiety or nervousness when they have to speak in public.

But you can solve your problem with a little practice and a new mental image of public speaking. You can join a Toastmasters International club to work through your glossophobia or you can practice at home in front of a mirror, family or friends. I am a member of Toastmasters, and I find it very comforting to think a speech as a three-course dinner.

Try this trick. Before your next talk at work or at a local community group, replace your negative image of public speaking with a delicious new image. Prepare your speech as you would a three-course meal. Think of your introduction, main points and ending as an appetizer, entrée and dessert—and you will enjoy your speaking experience more.

Don’t focus on how you will feel with everybody looking at you. Focus on the message you want to serve up to your audience and what you want them to think, feel or do in response to your message (meal):

1. Appetizer – A good appetizer or introduction wets the appetite for the main dish. Get off on the right foot with your audience and calm your nerves. Before you start talking, take a deep breath, smile and make eye contact with your audience. Make them want to hear your main points by getting their attention with a question, story or bold statistics. Relate the topic to them and give a brief overview of your topic (a quick tease).

2. Entrée – The main dish or the body of your speech should satisfy the audience’s hunger to hear your key points. Use stories, examples and humor to illustrate your meat and potatoes (your main points).

3. Dessert – A sweet dessert and a great closing should leave your audience wanting more. Make your ending memorable, like a mouth-watering cheesecake with fresh strawberries. Leave them with one point you want them to remember, a challenge to do something or a personal story that makes them laugh. Always end on a positive note.

Remember, re-direct your nervous energy into gestures and body movements that reinforce your message. Turn your uneasy frown into a smile and show enthusiasm for whatever you’re talking about. Like a good meal, you can enjoy a speech. Just serve up the appetizer, entrée and dessert with a new attitude!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Everybody Needs an Elevator Speech

Can you introduce yourself to a stranger in the time it takes to ride an elevator? Are you looking for a job, a promotion or more business for your company? If your first answer is “no” and your second answer is “yes”, then you need a memorable opening line. The “elevator speech” is a 30-second-to-two-minute conversation starter that introduces you to a new person.

Do you really need one?
Everyone wants to be memorable and impressive, so everyone needs an elevator speech. It’s just a short description that makes people want to know more about you or your business. Take a few minutes and be ready the next time someone says, “Tell me about yourself” or “What do you do”. These four easy steps can make you a winner at your next networking event, job interview or professional meeting.
Four easy steps
What do you need to say in your elevator speech? Keep it short. Describe yourself as a problem solver. Connect with the other person. Leave them wanting to know more about you.

1. Short and sweet – Quickly answer the question, “Why should I be interested in you?” Your opening line should be more interesting than your job title. Instead of saying, “I teach adult social media classes at Winter Park Technical School.” You can say, “I take the mystery out of using social media”.

2. Make a connection – Describe yourself as a problem solver and make a connection between what you have to offer and the other person’s needs. Use action or feeling words (dream, excite, love, drive, stress, etc.) to make an emotional connection. For example, “I take the mystery out of using social media and teach adults how to get comfortable with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest”.

3. Start a dialogue – You want the person to ask you how you can help them. An elevator speech should be the foundation for a deeper conversation and eventually a relationship.

4. Close with a question – Close with an open-ended question (that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”) that shows you’re interested in learning more about the other person. For example, “I take the mystery out of using social media and teach adults how to get comfortable with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. What do you do?”

Remember to tailor your elevator speech to your audience. Practice it, revise it and make it sound natural, not like you are making a memorized sales pitch. A good elevator speech can introduce you to a stranger and make you sound like someone they want to know more about. You can turn an elevator ride into a business opportunity or a valuable friendship.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mississippi River is a Source of Inspiration

I’m no Mark Twain, but I can say that we both have found creative inspiration from the muddy Mississippi River. In the 1800s, Twain wrote books such as, Life on the Mississippi and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, based on his experiences growing up and piloting steamboats along the river.
On July 4, 2000, I sat on the river bank, near downtown Baton Rouge, LA, and watched a colorful fireworks display with my brother and my daughter. I was fascinated by the river’s strength and serene beauty. As we waited for the sky to darken and the light show to begin, I took this photo of the mighty Mississippi just before the sun set. “Old Man River” inspired me to write this poem:


When you hit a bump along the way and it knocks you off your mark, just relax, change your course and go with the flow.

If you’re swimming with the fishes and you’re moving way too slow, you may have to change your pace to catch up with the flow.

When an unexpected challenge tries to pull your spirits down, believe in yourself, work to your strengths and you will never drown.

Don’t let them sink your ship in the water and never get too low, everyone can be a winner if they master their own flow!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting Inspired, Energized and Empowered

Recently I attended a women’s empowerment seminar, “Sisters Take Charge!” I originally signed up for the event to hear handsome author and former radio host Michael Baisden, but I got more than I bargained for. I was inspired by all of the presenters—local doctors, business leaders, a minister and an educator—but three speakers really resonated with me.

Dr. Peola Dews Jackson, a local educator and motivational speaker, emphasized the importance of acceptance, improvement and the Law of Attraction. She had three powerful messages:
Acceptance: Love yourself the way you are.
Improvement: Keep growing and trying to improve yourself. “You are good, but you can be damn good if you want to be,” she said.
Attraction: When you feel good about yourself, you will attract the people in your life that you need.

Michelle Tatom, director of Small Business Development for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, talked about three prerequisites for success. She urged us to:
Forgive: Don’t carry the extra baggage of hurt and anger. Forgive the people who have hurt you and move on with your life.
Believe in Yourself: You have to feel that you deserve success. Appreciate your good qualities and know that you are worthy of the best.
Be Fearless: Don’t let fear hold you back from trying something new. “Fear is just False Evidence Appearing Real,” she reminded us.

And Michael Baisden gave us some valuable tips for building healthy relationships. He told us to create a new role model for successful relationships based on honesty, realistic expectations and good communication. He said women should keep our standards high and challenge our partners to meet our high expectations.

Yes, sometimes it’s worth spending time on a Saturday getting inspired, energized and empowered!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

   Deadbeat dad, absentee father, emotionally distant parent. Some folks can describe their father with those adjectives. Thank God, my father doesn't fit that mold. For James Cleveland Gist Jr, his mantra is, "family first". As a child, I always knew who to ask for an expensive toy or an unnecessary piece of clothing. I'd make a beeline to good ole dad. And his answer was predictable: "Just tell me what you want and I'll get it for you, Roz". He loved spoiling his three children and giving in to our every whim.

   My dad will celebrate his 93rd birthday in September and he has a lot to be proud of. He's the oldest of 10 children, he served in World War II and used the GI bill (an educational subsidy for military veterans) to earn a masters degree from Columbia University in the 1940s. He taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA for more than 40 years and wrote a earth science textbook, which he taught from in the 1990s.
   Jimmy (as my mother calls him) is a gentleman with a great sense of humor and a phenomenal capacity to teach tough subjects (like chemistry and physics) and explain them in a way that any college student could grasp. He brought science alive for his students by showing them how it is everywhere and part of everything we do. He even got me to learn about geology as a child, by buying me a toy rock collection. He lured his students in with his friendly personality and got them to understand physics--a subject most college kids try to avoid.

   Even today, you never see my dad without a book in his hand and a smile on his face. Before there was a Weather Channel on television, he was fascinated by tornadoes, hurricanes and the power of nature. Thanks to my mom (pictured with my dad at their 60th wedding anniversary in 2010) I have an appreciation for the arts (music, drama, dance, etc.). And I have to thank my dad for making me fall in love with books that tell great stories. He introduced me to poetry and the art of storytelling.

   To say my dad has the gift of gab is an understatement. He loves to talk--non-stop--and paint memorable verbal portaits of people, places and things. When he rears back in his chair and starts teaching, you're going to hear a long, life lesson. Daddy never gives you the short explanation or a quick story. When he starts talking, you'll be there for a while. I have learned to relax and enjoy this master talker work his magic.

   On Father's Day, Daddy, I want to thank you for being a great role model of how to live a life filled with gratitude, compassion, patience and empathy! Thank God (and mom), you're my dad! Happy Father's Day!  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Expanding My Culinary Comfort Zone

When the chief cook in your household is a vegan (eats no meat, dairy…nothing from an animal) your culinary horizon automatically gets lifted higher and higher. Since 2004, my daughter has been a dedicated vegan and I have been enjoying the delicious meals she prepares for dinner.
To say she has expanded my culinary comfort zone is an understatement. When I was the top chef in the house, I had a tight rotation of chicken, fish and ground beef meals every week. Thanks to my daughter, Kai, and TV cardiologist, Dr. Oz, I now prefer quinoa (instead of rice), kale (instead of lettuce) and veggie burgers over a ground beef hamburger. 
Although I dabbled in vegetarianism in college, I never had the stomach or desire to go all the way vegan. I’m still not a vegan, but I embrace their vegetable-rich diet. When Kai whips up a plate of balsamic Portobello mushrooms over a bed of spinach with a side of roasted potatoes (see the photo), I’m the first one heading back to the stove for seconds!
I’m not a foodie, but I am enjoying this ride on the vegan side of the food spectrum. Guys and girls, you really haven’t lived until you’ve chowed down on lentil-quinoa pilaf over arugula (my Memorial Day dinner). I’m not braggin’ but my daughter can make butternut squash and chickpeas taste finger-licking good.
If you’ve never had a meatless meal, don’t knock it until you’ve tried a dish at Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Winter Park, FL or the Loving Hut in Orlando. A great vegan meal can fill you up and make you think about taking the plunge into veganism. I still occasionally eat animal fare—chicken, fish and cheese—but I love a steaming hot pot of red beans and quinoa with kale!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Passion for Cookies

I have a passion for eating cookies. So it’s not a big surprise that I found myself at DessertFest, a recent Saturday afternoon gathering featuring cookies, cupcakes, frozen treats and live music.

I came to this dessert party for delicious HeartSong Cookies and I also found myself enjoying a great local band, Chevy Van Gogh. They belted out original ballads and traditional Rock standards with a smooth Southern sound. The band added a great soundtrack to DessertFest, but Kathy’s cookies were the star of the show.

Kathy (founder of HeartSong Cookies) works a full-time job, but still finds time to bake cookies on nights and weekends. She hand makes each cookie with fresh ingredients for the love of dough…cookie dough.

Kathy’s known for three things--her big smile, her warm hugs and her melt-in-your-mouth sweet cookies. You really can’t eat just one HeartSong cookie! It’s clear that Kathy is passionate about creating distinctive cookies that leave a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

In his new book, “Life Code,” television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw talks about how to be the star of your life. Dr. Phil says a star is someone who is doing something they’re passionate about, something that makes them light up and nurtures them (mind, body and spirit).

Yes, it only takes one bite of a HeartSong cookie to know that Kathy has found the key to Dr. Phil’s “Life Code” (rules for winning in the real world). She’s passionate about baking cookies, creating each chewy treat lights up her life, and her cookies nurture your mind, body and spirit. If you want to enjoy a HeartSong Cookie, look for Kathy’s Moo Truck at the Maitland Farmers Market. I have a soft spot in my heart for cookies, but I think there’s a cookie monster lurking in all of us!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teaching Me More Than Music

Growing up in New Haven, CT during the 1920s my mother had only one dream. She always wanted to be a teacher. She can still remember gathering her four best friends in the back yard to play school. Little Helen was always the teacher. And her dream came true. She was the first member of her family to graduate from college and earn a master’s degree.

For more than 50 years children came to our home in Baton Rouge, LA to take piano lessons from her. And she taught hundreds of college students how to be teachers as a music education professor at Southern University from 1960 to 1995. Yes, my mother lived her childhood dream in the classroom, at her living room piano and as a role model for her three children.

 She taught me, my brother and my sister lessons every day. If my mother had a lifeclass on the Oprah Winfrey Network viewers would learn these five lessons:

·         HONESTY – Always tell the truth. Helen Morton Gist is brutally honest. She never shies away from telling it like it is.

·         FAITH – If you want something bad enough, you can find a way to make it happen.

·         PROFESSIONALISM – Keep your professional skills up-to-date.

·         CARING – Take care of friends and family (your children, nieces, nephews, cousins). She never forgets them on birthdays, holidays, graduations and always.

·         SERVICE – As one of the first Head Start teachers in the state of Louisiana in the 1960s, she is a living example of the importance of community service. In 2006, the Southern University chapter of the Professional Association for Educators gave her a “Service to Education” award for using music as an educational tool to help children displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

My mother is known for being direct, no-nonsense and hard-working. Although her communications style is more like Iyanla Vanzant than Oprah Winfrey, she shares Oprah’s love of education. It’s part of her DNA and mine. Thank you, mom, for always teaching me more than music.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Speaking of Youth...

I’ve evaluated many speeches in my 10 years as a member of Toastmasters International, but few speakers have taught me as many lessons as the 10 elementary and middle school students I judged last month in the Orange County 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Contest.

The fresh-faced fourth, fifth and sixth graders—three boys and seven girls—spoke on a wide range of topics, from war and peace to basketball and Australia. Connor explained what it’s like to be a twin, Taylor revealed how it feels to be the natural-born child in a family who cares for foster children and Marisol shared the joys of being a hearing child with deaf parents.

The teachers, family members and volunteers in the audience were impressed. They laughed, were in awe and were proud of the youth who gave voice to their hopes, dreams and family values. As one of the contest judges, I evaluated each speaker on their use of language, speech delivery and choice of topic. In turn, each speaker gave me a pearl of their wisdom.

Brooke Sheaf, who won the middle school contest, delivered one of the most powerful messages—the best way to overcome your fear is to jump in with both feet! Brooke overcame her fear of swimming by jumping into the deep end of the pool. What’s your biggest fear?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fight Your Fear of Public Speaking

During the 10 years I have been a member of Toastmasters International, I have given many speeches and won a few public speaking awards. I have made presentations at work, appeared on radio and TV talk shows, and coached new speakers through their first few speeches. And I still have to calm my nerves before a speech.

If you sweat like a pig, have butterflies in your stomach and your hands just can’t stop shaking before your presentation, you are not alone. But don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to calm your nerves and ease your fears.

If you have to talk before strangers as a job seeker, committee head at work or community leader, put your listeners first. Instead of thinking about how you feel, focus on how you want your audience to feel at the end of your talk. As a speaker, your only goal is to effectively communicate your message (hire me, accept my committee’s findings, or listen to what my neighborhood wants).

The next time you have to talk to one or more strangers as a speaker, use some of these tips to beat back your fear of public speaking:

  1. Memorize your opening and closing lines. If you’re comfortable with how you want to open your talk and how you want to drive home your message in the end, you can focus on your delivery. Connect with your listeners with good eye contact and have a few memorable lines.
  2. Make your goal your priority. Keep your eye on the ball, the goal you want to achieve. Make sure your desire to get hired, to win over your audience or explain your point of view is stronger than your fear of failure.
  3. Visualize success. Before you enter the room, think about something that makes you feel relaxed and repeat a favorite phrase that pumps you up and makes you feel powerful. Imagine that you’ll have a successful speaking experience.
  4. Use your nervous energy to your advantage. Show enthusiasm and energy, instead of fear. To keep your nervous energy in check, inhale deeply and exhale slowly before you begin talking. Try pressing the fingertips of one hand against the fingertips of your other hand, to disperse your nervous energy.
  5. Personalize your message. Think of your presentation as a conversation where you are doing most of the talking. Personalize your language. Use the word “you” or the names of people in the audience. If you focus on your audience, not on your nerves, you can be calm, confident and courageous as you communicate your message fearlessly!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Drought, Bacon and Tofurky

Last summer, farmers battled the most severe drought in at least 25 years. The most extensive dry spell since the 1950s left farmers with less corn and soybeans to feed chickens, cows and pigs, so they cut back herds and raised the price consumers pay for beef, pork, poultry and dairy.

So, now is a great time to look for healthier, more cost-effective food choices. If your meal isn’t complete without a side of meat, there are tasty alternatives. Vegetables, beans and soy products cost less than meat and they have less heart-clogging saturated fat.

But you don’t have to go vegan or vegetarian, to save a few extra dollars in the supermarket. You can save money by:

1.     Eating a meatless alternative at lunch or dinner a couple of times a week. It will trim the fat from your budget and possibly your waist.

2.     Serving smaller portions. You don’t need to super-size everything! The right serving size of meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards.

3.     Try soy or almond milk, instead of regular dairy milk. I love chocolate-flavored Silk, a lactose and gluten-free soymilk.

4.     Substituting turkey bacon for pork bacon or smoked ham with Hickory Smoked Tofurky (a vegetarian turkey replacement made from tofu, but sliced to look like ham).

5.     Switching from ground beef to ground turkey or Smart Ground (a vegetable protein that tastes just like ground beef).

Don’t look at rising food prices as another assault on your grocery budget. It’s just a great opportunity to cut your intake of beef, pork, chicken and dairy products…and improve your health!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Living with a Millennial

I’m a proud Baby Boomer with a daughter who falls right in the middle of the Millennial Generation (Gen Y). My world view was formed by the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and major political assassinations (President Kennedy and Martin Luther King).

My daughter, born in 1989, was shaped by September 11 terrorist acts, the war in Iraq, shootings at Columbine, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube videos and the ever-present iPhone (her alarm clock and constant companion).

Although we have different communications preferences and comfort zones, we manage to peacefully co-exist and find common ground. She loves to prepare great-tasting vegan meals (by checking out online vegan recipes or putting her iPhone on the counter and reading the recipe as she cooks). And I enjoy eating her healthy dishes, more than cooking. If I’m forced to cook, I turn to a familiar family recipe that was handwritten on a yellowing and faded index card. And I don’t care what the online reviews are for my Louisiana gumbo recipe!

In high school, in the 1970s, I was a cheerleader. She ran cross-country and played soccer in high school in the early 2000s. We both majored in communications in college. My emphasis was print journalism. Her focus was on online and print media. But we are both members of Toastmasters International. My club meets at night, hers meets in the morning before 8 a.m. … Way too early!

I prefer telephone, face-to-face and email communications, while I always see my 23-year-old daughter texting and Facebook messaging.

But we share common values. We both want to save the world and express ourselves as creative, caring, tree-hugging women! Our next family trip is a wildlife safari in Osceola County!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Five Unsung Success Stories

Since March is Women’s History Month, I want to shine the spotlight on five unsung heroines who don’t get a lot of attention in our history books. Have you heard about the success stories of Patricia Roberts Harris, Mae Jemison, Constance Baker Motley, Madame C.J. Walker or Ida B. Wells? Many of these extraordinary ladies were breaking down stereotypes before the terms “glass ceiling” or “feminist” were even coined:
  • Patricia Roberts Harris (1924-1985) was the first African-American woman to hold a cabinet position, serve as U.S. ambassador and head a law school. She was a politician, lawyer and educator. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed her ambassador to Luxembourg. In 1969, she became dean of the Howard University law school and President Jimmy Carter named her secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977.
  • Mae Jemison (born in 1956) was the first African-American woman to be a U.S. astronaut. In 1988, she became the fifth black astronaut and the first black female astronaut in NASA history. She was the science mission specialist on the Endeavour mission in 1992. She is a chemical engineer, scientist, physician, and a promoter of science education for minorities and girls. In 1999, she founded a medical technology company in Houston, TX.
  • Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005) became the first African-American female federal judge in 1966. As a Civil Rights attorney, for the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, she helped draft the complaint for the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit that led to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that separate schools for black and white students are unconstitutional. In 1964, she became the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate. One year later, she was elected as the first female president of the borough of Manhattan.  
  • Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) was born on a cotton plantation to recently freed slaves. In the 1890s, she developed a scalp disorder, lost most of her hair and began to experiment with home remedies. In 1907, she and her husband traveled in the South and Southeastern U.S. selling her hair pomade formula, hair care products, and the “Walker Method” for African-American hair care. The next year, she opened a factory and beauty school. At the time of her death, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company was worth over $1 million. She was the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire.
  • Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was an African-American journalist who crusaded against lynching in the 1890s. Born a slave in July 1862, she and all slaves were freed about six months after her birth by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. She wrote articles for black newspapers and periodicals and eventually became a newspaper publisher. In 1893, she published a personal examination of lynchings in America. In 1898, she led an anti-lynching demonstration in Washington, DC. She was a founding member of the NAACP and she fought for voting rights for women.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Three Golden Rules

You don’t need a marketing degree to know great service when you see it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t experience the kind of over-the-top service that creates customer loyalty. I think the Golden Rule—treat others as you would like to be treated—still applies in both the online and face-to-face marketplace.

As consumers we want three things: value, respect and a little extra.
·        Value – We all want to save time and money.
·        Respect – We just want to be treated like we are valued.
·        A Little Extra – A free smile, remembering our name, a friendly comment. It’s all just icing on the cake…so sweet!

Today, I visited my neighborhood bank—one the largest in the nation—and I saw the Golden Rule in action. I like this bank for their friendly staff, not for their interest rates. Everyone in this branch treats their customers with respect and they always give us a little bit extra.

When you walk in the door, a manager or bank employee greets you with a smile and a warm welcome. If you’re a regular, like me, they’ll address you by name. There’s always a bowl of colorful lollipops on the counter, if you’re hungry or just need a sugar lift. I know that the ATM is more convenient, but great service is an important part of my banking experience. It’s a valuable asset to me.

Many banks and credit unions offer the same services, but it’s nice to feel the warm touch of personalized service. Super service seals the deal when it comes to customer loyalty. I know it keeps me coming back!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Take on the State of the Union

President Obama hit a home run last night in his State of the Union speech. He covered the usual topics (deficits, gun control) and dropped in a few surprises (raise the minimum wage and address climate change). Florida Senator Marco Rubio gave the GOP response. It was a very weak speech for someone who's been anointed the "Republican savior" and a rising political star.

From a communications standpoint, Rubio looked unsure of himself, his delivery was timid and he did not give a strong rebuttal of Obama's speech. If you are a leader, who wants to make a convincing argument or sway public opinion, you've got to give 100%. The Rubio speech was an example of how not to deliver a powerful message.

Great speeches grab our attention, throw out new ideas to consider and give us a call to action. Obama opened his speech by quoting JFK and closed by calling on Congress to take action in the face of growing gun violence that's mowing down innocent victims at school, in our streets and at home. Bravo, Mr. President. Take notes, Senator Rubio!