Archive for » February, 2010 «

February 28th, 2010 | Author:
Me onstage

Photo courtesy of Debbie Lefever

Public speaking is difficult for most people. Whether it’s a group of 4 or 5 in a class or several hundred at an event, it can make you pretty nervous.  These are five basic tips to help you speak in front of any size group.

  1. Do not stare above the audience.  Many people will suggest the speaker focus on a spot in the back of the room and not look directly at the audience.  The logic is that they won’t get as nervous if they don’t really see anyone.  That’s not always true and I found something that works even better.  I actually scan the crowd and look at several people now and then which makes it feel like I’m talking to just a few friends instead of a few hundred people.  If you focus on just one thing, you will still know there are many people starring at you even though you’re not looking directly at them which will definitely make you nervous.  The point is to deal with the situation head-on instead of avoiding it.   Almost everyone is ok with talking to one or two people. Make it personal and you will feel more confident.
  2. Make notes. You are never too old to make notes. I use them every time I speak and so do many other famous speakers who are much older than I am.  Notes shouldn’t be your whole speech. It’s better to only write bullet points or key phrases,  just enough so you can remember what you want to say.  Some people think that notes are only for rehearsal.  That’s not true.  Think about it.  Wouldn’t you rather hold some notes and glance at them once in awhile than stand up there all nervous trying to remember what to say?  As long as you don’t read from them, you’ll be fine and deliver a better presentation or speech.
  3. Rehearse.  You have to know what your going to say and how you are going to say it.  Use all the props that you would for the real deal so you can get a feel for it.  This is one of my least favorite steps.  I hate to practice or rehearse but it does work and it is a necessary part to public speaking. It’s pretty easy to listen or watch someone who knows what they are talking about, feels comfortable on stage, and makes the topic interesting. If the person isn’t prepared, not only will they be uncomfortable but they will make the audience uncomfortable too and probably put a lot of people to sleep with boredom.
  4. Write your own presentation.  Unless you’re the President of the United States, you’re better off writing your own speech or presentation.  And if you watch any public figure give a speech, wouldn’t you rather believe that they wrote at least part of what they’re saying? If they simply read it, you wonder if they even believe in their message.
  5. Know your audience.  Even if you’re talking about business but your audience is elementary kids, make sure you talk so they can understand. That doesn’t mean talk down to them but make it interesting for the appropriate age group.
February 21st, 2010 | Author:

Millions of kids each week get allowances.  These range from petty change to large bills.  Allowances are often given free of charge without any responsibilities at all.  This creates kids who don’t understand the value of money and who often take things for granted.  While an allowance can teach kids how to manage money, most of the time it does just the opposite.  When there are no chores or jobs associated with the allowance, it basically is free money. And who wouldn’t want free money?

When you don’t have to work for money, you have less attachment to it.  Free money promotes free spending and less reasons to save it.  When you actually have to work for the money, you don’t want to spend it as easily because you know how hard it was to earn it.  Money does not grow on trees but I have seen a lot of kids that think it must because of how much “stuff” they seem to have.   When you think about it, it’s not really the kid’s fault they have that concept. It’s the parent’s fault for buying them everything they want without teaching them the value of money. According to Webster’s dictionary, the first definition of an allowance is “a share or portion allotted or granted. The very definition of the word says that there is nothing that has to be given in return.

Kids will be more likely to take things for granted if they are always handed stuff for free.  Everyone knows a spoiled kid with all the latest and greatest toys and gadgets.  When they get everything they want, what’s left?  Sometimes, it is good to want for things because when you finally earn them, you will probably be more appreciative.

If a child receives everything they could ever ask for while they are young, they are more likely to mismanage their finances later in life.  The won’t understand the connection between money and saving or spending.  That’s why so many adults end up in debt — they think their money will never run out.

Some of you reading this are probably thinking, “What does this kid know about money and financial responsibilities?”  Well, I know that at 14, I have never received an allowance.  I have saved practically every Christmas and birthday money gift I have received for years.  And I think long and hard before I spend any of my money.  Having my Pencil Bugs business since I was nine has also taught me the value of money, what it means to work for it, and how to be financially smart which will make me better prepared when I’m an adult.

My parents never received an allowance when they were kids and they didn’t give me one.  I probably won’t give my kids an allowance either.  Even though I’m still like most kids and I like the thought of ‘something for nothing’, I know that philosophy doesn’t do any good in the long run.

February 08th, 2010 | Author:

Recently, I had the fun experience of being filmed for two different fall TV series. Due to confidentiality until they air, I can’t say the names but both feature kid-related stories.

I have been interviewed for TV several times.  One of the things they remind people of is not to wear black, white, bold patterns, or red.  I could always understand the reasons for black, white, and patterns but no one could give me why they didn’t want red.

Well, I finally asked one of the directors last week who gave me a good answer that made sense.  This is a simplified version.  The color red has the longest wavelengths and when filmed, it appears with jagged edges.  But since many actors on TV wear red shirts, I wondered how they were able to.  The director said that  first of all, they have a wardrobe person who picks specific colors for the actors to wear and certain shades of red are okay.  Plus when a show is recorded on film and not on digital tape, the film can process the color red better.  Even more interesting was when she said that if a person does wear red and it comes out jagged, there’s an expensive, tedious process of smoothing out the lines frame by frame.  Since most production companies and news media don’t want to or can’t take the time to do that, they just give the reminder to not wear red at all.

The other thing I learned was why they record about 30 seconds of silence after taping in a room where the interview or segment was shot.  Everyone sits quietly while the camera rolls.  Reason?  Because when they edit the footage, they have blank space where they can splice pieces together and you won’t be able to tell they did it because you’ll still hear the same background noise even if there wasn’t any noise at all.  If they pieced two parts of a sentence together but didn’t have the matching room sound, you’d be able to hear the difference between the two parts.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Who knew that from having my business, I’d also be getting a brief introduction and education into filmmaking? They don’t teach that in middle school or even in most regular high schools.

February 04th, 2010 | Author:

Girl Scouts isn’t just for girls.  Well, at least their B.I.G. Expo wasn’t.  We heard about the expo the first week in January and immediately checked into being an exhibitor.  With a little more than three weeks to go until the event, we (my parents and I) got busy making more Pencil Bugs and getting other products and marketing materials ready.   With a lot of hard work, we were ready for the event.

They were expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees and since I had never done an event that large, I had no idea what to expect.  There were all kinds of exhibitors, activities, food, entertainment, and girls scouts of all ages.
Besides selling my products at my booth, I also had coloring pages for the kids as well as a large gift basket that people could enter to win by filling out an entry form with a few questions:

Which Pencil Bug is your favorite?
If a new Pencil Bug were born, what color should it be and what should we name it?

They didn’t even need to be present to win because I would be contacting them by email.  Simple, right?  Well, believe it or not, many of the entries didn’t have email addresses at all and some were illegible.  After sorting through hundreds of entries, we tossed the 120 that remained in a hat and pulled out one entry, and sent an email to the winner.  Immediately, we got a “no recipient” error back.  Oops!  Doubled checked the email address, tried it again but still the same error.
The second entry we pulled out of the hat was a valid email address but they didn’t respond within the time limit.  We didn’t want to have to wait too long to find the winner.  I was excited about awarding all the goodies to some lucky kid.

So once again, I shook up all the entries in the hat and pulled out the third entry.  BINGO!  I had a winner – Rhianna Anderson. Rhianna answers to the questions on the entry form were:

Favorite Pencil Bug – Patty Pink
She wanted a new Pencil Bug to be named Vivian Violet.

The gift basket included everything needed for a Pencil Bugs-themed birthday party.

T-shirt for the birthday girl
8 Pencil Bugs
Birthday card
8 Birthday invitations
8 Thank you cards
Mousepad
and an autographed copy of Mark Victor Hansen’s book, “The Richest Kids in America” in which my story is included (although rich is not always about money).

Congratulations to Rhianna and thanks to everyone who stopped by my booth.

February 03rd, 2010 | Author:

Recently, I read the book “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry.  It is part of a trilogy which I really got into.  “Take pride in your pain because you will be stronger than those who don’t” was one quote from the book that really stuck with me.

Pain is usually thought of as a bad thing;  an experience that people don’t want to have to go through.   However, the quote from Gathering Blue tells us that pain can help in many ways.  Pain hurts us now but will make us more prepared for the future.  Just having the pain is not enough. You actually need to get in the mindset of taking pride in your pain.  It may sound a little weird. I know it did to me at first but pride is what helps you learn from your pain and gives you the ability to move on.

People who don’t recognize this put themselves on a  pedestal because they think they are better than everyone else.  It is similar to accepting defeat or quitting an argument.  Don’t pride yourself in winning but be proud of being a big enough person to accept defeat.  You can’t win all of the time and no one is right all of the time either.

Whether it’s a business situation or a personal one, take pride in your pain, struggles, challenges, and losses.  It’s what helps us deal with the tough things in life and teaches us that we are usually stronger than we give ourselves credit for.