Five Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

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WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR I/PATRIOTISMI hate public speaking. Just hearing the phrase ” you will give a ten-minute presentation at the end of the term” come out of my professors’ mouth basically gives me an anxiety attack.

It’s funny. Growing up, I had no problem presenting a class assignment or project to a large group, but once I got to college, everything changed. Now, I get this big ball of fear in the pit of my stomach every time I walk up to the podium. My throat constricts, my head gets cloudy and I tend to stop breathing. Not a good combo.

I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to be a public relations major with a fear of public speaking. Whether it’s something as formal as pitching to a client or as laid back as talking during a meeting, presentations are going to be a part of my day-to-day life. And you know what? I’m somehow okay with that. I love the communications industry and I refuse to let something trivial come between me and and my career path.

As I finish up my senior year, I have come to the realization that it is possible to cope with this phobia. In fact, I’ve learned there are several practical things you can do to make the public speaking process go a heck of a lot smoother. I recently read an article from Reputation Management Associates titled “The Fear of Public Speaking” and it reminded me of how common this fear truly is. And while my presentation skills are nowhere near perfect, I am proud to say that I have come a long way from where I once was.

With that, I want to leave you with some tips that helped me survive presentations during my college career.

1. Breath. It sounds silly, right? But this is probably the best piece of advice I could possibly give you. Your brain literally cannot function without oxygen, so don’t forget to take some deep breaths before hitting the stage. It will slow your heart rate down and get your creative juices flowing.

2. Be prepared. I always find that I am most nervous for the presentations that I am ill prepared for. Don’t be afraid to rehearse your presentation from top to bottom until you’re sick of it. Practice in front of a mirror, your mom or even record yourself- this will prevent you from freezing up or fumbling over your words while you’re doing the real thing.

3. Know your key messages. If you plan on using note cards, make sure they have concise and legible talking points. You don’t want to be staring at your note card, trying to decipher between and ‘o’ and an ‘a’ because you wrote them in your own sloppy hand writing.

4. Believe that what you have to say is valuable. For some reason, we have the tendency to undermine our own knowledge. Know that you have a lot to offer, and be confident in what you have to say.

5. Stay hydrated. You’re more likely to get cotton mouth when talking in front of a large crowd, so chug a glass of water before you start talking to avoid any awkward pauses or discomfort.

Do you have any tips on how to nail a presentation? I would love to hear about them in the comment section!

14 Things Every Soon-To-Be College Grad Understands

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oregonWell, it’s almost that time. T-minus three months until I have to graduate from this comfort zone I like to call college and get a real life.

I remember starting the University of Oregon in the Fall of 2010 and thinking “June 2014 is sooooo far away; I have plenty of time to figure things out.” Psych! It really wasn’t that far away. And I don’t have much figured out. But they say that life is about the journey and not the destination, right?

Anyways, now that I’m wrapping up my second-to-last term, I am starting to look for jobs that have things like benefits, paid time off and a 401(k) plan…wut. I’m faced with huge decisions like, do I want to take some time off to travel? Should I get a job right away? Where should I move? The possibilities are endless.

I recently discovered a list of “22 Things only Second-Semester Seniors Understand” from the Huffington Post and something about it instantly resonated with me. So, naturally I was inspired to write my own list. Alas, here are 14 things I have come to realize as my college experience comes to an end:

1. You say “I think I’m having a quarter life crisis” at least once a day.

2. You actually become friends with your professors and you follow each other on twitter.

3. You know all of the bouncers and bartenders at every campus bar by name.

4. You keep telling yourself to “live in the moment,” but you’re too busy with projects, studying and applying for jobs to actually enjoy your last term.

5. You begin to realize who you will keep in touch with after graduation, and who will fall by the wayside.

6. You want to throw a brick at the next person who asks you what your plans are after graduation.

7. You have an anxiety attack every time you think about how fast time has gone, because you realize it will just keep getting faster from here.

8. Every time you check Facebook, you see another one of your high school friends is engaged or pregnant.

9. You feel old and creepy at house parties.

10. You become a pro at writing cover letters.

11. You are constantly in this weird limbo state of emotions, where you feel sad/anxious/excited/happy/proud because you have worked so incredibly hard to get to where you are, and you know it’s about to all pay off.

12. You look for ways to casually bring up graduation in conversations because it makes you feel cool.

13. Knowing that you could move almost anywhere after college is the most terrifying yet exciting feeling in the world.

14. You’re afraid of failing at life after college.

Do you have anything to add to the list? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

The Curvy Truth

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If you read my last blog post, you know that a few weeks ago I designed an infographic for a class assignment. After publishing my post on “How to Create a Killer Infographic,” I realized that I gave you all of these fabulous tips on content and design, but I didn’t explain how I landed on the topic of body image.

Whether it’s for an essay, an infographic or a project, It’s not very often that a professor relinquishes the reigns and lets his or her students write on any topic they actually want to write about, which is why I was so taken aback by the assignment. Now that I had all of this power in my hands, I didn’t know what to do with it! I had never created an infographic before, and choosing a theme that would be compelling yet informational seemed like a daunting task. I wasn’t going to settle on something that I didn’t care about just to get the assignment out of the way, I wanted to create something that would be meaningful and even educational. I wanted it to serve a purpose.

After going back and forth between a few topics and getting feedback from my friend Gianna, (I constantly annoy her with all of my questions) I took a leap of faith and committed to a topic that I am truly passionate about. Body Image. Particularly how women are portrayed in the media and how unrealistic representations of beauty affect self-esteem. Yes, I could have easily chosen a lighter, less depressing topic, but what would be the point? I have been dealing with my own body image issues since I was in the fifth grade, and it’s time to start the conversation.

81 percent of 10-year-olds have experienced a fear of being fat. Just take a second to think about that.  10-year-olds have no business stressing over stuff like this; their biggest worry should be whether or not their mom put a fruit roll-up in their lunch box, not if their outfit makes them look fat. Unfortunately, this is the age that young girls start to experience self-esteem issues relating to body image, and it often gets worse from here.

Why is society so obsessed with outward appearance? Well, there is no simple answer, but media has certainly helped shaped the definition of beauty into something that is hardly attainable for the average woman. The average US model weighs 117 lbs. and is 5’11, while the average American woman weighs 140 lbs. and is 5’4. No wonder why women feel insecure. We are inundated with images of scantily clad models, disproportionate Disney princesses and photoshopped women selling beauty products. It’s unfortunate that women spend so much time thinking about how they look when they could be (gasp!) enjoying life instead.

To further prove how narrow society’s view of beauty is, only 6 percent of fashion designs were shown on black models during New York Fashion week last year, and 82.7 percent of runway spots went to white models. What is this teaching the diverse youth of America? That in order to be considered “beautiful” you have to be skinny, tall and white? These are impossible standards for the majority of Americans to live up to, so why has it stuck?

I don’t have an answer for that. But, I have noticed that more and more celebrities are addressing the issue publicly. Some of my heroes include Jennifer Lawrence who is famous for her bold comments on the red carpet like “It should be illegal to call somebody fat in T.V.” or Ashley Benson who spoke out about a photoshopped image she found of herself. It’s celebrities like this who give me hope that our culture’s definition of beauty is slowly widening.

Ironically, this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week, so information about body image and self-esteem has been all over the news. Even the Today Show launched a “Love Your Selfie” campaign, where the hosts revealed their own insecurities about their weight and appearance. It’s remarkable to see the Today Show hosts, who I watch daily and think are nearly perfect, talk about themselves in such a negative way.

Which brings me to my next thought, we would never call our best friend fat, so why do we think it’s okay to say it to ourselves? According to a study done by glamour.com, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily-nearly one for every waking hour. Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. The amount of negative body thoughts I have about myself is probably double that number, and I couldn’t tell you how tired I am of not being satisfied with myself.

This type of negative self-talk can have some serious ramifications on our health, too. According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, “women who stress over their body and diet have chronically elevated levels of stress hormone cortisol, and, as a result, may suffer from elevated blood pressure, lower bone density, higher amounts of unhealthy belly fat and even menstrual problems.” Gahh! We need to STOP being so hard on ourselves!

Believe me, I know this is way easier said than done, and I’m a walking example. I spend way too much time on my hair everyday and I refuse to go in public without a full face of makeup, but I will admit that I am getting better about how I talk to myself. And that’s a huge step for me.

Okay, I will wrap this up because I realize I have digressed. But, I have one request before I go: talk to your kids about body image! Teach them that their self-worth is not measured by how they look, it’s measured by their character and how they treat others. Stop talking about how fat you look in a swimsuit while your child is present, because they will pick up on those habits, too. And, one last thing, I challenge you to pay attention, I mean realllly pay attention to when you have negative body thoughts, and tell yourself to STOP talking to yourself that way, because you deserve better. You’re beautiful.

How To Make A Killer Infographic

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Between the internet, television and our friends, we are constantly bombarded with an enormous amount of information and no way to effectively manage it. With information coming at us from all directions, how do you communicate an important message to a specific audience? Better yet, how do you communicate that message in a way that will stick? My suggestion is this: create an infographic! If you haven’t jumped on the data visualization bandwagon yet, your brand is truly missing out.

Infographics are a great tool to visually present a lot of boring data in a not-so-boring way. Not only can they clearly and concisely convey data, they can tell a story that will make a lasting impression on your audience. If you have never seen an infographic, they are a visual depiction of data that uses a combination of graphics and text, and they are the perfect way to make morsel of information digestible to your busy audience.

After designing an infographic for a PR class at the University of Oregon, I discovered just how challenging it can be to arrange a set of data in a way that would visually appeal to my target audience. I knew that I wanted my infographic to be about body image, but I didn’t know what direction to go in or how to make my audience actually care. But, after conducting a TON of research and talking with my professor, I took a leap of faith and started sketching. The moral of the story is that creating an infographic isn’t always easy, but the end result is worth the hard work and time. Whether you are creating an infographic for a client, your personal brand or for fun, here are ten tips to help ease the process.

1. Choose a theme. You can make an infographic on just about anything. However, if you can only find three statistics for your chosen topic, they better be dang good statistics. If not, you should probably move on to something with more data.

2. Identify your target audience. This was one of the first things my professor had my class do, and now I understand why. While it can be difficult to narrow down your audience before beginning the design process, it will help you identify what information to include on your infographic.

3. Do your research. Poke around the internet and make a list of all the great facts you find. After you’ve found 10 to 15 solid statistics or pieces of information, put the facts in order of importance and decide what to leave out.

4. Use a color scheme that makes sense for your topic. If your infographic is about USA’s Winter Olympic Team, you probably want to have some red, white and blue in there. If your theme is recycling, use different shades of green, brown and other earth tones. You get the picture.

5. Stick to three fonts. More than that can make your infographic look amateur and sloppy. Nobody wants that.

6. Make the most important information the focal point. Remember that awesome list of facts you made in step three? Pick out the key points, and make them stand out on the page. Create a hierarchy by using big fonts and bold colors for the crucial information and smaller fonts for the less-important stuff.

7. Use a mix of images, graphs and scales. Your audience will get bored if you have a bunch of words with no visuals. Grab your audience’s attention with an unexpected image or a compelling graph.

8. Make it flow. Guide the viewer through your infographic with lines or arrows. Infographics contain a lot of information- don’t let the viewer get confused or annoyed because he/she doesn’t know what to look for.

9. Cite your sources. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but let your audience know where you got your information from. It’s common courtesy.

10. Share your infographic. Congrats! You finished your very first infographic. Now show the world how artistic and smart you are by sharing it with your friends. Post it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your blog or anywhere else your heart desires.

 Alas, The Curvy Truth (#10) Infographic

The K-Cup Craze

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coffee-66850_640We’ve all see them. Those little coffee pods otherwise known as K-cups. In hotel rooms, in the break room at work, at your friends cute apartment, you just can’t get away from those single-serve coffee pods, can you?

According to seattletimes.com, “sales of coffee made in single-serve brewing systems account for more than a quarter of every dollar Americans spend on coffee to drink at home.”

What spurred the Keurig revolution? Well, convenience. It’s no surprise that this trendy kitchen gadget caught on so fast. We are constantly looking for  new ways to make our days more efficient and productive, so what better way to start out a busy day than with a steaming cup of coffee that was made in under a minute?

As an avid coffee drinker, this sounds like a dream. I would love to crawl out of bed, drop a capsule of french roast into the Keurig and  have a cup of goodness 30 seconds later. So why don’t I invest in one of these bad boys? There simply is not enough room in this college-girl’s budget for a coffee maker right now, especially since my Mr.Coffee works just fine. Also, I’m not the only one who drinks coffee in my house, so it makes sense to brew a big pot every morning to share. For me, that’s just as convenient. However, Keurigs make perfect sense for anyone who just wants to brew one cup per day, or for someone trying to ween themselves off a daily three-dollar Starbucks run. By all means, it’s better to spend 65 cents per day on a K-cup than it is to spend three to four dollars on your beloved Starbucks.

What are the environmental impacts of the K-cup? As you may have guessed, the coffee pods are darn near impossible to recycle. I’m not an environmental activist by any means, but I like to be somewhat aware of my carbon footprint, and K-cups are just one more thing that humans have created to throw into a landfill. Okay, rant over. I would be lying if I said that I will never buy a Keurig. It is quite possible that I’ll buy one within the next year  (because I’ll be moving out, and, most likely living alone.)

Even Starbucks has jumped on board. Claiming about 15 percent of the K-cup market, Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead said the segment “will be an important driver of our long-term growth.”

What’s next for the K-cup? Even brands like Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola are taking advantage of the single-serve brewing rage. That’s right, you will soon be able to have your favorite soup or sugary soda freshly pressed in under a minute. It seems like there is nothing this spendy machine can’t do!

Do you think the Keurig will become the next kitchen staple? Or is this just another gadget that will go out of style? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

10 Tips On How To Be An Irreplaceable Intern

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If you’re an aspiring PR professional, you have probably heard your professor say “If you want to land a job right out of college, you should have at least two internships on your resume.” Talk about pressure! As students, we have enough on our plates, and now we have to worry about an internship too? Well, the answer is yes, but I promise it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. Being an intern can even be, dare I say it, fun! Getting that first internship can be tough, but once your foot is in the door it will feel like you have the world at your fingertips.

Given that competition is stiff and employers want the best-of-the-best, it makes perfect sense that the top PR agencies want their candidates to have tangible experience. While a college education is a must, internships give you the opportunity to apply the skills you learned in the classroom to the real world. The question is, once you land that internship, how do you make the most of it? Here are ten bits of advice that will help you nail your first internship:

1. Be enthusiastic. Have a great attitude and be pro-active. Finished an assignment early? Go ask your boss for the next assignment.

2. Dress for success. During your interview, make an effort to get a sense of the company’s culture and the dress code. Look around the office and take note on what other people are wearing and how they interact. Is it a smaller, laid back company where business-casual is almost too “dressy?” Or is it a Fortune 500 where suits and ties are a must? If you still aren’t sure of how to dress, go by the mantra: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

3. Learn to say yes. Don’t turn down the opportunity to work on a fabulous project just because you don’t know how to do it. This internship is supposed to be a learning experience, right? Say yes without hesitation and learn as you go! And don’t forget, it’s okay to make mistakes.

4. Work hard.This should be a no brainer. Whether you are writing something as simple as a Facebook post or as detailed as a shareholder letter, give your best effort and your boss will take notice.

5. Stay on task. There are going to be days where you have so much on your mind that you want to explode, but it’s crucial that you give your full attention to the task at hand. You are on the company’s time, not your own; stay off personal social media accounts and stop texting your friends, it can wait a few hours.

6. Get to know people in other departments. Just because you are interning for the communications department doesn’t mean you are locked in to the field for life. Talk to people from marketing, sales, finance or anyone else that strikes your fancy! You are testing out the company just like the company is testing you out, so don’t be afraid to put your networking skills to use.

7. Take notes when given instructions. Not only will this show your boss that you have an attention for detail, but it will prevent you from forgetting any main points when executing the project.

8. Be open to criticism. Again, the point of an internship is to learn! Ask your boss for feedback and take the advice to heart. Know that your boss is there to help, so don’t feel threatened or offended when they offer constructive criticism.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re struggling with a project or the instructions don’t make sense, ask for help! It is better to ask questions at the beginning of a project than to spend hours doing the wrong thing.

10. Send a thank-you note. Once your internship is over, send your boss a hand-written thank-you letter. Your boss spent a lot of time  showing you the ropes, so let them know how much you appreciated the opportunity. You will probably get an awesome letter of recommendation out of it, too!

My last piece of advice is to relax and have fun! Be proud of yourself for making it this far in your young career and keep up the good work.

CVS Announces Tobacco Ban. What’s Next?

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If you haven’t heard, CVS/Pharmacy will be the first national pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, come October 1. Being the largest pharmacy chain in America, this is a bold move by CVS. According to cnn.com, CVS estimates it will take a $2 billion annual loss, $1.5 being directly from tobacco sales and the rest from products that tobacco shoppers buy while in store. Why is CVS taking this money-making killer off the shelves? Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

While I commend CVS for being mindful of public health, I can’t help but wonder how its loyal customers will react. Will they respect the ban or will they boycott CVS forever? As you can imagine, this is getting A TON of attention from the media. Many people support the tobacco ban while others stick to the argument that “it’s a free country and I have the right to harm my own body.” Despite your feelings toward the decision, it raises the question: “First Tobacco, then what?”

Derrick Jackson from the Boston Globe says if CVS is going to stop selling cigarettes due to tobacco’s link to cancer, it should stop selling soda or other sugary products that contribute to obesity. Yes, sugar is linked to a plethora of scary health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, but does that mean CVS should get rid of its entire snack isle? It’s hard to say.

Jackson says “Besides soda behind the counter, candy, chips, and other trash food should be removed from the front of the store to prevent impulse buys. Products with added sugars surpassing 10 percent of calorie intake should have big warning signs that they can contribute to heart disease.”

Jackson’s proposal sounds good in theory, but I can’t help but picture a store where EVERYTHING is behind the counter, and you have to ask the store clerk to get your Snickers bar out from lock and key. Can you imagine how annoying that would be? When it comes to food, I’m a firm believer in moderation, and if I want to indulge once in a while I shouldn’t have to ask for the store clerk’s permission.

I see both sides of the argument, and I think CVS is entering  dangerous territory. It will be interesting to see if they fall down the slippery slope and put soda and other sugary products behind the counter, or if they will stop after the tobacco ban.

Do you think banning cigarettes is enough? Should CVS take it a step further and keep high-sugar items out of reach for kids? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!