Communication Research Projects

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For the past few weeks, as opposed to writing posts for my blog, I’ve been focusing exclusively on my academic writing in the field of communication.  In my Communication and Conflict course, as I mentioned earlier this month, I began a research project proposal.  I am planning on turning this proposal into my thesis.  My focus is female leadership and the identity conflict that often arises between “female” and “leader.”  While I am still nailing down my theoretical lens and methods, I confirmed my thesis chair and an additional committee member.  In August, I am excited to invite my third committee member on board and to present my finalized research project proposal to the entire team.  Once my proposal has been approved, I can begin my work.

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Additionally, I am thrilled to report that I began collaborating with a classmate on a food-related research project based on the “cooking as inquiry” method.  We asked a professor to co-author this qualitative study with us.

I am waiting to hear back from NCTE’s 4Cs and the Florida Communication Association to see if my conference proposals have been accepted for presentation.  I will keep you posted!

Last, but not least, I have a conference call scheduled early next week with a PhD student at my top choice school.  After scouring the program’s website and reading up on the faculty and their publications, I am excited about the possibility of attending this specific doctoral program.  I plan to apply in late 2015 with a fingers-crossed start date of August 2016.

What kind of researching, reading, and writing have you been doing lately?

Clearly Influential Podcast Series

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This week, I scheduled an interview to speak with Sandy Donovan at Clearly Influential for her podcast series.  I am really excited to speak with Sandy since she is a communication scholar and since she has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in my field of study.

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Sandy and I will be talking about my research interests, about communication in general, and practical application of communication best practices.  This will be a great interview if you are interested in learning more about the research side of the communication field in addition to practical application of that research.

If you haven’t checked out Clearly Influential, you can visit Sandy’s website here.

Have you been listening to any great podcasts this week?  What podcasts do you regularly tune in for?

Conference on College Composition and Communication

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Yesterday, Chiara Ojeda and I submitted our presentation proposal for the Conference on College Composition and Communication which will be held in March 2015 in Tampa.  Learn more about the conference here.  Learn more about the National Council of Teachers of English here.

Our proposal combined all of the work we’ve been doing for our Professional Communication and Presentation class in the past few years with the hopes of sharing these best practices with other teachers in our field.  Check out our proposed session below.

Redefining Paradigms of Professionalism:

Personal Branding, Online Identities, and the New World of Work

Traditional college courses in professional communication focus on teaching students best practices for creating documents such as emails, memos, and reports as well as resumes and cover letters.  However, many of these materials relate to an outdated model of work.  In our new world of work defined by innovative and conceptual thinking, we must focus on teaching students skills they can utilize to thrive in an evolving, fast-paced, demanding professional environment.  Developing a professional identity and using communication and presentation tools to communicate that online identity with others is essential.  While branding has historically been linked to a business product or service, thought-leaders Nancy Duarte, Seth Godin, and Pamela Slim among others emphasize the importance of a personal brand that clearly defines how one’s experiences communicate his or her professional mission.  Students must develop a coherent body of work showing who they are as professionals, targeting a specific audience, linking all of their past experiences together, and providing supporting examples.

In “From Cattle and Coke to Charlie: Meeting the Challenge of Self Marketing and Personal Branding,” Ifan D. H. Shepherd explains that despite its popularity in business, entertainment, and politics, personal branding has not yet made its way into college curriculum or class textbooks largely because little academic research has been conducted in this area.  Personal branding recently made an appearance in the Journal of Internet Commerce.  Chih-Ping Chen’s qualitative study “Exploring Personal Branding on YouTube” links social media and personal branding.  Chen’s results indicated the growing importance of individual brands due to the increased permanency and variety of digital and social media environments.

Creating a recognizable and sharable personal brand revolving around a comprehensive body of work requires sacrifice and risk. Professionals must share their triumphs, failures, and areas of weakness/growth with the world–this level of vulnerability is intimidating. As budding professionals, students must also relinquish their old views of work, particularly the view that work is a stable, linear process. Teachers too face risk when implementing these practices. Educators must let go of traditional modes of teaching professional communication in order to find solutions that better prepare students for the new world of work. However, the reward is great: increased job, professional, and networking opportunities for students; strengthened learning outcomes, course structures, and learning-centered assessment for educators.

In this session, specific topics will include the process for creating a body of work (what to share, how to share it); self-analysis and critical thinking (identifying a target audience, creating a brand mantra, developing a through-line story to tie experiences together, defining your competitive advantage, and determining what evidence supports the overall body of work); as well as the presentation of the body of work (through the visual resume and articulating that vision in person or online via social media).

 

Works Cited

Chen, Chih-Ping.  “Exploring Personal Branding on YouTube.”  Journal of Internet Commerce.  12.4 (2013): 332-347.  Print.

Duarte, Nancy. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010. Print.

Godin, Seth. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?. New York: Portfolio, 2010. Print.

Shepherd, Ifan D. H. “From Cattle to Coke to Charlie: Meeting the Challenge of Self Marketing and Personal Branding.”  Journal of Marketing Management.  21.5/6 (2005): 589-606.

Slim, Pamela. Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2013. Print.

Slim, Pamela. Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2009. Print.

What do you think?  Would you attend a conference presentation based on our proposal?  If we are accepted, what should we be sure to?  What would you like to learn by attending a session like this? 

Three Slideshare Presentations For The Communications Expert

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Sometimes, Slideshare is jam-packed with beautiful slide decks featuring not only good information but also good design.  Today, I’d like to share three top-notch Slideshare decks with you.

The first comes from Carmine Gallo.  “Talk Like TED: 3 Unbreakable Laws of Communication” is such a powerful resource for communicators and presenters.  The Slideshare presentation serves as promotional material for Gallo’s latest book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.  I love that TED has been become such an important part of pop culture and that the organization has been featured in so many new business and communication books.  We can learn so much from TED presenters, which is exactly what Gallo covers in his book and Slideshare deck.  Check it out below:

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The second is a visual presentation by Illiya Vjestica, The Presentation Designer, and is called “How To Become A Better Speaker.”  I love this deck because of its simple design and important advice.  Vjestica tells us there is not a quick fix or a detour to becoming a strong presenter.  Being a powerful speaker takes practice and dedication to the craft.  “How To Become A Better Speaker” lays out simple advice on how to begin putting in the time and effort it takes to delivering better speeches.  Click through the deck here:

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The third and final deck was created by the folks at Placester.  Called “The 12 Tenets of Content Creation,” this presentation is for business, marketing, and communication specialists who want to learn how to develop and distribute powerful content to share with others.  Advice includes learning how to listen, making a list, addressing questions, researching, focusing on titles, and other expert advice.  As the incoming Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando, I will definitely be taking this advice to heart as we develop our content creation and distribution plan for the 2014-2015 League year.

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What great Slideshare presentations have you seen lately?

Presentation Best Practices for Students… And You!

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Tomorrow, Chiara Ojeda and I will deliver a guest lecture for Sports Marketing and Media students’ final project presentations.  My superteacher partner-in-crime and I came up with a short lesson to refresh the memories of our students before those speeches.  Below, you’ll find a copy of the handout we’ll share with those students in the morning:

Presentation Best Practices

Outlining Your Presentation

  •       Begin with a hook.
  •       You’ve worked really hard on WHAT you are presenting.  It is now essential to convey WHY to your audience.  Start with why.  Why does this matter?  Why should your audience care?  Come back to your core meaning – your “WHY” – throughout your entire presentation.
  •      Tell us the meaning behind your data.  Numbers are meaningless unless you put them in perspective for your audience.
  •  Incorporate storytelling into your presentation in some way.
  • End with a clincher.
  • After you thank your audience, open the floor for questions.  Remember that it’s okay to answer a question with “I don’t know!”

Slideshow

  •       Slides are a visual medium.  They are designed to support your message through visuals.  Do not write your speaking notes on your slides.  Those belong on your notecards.  Instead, use one large, clear image on each slide.
  •       Ensure each and every image is cited and licensed for commercial use.
  •       Add a little bit of relevant text on top of each image.
  •       Use one consistent font on every single slide.
  •       Use one consistent color scheme on every single slide.

Delivery

  •       Rehearse so many times that you are comfortable with your material.  How do you know you’ve reached the “comfortable” point?  Consider this: if the projector crashed and you had to present without slides, would you be okay?  If your notes fell out of your hands, would you be able to keep moving?  If the answer to both questions is “yes,” you’ve done your job!
  •       Do not read your speech.

Rehearsing

  •       Ensure you and/or your entire team has met multiple times to rehearse
  •       Rehearse formally!  Use notecards and time yourselves presenting along with your slideshow.

On Presentation Day…

  •       Arrive early.
  •       Look professional.
  •       Prepare your materials and test out your slideshow well before class begins.
  •       Stick to the time limit.
  •       Stay in place after you are finished for Q&A with your panel.

These tips will be helpful for the Sports Marketing and Media students, but they are also a great refresher for anyone giving a presentation.  What tips would you add to this short list?

Building Your Brand Mantra

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This week, my students are working on their Visual Resumes.  One key piece of this visual resume is an identifying statement that helps them differentiate themselves from their competition.  A helpful way to do this is to create a brand mantra.

Chiara Ojeda introduced me to “The First Step To Building A Personal Brand” by Megan Marrs a few years ago.  Marrs says that to create a brand mantra, a person should determine their emotional appeal; determine a description; and determine a function before putting it all together (Source).  For example, Forbes wrote a piece on a legendary fashion icon and designer called “Coco Chanel: Personal Branding Legend.”  Author Simon Graj lists four traits that defined Chanel’s brand.  Read them here.

My students struggle with this idea of a brand mantra because they’re students – not yet professionals – and don’t have all of those answers to the big picture questions at this stage.  So today, I began looking for other articles to help them define their brand mantra.

First, I found an article in The New Yorker called “The Person versus Personal Branding: You Are What You Tweet.”  This insightful piece explains that we can learn personal branding tips from Facebook by “managing your presentation—your behavior, appearance, reputation, online persona—to stand out in your professional and personal lives” (Source).  Now this can be difficult for college students with Twitter streams ranting about an ex-boyfriend or Facebook pictures from last weekend’s kegger.  What I liked about the article was that The New Yorker gives us ways we can strive for WOW-ness.  Our social media, our online presence, everything we do should seek to WOW others – in a strong, professional, positive way.  To get that WOW-ness, the article teaches us, we can consider what we wear, how we shake hands, how your home looks, what charities we give back to, and others (Source).  Though it may sound superficial, the point is “you must collapse your personal and professional life into static, pixel-perfect unity [...] Your entire personal life now factors into your employability. Your livelihood increasingly depends on being likeable and well-documented, and just like a branded product, your basic worth is assessed by the WOW-ness of its image” (Source).  What you post on Facebook, on Twitter, online anywhere is a forever-captured single snapshot in the big movie of who you are… and if your professional persona doesn’t align with your social media persona, your personal brand is in trouble.  I tell my students this, and they say “I know,” yet they don’t live by this advice as evidenced by their social media pages and profiles.

More practically, I found “Personal Branding For Dummies,” which proved perfect for sharing with my class this week.  This piece contained the building blocks for communicating a personal brand; how to create a promise of value; and how to reach your target market along with tips on how to spread brand awareness of your newly-created mantra online.

What great resources would you share with someone trying to create his or her brand mantra?

Leading Effective Meetings

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Presentations and meetings are similar in that both mediums are broken.  The average presentation is boring, worthless, and a waste of time, and so are most meetings I attend.  Before I starting studying effective presenting in 2010, I accepted death-by-PowerPoint as the standard for presentations.  Fortunately, I had a wake up call after being introduced to Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  From Duarte and Reynolds, I branched out and began reading books by other people such as Sunni Brown and David Sibbet as well as articles on Forbes and INC, and I had an “ah ha” moment about meetings, too.

Jeff Haden sums up my thoughts perfectly.  Haden says, “Information should be shared before the meeting. If I need to make a decision during a meeting, shouldn’t I have the information I need to make that decision ahead of time? Send documents, reports, etc. to participants in advance. Using meetings as a way to share information is unproductive, a waste of time and, well, lazy” (Source).  So many meetings devolve into a time to share what we’ve been doing, and during these get-togethers, I can barely keep my eyes open.

I thought long and hard about the meetings I attended on a weekly and monthly basis.  Meetings were a constant part of my life – even more so than presentations – since about 2002.  I’d attended countless meetings for work and for volunteer organizations, and I realized that most of those meetings were disappointing because they were only about information sharing.  And as I transition into a leadership role myself as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications, I realize I don’t want people to dread my meetings.  How can I use the meeting medium more effectively?

First, I ordered Bryan Mattimore’s Idea Stormers: How To Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs.  The book should arrive this week, and I am excited to read and then review it.

Second, I began researching meetings (again) to collect some ideas on leading effective meetings from experts.  One of the resources I found is GoGamestorm, a website that corresponds with Sunni Brown’s Gamestorming book.  I began combing through the site to see what kinds of meetings I wanted to hold.

In Fast Company’s “11 Simple Tips for Having Great Meetings,” some of my favorite leaders give advice on how to lead a meeting.  Richard Branson says we should keep it novel, and Guy Kawasaki believes we should pretend like we’ve failed.

Third, I considered the purpose of meetings.  Simon Sinek teaches us to start with why.  So why do I attend meetings?  In a world of email, texting, and instant messaging, I can quickly find out information.  I don’t go to a meeting for information.  I go to a meeting to feel inspired, to collaborate with people, to share ideas, and to move people or to be moved myself.  When I compare the purpose of meetings, the “why” is so similar to why we hold and attend presentations.  I cannot WAIT to study meetings for the next few months and hold my first official (and hopefully successful) council meeting this summer.  I will let you know my first meeting agenda once I read Mattimore’s book and GoGamestorm.

How do you lead effective meetings within your work or volunteer organization?  What have other people done to lead a meeting that you considered effective?

Careers and Side Hustles

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With all of the talk this week on Creating Communication about a body of work and a visual resume, you might be wondering if the career path you’re on is the best one for you.  That’s why today, I encourage you to take a short and well-designed quiz called “What Career Should You Actually Have?”

I’ll admit that I am one of the lucky ones.  I’ve known for seven years that teaching fulfills me on many levels.  As a teacher, I apply my two most important values: growth and volunteerism/service to others.  As a teacher, I encourage and grow potential in others by sharing what I’ve learned and studied.  It’s a wonderful job and a wonderful life.

When I took the quiz, I got this result:

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Pamela Slim talks about having a “side hustle” in her previous book and in her new book, Body of Work.  Slim says, “If you are still working in a corporate job, a side hustle is a great way to test and try new business ideas. It can also be part of your backup plan in case you lose your job” (Source).  If your current job doesn’t align with the job you SHOULD have, maybe it’s time to consider a side hustle!

For example, I do a whole lot of side hustle.  Balancing work and side hustle is essential because volunteerism is a core value for a successful, happy life.  Though teaching is my career, and I love and live for it, I have to do other things so that I continue to grow as a professional and as a human being.

Right now, my most important side hustle is researching, reading, and writing as a graduate student in the Nicholson School of Communication.  When I’m not at work or in school, I’m volunteering at my campus to help fellow faculty and students AND volunteering in my local community.  My most important role is that of incoming Vice President of Marketing and Communications for JLGO.

A side hustle fulfills a person when a job does not.  I’ve learned that a good balance of work and side hustle keeps me sane and focused on the bigger picture – where I want to be 5 and 10 years from now as opposed to where I’m going to be tomorrow.

Do your quiz results align with either your career or your side hustle?  Please share your results and your thoughts with me in the “Comments” section!

Defining My Communication Research Interests

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When I graduated from high school, I attended a community college in my hometown.  At the time, I loved reading and writing, so I decided to pursue my A.A. degree in Communication.  My coursework included many public speaking classes but also many literature classes, and my passion for dissecting novels and short stories grew.  In addition to this love of books and of thinking and writing critically about books, I developed a passion for leadership.  My small community college offered me many opportunities to grow my leadership potential.  I joined and actively participated as a Student Ambassador, a Senator in the Student Government Association, and with Phi Theta Kappa among other clubs and organizations.

When it came time to transfer to a university, I knew I wanted to attend the University of Florida.  I decided to seek a B.A. in English, and I took a wide variety of literature classes.  My favorite course was Irish Literature, where I read The Autobiography of Maud Gonne; Elizabeth Bowen; and, for the first time, a whole lot of James Joyce.  Irish Literature quickly became my favorite genre.  After graduation, I pursued a Master of Arts degree from the University of North Florida because of its many course offerings in Irish fiction, drama, and poetry.  Outside of the classroom, I read Southern authors like William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Connor, and Truman Capote.

RESEARCH

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After graduating with my M.A. in 2008, I took a few years off from attending school as I transitioned into a teacher role.  I taught classes at a community college and then at a university.  Four years later, I returned to higher education for a second M.A. in Communication from the University of Central Florida.  I’ve been taking one class at a time since 2012, which moves slowly but gives me ample time to read, study, and consider my path.

This semester, I am taking a communication theory course which comes at the perfect time in my academic career.  I am considering PhD programs as well as the kind of research I want to do in the future.  Now that I have almost completed 15 graduate COM hours, I can also begin thinking seriously about my thesis.  But there was and still is a problem… I haven’t quite figured out how my previous interests while pursuing my M.A. in English will intersect with my current M.A. in Communication.  Where would the research collide?  How could I mesh both worlds together?

Answering these questions started with an important first step.  In my discipline, scholars are either qualitative or quantitative researchers, and I knew after only a few semesters that I am 100% qualitative.  Since most of my professors were quantitative scholars, I knew I had to network to find people with similar interests to guide me.  My classmate suggested I talk to Dr. Sandoval, and as soon as I stepped into her office, I knew I’d found a mentor.  Her work, her thought process, and her focus inspired me.  After 45 minutes of talking with me, she sent me on my way with three books on critical theory that I haven’t been able to put down.  In addition to my favorite professor, Dr. Hastings, I’ve now connected with the people who will shape the researcher I plan to become.

Learning about all kinds of communication theory this semester has gotten me closer to identifying exactly what I want to research and study as I continue with my PhD.  I am interested in critical theory, social constructionism, feminism, dialogue, and identity.  I want to learn much more about ethnography.  I also want to keep looking for where those communication interests meet with my favorite literary works and authors.

I can’t wait to finally find my path and to forge ahead with new research that will invigorate me and maybe even inspire others!  Are there any other Communication graduate students out there struggling with identifying their research interests?  I’d love to hear from you!