Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Can We Have It All?”


One of my research interests, certainly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, is this idea of female leadership in the workplace.  What identity do female leaders construct and share with others?  What “self” are they creating and presenting to the world?

Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s “Can We Have It All?” tackles an important question about women in the workplace.  She argues that no, we women can’t have it all.  Watch her moving TED Talk below:


Slaughter opens with a powerful story that just punches me right in the gut.  As a woman without children who is dedicated to her career, I can’t fathom the decision she made.  And that’s what her entire presentation is about.

Slaughter talks about the measure of a woman’s success – being at the “top” of her career.  I agree that this is one major way I measure my own success as a woman.  She says we have to rethink this so that “success,” and she presents her big idea at about the 4:00 mark.  Then, she moves into why we should adapt a new solution and how we can do it as humanists – not as feminists.

Learn more about Slaughter’s perspective in “Elite Women Put a New Spin on an Old Debate” by the New York Times and NPR’s “The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work.”

Did you watch any great TED Talks over the weekend?

Leading Effective Meetings


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?

What It Takes To Be A Great Leader


This week, I am preparing to transition into a new leadership role: Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando.  On Friday and Saturday, the Board of Directors has our weekend retreat where we will meet to discuss and plan to upcoming year.  After our retreat, we will get right into appointing the other leaders of the League among other important tasks.  As I step up into this new position and consider appointing others to the M&C Council, I wonder about leadership.  Why do some people work to develop leadership qualities while others do not?  How can we all continue to push ourselves to be better, stronger leaders?

Roselinde Torres delivered a TED Talk called “What It Takes To Be A Great Leader.”  Watch it here:


Torres discusses what leadership means today, in 2014, and it is quite different from your grandmother’s definition of a leader.  She says leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced in 3 questions: 1) Where are you looking to anticipate change?  She says the answer to this question is on your calendar (Source).  Torres believes have to think about who we’re spending our time with, what we’re spending our time doing, what we’re reading, what we’re thinking about (Source).  The next question is: What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?  Torres says this question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.  Listen to her speech at the 7:00 mark for a really eye-opening answer to question 2.  The third and final question is this: Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?  She argues we should be able to abandon practices that have worked for us in the past.  It’s true that if we always do what is familiar and comfortable, we will never grow.  I believe it is also true that we should abandon past failures.  This final question resonated with me in thinking about it that way.  I think great leaders have a growth mindset and are able to see past failures as stepping stones toward future success.  I also agree with Torres that taking risks to solve problems is essential to leadership.

Maybe we aren’t there yet.  Maybe we’re good at one of those items on Torres’ 21st century leader list, but we have to work on the other two.  Will Yakowicz offers a solution in “How To Be A Better Leader By Rewiring Your Brain.”  Yakowicz says we have to manage our amygdala (our lizard brain).  This will help us take chances and expand our network – two things our lizard brain often holds us back from accomplishing.  Yakowicz’s second solution is to write down things we are grateful for.  He believes “[e]very employee wants a grateful leader. But since the human brain suffers from what psychologists call ‘the negativity bias,’ where we are more attuned to threat than opportunity, you may have to work at firing up your feelings of gratitude” (Source).  This practice will definitely help us with risk taking.  His final solution focuses on all three of Torres’ questions and that solution is to give back. Finding time each day to give to other people helps with the calendar issue, with the network issue, and with the risk-taking issue.  In addition to answering Torres’ three leadership questions, giving back also improves your outlook and optimism, two more great qualities of a leader.

I am fascinated by the concept of leadership, so I constantly read articles in the leadership sections of Forbes and INC.  How do you read, study, and practice leadership?  What do YOU think it takes to be a great leader?

Exciting Leadership News!


As many of you know, I’ve been a member of the Junior League of Greater Orlando since January 2010.  Back in November, I accepted the nomination of Vice President of Marketing and Communications, and our JLGO slate was finally announced today!  It is very, VERY difficult to keep a secret for three months, so I am glad the word is out…


Our membership will vote on the slate at the end of February, and I am crossing my fingers that I will be elected as our 2014/2015 VP of M&C.  I will keep you posted.

Thanks for letting me share some excitement from my personal life with you!  Happy Monday!

Leaning In with Sheryl Sandberg


When I first saw it featured on the front page of, I thought, “A TED Interview?! Awesome!”  When I actually started watching the Sheryl Sandberg interview by journalist Pat Mitchell, I was on the edge of my seat.  Mitchell asks some great questions, and seeing and learning more about Sandberg really resonated with me.  I loved Sandberg’s humor, her storytelling, and her advice for women.  Watch it below:


Sandberg discusses the lack of women raising their hands in school, the negative words placed on assertive young female children, and the expectations that come with being a woman.  This “lean in” movement is the experience of finding one’s voice as a woman in this world, asserting one’s self, and standing up in leadership positions confidently.

At the 8:30ish mark, Sandberg explains that if a little girl leads, she is called “bossy.”  When those little girls grow up into strong women, they are very often told they are too aggressive at work.  I can tell you this, I’ve been called bossy almost every single day of my entire life from childhood to adulthood, so I know firsthand how prevalent this is in our society.  Sandberg, though, gives us some great advice to combat this.  She says, “Don’t call a little girl bossy.  Tell her she has executive leadership skills” (Source).  Sandberg’s advice is so right on.  She is such a moving speaker, and her message is so important.

Sandberg wants us to create a dialogue about a woman finding a life on her own terms.  Let’s have a conversation!

Visual Teaching Philosophy


During my holiday break, I was tasked with creating a digital Teaching Portfolio.  Today, I finished my Visual Teaching Philosophy.  This Slideshare presentation explains what kind of leader and teacher I am, what I expect from my students, and what my students should expect from me.  Scroll through below:


My digital teaching portfolio is almost ready to make its official debut!  Check back to Creating Communication next week for the link.

Teachers: do you have a digital teaching portfolio?  What pieces did you include?

Presentation Anxiety: Getting Over A Difficult Speaking Situation


When we begin Public Speaking, I teach my students that two things stand in the way of a successful speech: 1) laziness and 2) fear.  Public speaking anxiety impacts each of us, and I love what Jack Canfield says about getting over a difficult situation to ensure fear doesn’t get the better of us…


Canfield says that when something goes wrong in a person’s life, the brain wants to lock that situation in forever – if possible – to ensure that mistake isn’t made again.  Call it the lizard brain.  Call it survival instinct.  This is positive when we’re thinking about human evolution and survival.

When it comes to public speaking, however, one negative experience can make speaking to an audience feel impossible.  How do we get over that difficult situation locked in our brain?

Canfield suggests we train our minds to remember our simple successes.  Putting a focus on positive speaking situations helps us balance the negative ones and will keep our lizard brain in check.  I love Canfield’s idea of a public speaking “victory log” to help us in this area.

Would you keep a “victory log” of your presentation successes to help you conquer your public speaking fear?

Links of the Week: 2013.20


This week has been a whirlwind!  Fortunately, I can always find a few moments of down time during even the busiest of weeks to read the latest public speaking and presentation articles and blog posts.  Duarte’s Katie Gray wrote a fascinating article called “Do Learning Styles Teach Us Anything?” and included a beautiful infographic as well as some insight into how learning styles relate to presenting.  As a college instructor, my life changed as soon as I realized the connection between teaching and public speaking/presenting.  Gray says, “You can use learning style research to get ideas about how to present your information in different ways, depending on your audience. They may not be limited to one style, but you can take a logical guess about which style will work best” (Source).  Certainly, I teach Public Speaking to Film, Recording Arts, and Show Production students quite differently than I teach Professional Communication and Presentation to Entertainment Business and Music Business students.

Gray adds, “Knowing your audience makes being a presenter—or a teacher of any kind—more interesting. If you had to give the same presentation or the same lecture repeatedly, without altering it for the audience, your job would be pretty boring. So relish in the task of knowing your audience and using your presentation to treat them like a hero—by making a deeply personal connection, not just a bullet list of main points” (Source).  This is fascinating to me because most teachers at my university DO give the same lecture repeatedly without altering it, and my students asked me about that very thing in class today.  They said, “Our other teachers say they give the same exact lecture the same way month after month after month.  Do you do that, too, Mrs. Rister?”  Well, as Gray points out in her article, if this is your approach to teaching and presenting, you’re not growing; you’re not focused on your audience; and you’re not having any fun… you can bet your audience isn’t having any fun either!


So can we do anything to change that?  Ethos3 offers a solution in “If You Don’t Know Where You Are, You Can’t Get Where You’re Going.”  This article proposes that we work on developing ourselves a little bit at a time, a little bit more each day, so that we’re flexing our creativity and intelligence.

The instructors I referred to above CAN push themselves to add new information every time they teach a lesson.  They could take student critique seriously and ask students genuine questions to help the course and the instructional team grow.  They could ask for advice from other colleagues or industry professionals.  They could focus not just on mastering their subject or content area but also on presenting that content in a learning-centered, student-focused, audience-driven way.

Ethos3′s article suggests, “Only those who are satisfied with their current level of success, influence and ability are content to believe the myth that they’ve reached the apex of their abilities. The best among us simultaneously acknowledge their strengths while striving to push to the next level. The only way to do that is to constantly measure and assess performance and progress” (Source).  If instructors used this advice, they could grow their lessons each month.  “Maximum effectiveness” would never be reached, and instructors would never be satisfied because they would focus on learning, growing, changing, and doing more.  If we had colleges and schools filled with people like this, imagine the impact we could have on students’ lives.  The thought challenges and inspires me!

What great articles on teaching and learning did you read this week?

Online Teaching Portfolio


During the final months of 2013, I am putting a focus on developing my online teaching portfolio.  Here’s a sneak peek at the website-in-progress:


My goal is to include my CV, teaching philosophy, and samples of lessons and curriculum I’ve developed.

Have you see any great online teaching portfolios?  Is there a great model you’ve seen I should follow?

Outstanding Educator of the Year


Last night, my school hosted its annual “Props” awards ceremony in a three-part event to honor outstanding teachers and staff.  With bright lights, flashy video, and delicious food and wine, Props 2013 was a successful tribute to those instructors and support staff who go above and beyond every single day at work.

Since a variety of schools/colleges exist under the umbrella of Full Sail University, last night honored teachers from the Liberal Arts school (English, Math, Psychology, ESL, Digital Literacy, Creative Writing); the Audio Arts school (Recording Arts, Music Production, Show Production); and the Visual Arts school (Film, Digital Cinematography).  Each school recognized teachers in areas such as Academic Innovation, Community Involvement, and Leadership.  Then, an “Excellence Award” was distributed to the one member of the entire school who went above and beyond.  Lastly, an “Outstanding Educator Award” was distributed to one teacher in that school.

Six members of the English Department were honored with Props awards, and I was one of them.  Congratulations to Josh Begley, Nicole Chapman, Rachelle Fox, Becky Lane, and Chiara Ojeda!

When it came time for the “Excellence Award” honoring a standout member of the Liberal Arts school as a whole, I was super excited to near Nicole Chapman’s name.  She has been the head of the Writing Center for years and has done amazing things for the school in her position.  Then it came time for the “Outstanding Educator” of the year.  When I heard them reading a description of the things that I do and then calling my name, I can honestly say I’ve never felt so honored.


You can see the entire Liberal Studies school Props award winners onstage here.

We have so many outstanding, creative, dedicated instructors in the Liberal Studies school under Dr. Kim Murray, so to be recognized as the Outstanding Educator of the Year is a humbling experience.  I think about the deserving Psychology of Play teachers in the Psychology Department under Joanna Leck who have worked to create one of the most dynamic, fun classes I’ve ever heard of in my entire life.  Digital Literacy under Matt Gilhooly has flourished with skyrocketing student attendance in GoTo Training sessions and creative curriculum to increase retention and success.  The teachers in our own English Department under Dr. Danita Berg have come up with this amazing multi-modal English Composition course that has changed the way students view writing.  To even be in the same category as these inspiring folks makes me one happy teacher this morning.

Alex Rister (OE)

Here is a transcript of the speech Dr. Kim Murray delivered before awarding me with the Outstanding Educator of the Year:

Alex Rister was recognized for being an Outstanding Educator, given to the faculty member who best demonstrates effective and innovative educational strategies, devotion to students, and leadership within their department and community. Alex currently teaches two courses. In addition to being dependable, courteous, and collaborative, she anticipates the needs of her students and peers—not only in their academic courses, but across the department and throughout the degree programs that include her courses. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in communications, simply to diversify her skills and better assist the department. We routinely see her on campus on the weekends, even when she is not teaching, preparing course materials or mentoring her students one-on-one. She is a positive and shining force of nature who maintains excellent personal and professional rapport with her students, long after they finish Professional Communication and Presentation or Public Speaking. In addition to presenting multiple CE sessions, she serves on several committees within Full Sail. In the larger community, she serves with Chi Omega and Junior League.”

Have you ever been surprised to win a big award?