More than any other concept it espouses, the United States of America is beholden to its belief in privacy and personal liberty. But consider this:
"Most people don’t know they give up their rights as American citizens when they go to work every day," says Lew Maltby, president of the Workrights Institute at 166 Wall Street. "The Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to private parties or private companies."
In the grand design, that’s a good thing. We should be able to expel or exclude someone from our homes, regardless of the reason, Maltby says. Private companies, regardless of their size or purpose, ought to be able to shed employees detrimental to the enterprise. But in spite of a litany of discrimination laws and countless lawsuits seeking retribution for some perceived injustice, the one salient fact employees of any company ought to know is that anyone can be fired for pretty much any reason at any time and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it.
Maltby will speak on workplace rights issues as part of Rider University’s "Global Shifts/Digital Lives: The Future of Labor and Work In America," on Wednesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at the Bart Luedeke Center. The free event also features the panel discussions, "Your Job Is Being Outsourced," led by Ali Mir of William Patterson University, and "The End of Autonomy: Digital Technologies in the New York City Taxi Industry," led by Biju Mathew of Rider. Lynn Rivas, also of Rider, chairs the event. For more information, call 609-896-5000.
The son of a homemaker and an electrical engineer, Maltby refers to himself as a Philadelphia boy, through and through. Born and raised in the suburb of Abbington and educated in and around the city, Maltby spent his entire college career at the University of Pennsylvania. His degree in history took him to Penn’s law school, where he emerged in 1973 with his J.D.
The first four years of his professional life were spent as a Philadelphia public defender. He then spent 12 years at Drexel Controls Inc., a manufacturer of controls for chemical and industrial companies. Eventually working in – and ultimately as – Drexelbrook’s human resources department, Maltby found there were ways to be a boss and still see the person behind the worker. This led him to the ACLU, for which he went to work in the late 1980s. His division, concentrating on worker rights, eventually became the Workrights Institute, operating independently from the ACLU. Call 609-683-0313 or visit www.workrights.org for more information.
In terms of worker rights, there are some protections. You cannot be discriminated against for things like your religion, your race, your gender, your country of origin, or your sexual orientation, among others. And these protections have helped level a playing field that, until 1964, looked the other way when companies denied jobs to blacks. Unfortunately, Maltby says, they serve to cloud a deeper truth that going to work essentially means leaving America’s cherished notions of freedom at the door.
First, says Maltby, the number of anti-discrimination laws that abound in this country, from the ones protecting women or gays to the ones protecting smokers who only puff at home, are not always consistent. What you could get away with in New York is not what you could get away with in Ohio.
Second, existing statutes are very specific in what they outlaw, and usually target aspects deemed inherent to being a person. None of us, after all, had any say in our ethnicity, our sex, or our skin color. Religion, though not an inherent state of being, also finds protection under the law, and that includes actions consistent with being part of a particular faith. As it is illegal to fire someone for being Catholic, Maltby says, it is illegal to fire someone for attending mass, since mass is an inherent part of Catholicism. But protections do not extend beyond what is intrinsic. Not all Catholics, for example, are pro-life, so while a Catholic is protected from being fired for receiving communion or going to confession, he could be fired for attending a pro-life rally, just because his boss doesn’t like it.
Third, the overall number of these laws gives people the illusion that they are protected against all forms of discrimination in the workplace, but that, Maltby says, is simply untrue. While you are protected for being gay, you could lose your job if the boss disapproves of the number of sexual partners you have had over the past year. You cannot lose your job for being white, but you can lose it for contributing to the KKK.
Maltby, who worked in the national office of the ACLU in New York before taking over the Workrights Institute, says he has told such facts to hundreds of people, nearly all of whom are so surprised that they simply refuse to believe him. Though he takes mild comfort in the fact that most employers are gun shy about anything that could possibly land them in court, he admits that it is practicality, not the law, that keeps most people working.
"You couldn’t fire all the Republicans or all the Democrats without decimating the business," he says. But could you be fired for being a Democrat? Ask Lynne Gobbell, who was fired from her job at Enviromate in Moulton, Alabama, for sporting a pro-John Kerry bumper sticker on her car. Or the Fulmers, a South Carolina couple whose espousal of liberal beliefs on their personal blog offended their boss and got them fired.
Maltby downplays the idea that politics is a common factor in the firing of anyone. Often, he says, employers do not concern themselves with whomever an employer supports at the polls. Still, it is one of the reasons you could be fired, whether anyone thinks it is fair. More commonly, people are fired for espousing and expressing inherently controversial ideals, such as communism or, in some circles, nudism. It comes down to the numbers.
"You could fire all the nudists and it would be just two people," Maltby says.
An interesting footnote is that employers do not have to be consistent in who they fire, nor for their reasons. You could be fired for your John McCain bumper sticker while your coworker keeps her job, despite the McCain posters, mugs, flags, and buttons on her corkboard.
What are the rules? For the most part, if you are fired, the boss is under little obligation to tell you why. And if he does, he can get away with saying almost nothing substantial.
"The trouble is, you never know what the rules are," Maltby says. "All a boss has to say is, `you were using your E-mail in an inappropriate manner.’ If there’s a vaguer word than `inappropriate’ in the English language, I don’t know what it is."
Indeed, "inappropriate" covers an immense spectrum and empowers employers to use pretty much anything against an employee. Inappropriate can mean anything as obvious as downloading hardcore pornography at work, Maltby says, to something as seemingly innocuous as sending your wife of 15 years a flirty E-mail from your your private account on your lunch hour.
"If your beliefs can make somebody angry it could get you fired," Maltby says.
Say what??? While Maltby emphasizes most employers’ basic sense of reason – or at least their awareness of the catastrophic effects of dismissing qualified, dedicated workers – he does admit that, on occasion, employees are let go for seemingly ridiculous reasons. Spanish-speaking workers have been fired for speaking Spanish in the office; Ross Hopkins of Colorado was fired from his job distributing Budweiser beer because he was seen drinking Coors in a bar. And to my own question, "What if I took a Russian language course for the fun of it?" Maltby answers that with a last name like Morgan, there is no recourse against a boss who, however ludicrous it might sound, hates the Russian language. "You might have a shot if you had a Russian last name, you could argue it was part of your heritage," he says. "But you’re out of luck, Scott."
And one other thing – it is perfectly within an employer’s rights to question you about your personal life, beliefs, or activities.
Privacy. An increasing number of employers are offering electronic perks to new hires – cell phones, laptops, handheld personal assistants. And it makes a certain sense, Maltby says. Why, after all, shell out for an expensive new computer when the company is giving you one that you can use for work or personal pleasure?
But these perks are company property, and as such, are an open book through which employers have to right to look any time they want. Maltby cites the story of one Harvard professor who, in handing over his university-issued computer for an upgrade, was nearly fired (and did lose his chair) when the IT department noticed he had used it to log onto a very legal (and comparatively tasteful) adult website.
While it might seem obvious that company property is governed by company standards, it is less understood, Maltby says, that companies can monitor anything you do that involves the company itself. Logging into the company server from home? The company can now monitor everything you do until you log out, despite the fact that you are on your own computer in your own home.
Privacy, Part II: Tracking.: As technology grows, companies can easily and cheaply exploit it to keep an eye on you every minute of the day. Company cars, cell phones, even laptops that you are allowed to use as if you own them yourselves can be equipped with GPS systems that tell your boss where you are all the time. Some bosses, Maltby says, make it a condition that you don’t shut the cell phone off for any reason. Your new perks can keep track of where you go, what you do, and what you say.
If it helps anyone breathe more easily, Maltby almost whimsically dismisses the idea that companies are hatching sinister plots designed to spy on you. No one, he says, is really devising Big Brother schemes. But human nature being what it is – which is nosy – Maltby says that if given the chance, people will look.
Privacy, Part III: Google: We all surf Google. So much so that the word "googling," lowercase letters and all, is now part of the Miriam-Webster dictionary. Increasingly, Maltby says, employers are googling prospective employees – another avenue in the employment process that, in and of itself, makes sense. Having been professionally involved with labor issues for so long, Maltby says he understands the need employers have to ensure they are hiring good, qualified people.
But googling is a growing concern for Maltby, who does not want to see employers sifting through webpage after webpage looking for weapons to use against employees. More bothersome for him is the fact that if employers do start sifting, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them – especially if someone has volunteered something about themselves.
"Employers read blogs all the time," Maltby says. "And googling is going to turn into standard operating procedure, if it’s not already."
The danger in blogs, he says, is that they offer an employee absolutely zero recourse. "You’d have a hard time convincing anyone that it’s an invasion of privacy when you put it out there yourself," Maltby says. The other danger in blogs is that since people typically do them in their off-hours, they feel as if their rights to freely vent about the boss or the job are protected. And in the America beyond the cubicle they are. But just about anything you write can get you fired.
What you can do. While on the surface employment sounds like a police state, Maltby says it is not. You do have at least some rights. You cannot, for example, be fired for doing something you have a specific legal right to do, such as filing a worker’s compensation claim or, at least in some states, whistleblowing. You also cannot be dismissed for refusing to do something illegal that your boss asks you to do. And if the company has agreed to certain conditions under which employees cannot be fired, those rules cannot be ignored.
A good idea, Maltby says, is to ask questions of employers or prospective employers. Ask what their privacy rules, or any other rules are and perhaps accommodations can be made.
Another good idea, he says, is to write your Congress and state Senate representatives. The reason the system exists as it does is not because employers routinely block progress, Maltby says, but because people do not know that they can simply write letters asking that certain conditions be amended. "You’d be surprised how few letters it takes to get a legislator’s attention," he says. He estimates 50 letters to a congressman and 12 to a state senator are enough to get them to notice. Once Workrights Institute has the ear of a legislator, he says, better protections can be drafted and, perhaps, put into place. Remember – unless something is specifically outlawed, it is almost always legal for an employer to fire you.
Genetics and the Law
New technologies are bringing a whole range of legal issues before judges and attorneys, who are often forced to make decisions by the seat of their pants, without legislative guidance or adequate scientific knowledge. Not only is law lagging behind technology, says Jennifer Rosato, professor of law at Drexel University, but the ethical implications of reproductive technology and the human genome project are raising issues about where decision-making authority should lie – with private parties, legislatures, and judges.
Although the role of law is to reflect the state’s values and give stability to an area, Rosato suggests we are not seeing a lot of legislation in the area of genetics because the ethical issues are difficult and legislators are taking a long time to hash out their implications.
Rosato will speak at a seminar on the "Legal Implications of the Human Genome Project" on Saturday, April 12, at 9 a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The seminar is offered by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education in cooperation with the National Association of Women Judges. A panel of experts will discuss issues such as behavioral genetics (the intersection of environment with genetic predisposition in determining or predicting behavior) and the use of such evidence in criminal, insurance, employment discrimination, privacy, and reproduction cases. Cost: $189. To register, go to www.njicle.com.
Rosato raises several legal-ethical issues that are making their way into the courts, involving both doctor-assisted reproduction and genetic information:
What are the implications of knowledge of the child’s genetic makeup at the pre-embryo stage? "Doctors don’t test every embryo for every possible problem," says Rosato. But perhaps doctors will be forced to adopt a new standard of care, with an obligation to test embryos even where the possibility of a specific mutation is remote. And, of course, even when mutations are found, some are not as predictive as others of exactly what conditions might show themselves once a child is born.
Rosato raises a related ethical issue. "Should we test embryos for disposition to late-onset diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s or colon cancer) and allow parents to choose whether to implant embryos with or without that disposition?"
Parental responsibilities. Who bears responsibility for child support when a child is born with the help of complicated reproductive technologies? And who gets rights for visitation and custody? Rosato cites two cases involving couples who divorced after a child was born with technological help: in the first the couple had used a sperm donor, an egg donor, and a gestational surrogate; the second involved a lesbian couple, where the biological mother donated the egg to her partner, who became the gestational mother.
When these couples broke up, says Rosato, many questions come before the courts: Who is the parent? What is a family? Who should provide child support? And what do you do if the parent who is not biologically related did not adopt the child? Can a woman claim not to be the mother of a child she has been raising and providing for? Or does the biological mother always have primacy? Lots of questions, not so many answers.
The situations, though not at all laughable, bring to mind the old television show, "To Tell the Truth," where the contestants hear allegedly true stories from three individuals claiming to be the same person. After the contestants vote (judges in our case), the emcee would then say, "Will the real mother please stand up."
What are appropriate uses of genetic information? Often the possession of this information can be a two-edged sword. Take the possibility of using genetic differences between races to create better, more targeted drugs and therapies. The same information, warns Rosato, has the potential to be used negatively, say to "explain" differences in intelligence or certain mental illnesses.
At a societal level, there is concern that women and persons of color might so mistrust how genetic information will be used that they will not take advantage of its potential benefits. But that mistrust might be well-placed. Take a case cited by Rosato in which an employer tested women of color for predisposition to sickle cell anemia and other conditions without their consent.
A different potential use of genetic information is by criminal attorneys who might try to defend a criminal by suggesting a genetic propensity toward violence, or might try to minimize punishment at the sentencing stage, claiming that incarceration will not deter the person from a future crime.
What are the limits of privacy if genetic information about one individual will affect the lives of others? Is a doctor obligated to make sure the family members of a patient with the breast cancer gene are informed of this potential genetic time bomb. After all, the implications healthwise could mean the difference between a relatively early and gruesome death or a life after a double mastectomy and ovary removal. But giving such information wider circulation also carries dangers: what if an employer learns of it and decides not to hire or promote the woman?
What about the mix-ups? What happens if a mistake is made at a fertility center, and the wrong donor sperm or egg is implanted, and the child ends up disabled? If the parents then sue, is the error malpractice? asks Rosato. Or what if the child is born healthy but doesn’t look like the parents because the wrong donor sperm was used – is that actionable as a case?
Rosato grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where her father was supervisor of a steel plant and her mother a bookkeeper at a daycare center.
Since she was a teenager Rosato has been interested in and involved with children. At Cornell University she worked with youth and neglected children and explored the effects of social and economic problems on children’s health, earning a bachelor of science specializing in social work and education in 1983. Rosato then spent a year in Ithaca as what she calls "a migratory ESL teacher."
It was thoughts about children that propelled her to take the next step in her education a year later: "These kids have a rough life because the laws don’t protect them well." So she went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
After graduation Rosato spent two years as clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. and then a year in private practice with Hangley Connolly Epstein Chicco Foxman & Ewing in Philadelphia.
Because her ultimate goal was to be a law professor, in 1990 she took a job as legal writing instructor at Villanova University School of Law. In 1992 she moved to Brooklyn Law School as a professor of law, and she came to Drexel University in 2006.
Rosato has been trying throughout her career as a law professor to bridge the gap between family law and bioethics. So the Human Genome Project sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges was right up her alley. "It is great for academics," she says. "We get to think about issues and are making an impact by helping judges understand science, law, and ethics and how they can be combined to solve the problems that are coming their way."
And it is particularly important for judges and lawyers to understand genetics and technology. "Families have health issues," says Rosato. "Genetic issues are now part of the health fabric and what we think about in terms of ethics. A brave new world is not coming – it is here." – Michele Alperin
Wednesday, April 16
Help for Ailing Tech Companies
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is accepting applications for its Technology Business Tax Transfer Certificate Program, allowing unprofitable New Jersey-based technology or biotechnology companies to raise cash by selling state net operating losses (NOLs) and research and development tax credits to unaffiliated New Jersey businesses for at least 75 percent of their value. The raised funds can be used for growth and operations, either as working capital, or to fund research.
A free workshop on the program is being offered on Wednesday, April 16, at 2 p.m. at the EDA’s headquarters at 36 West State Street in Trenton. Call 609-292-0276 for more information.
Applications for the program are due by Monday, June 30, and are available at www.njeda.com.
Thursday, April 17
Smart Women and Smart Money
Kimberlee Phelan, a partner in the tax department of accounting firm Withum, Smith & Brown, entered Wellesley College with the idea of being a teacher and majoring in computer science. But quickly, she says, "I discovered it was not where I wanted to be." Instead she was enamored with the approach to problem solving she encountered in her economics class: testing one thing at a time while holding everything else constant. So she decided to major in economics and international relations.
Her first job after graduating in 1987 was in investment banking on Wall Street with Prudential Basche, where she spent three years – "as a peon" – in the infancy of mortgage repackaging. This was in the wake of the collapse of the mutual savings and loan banks, and the banks figured out a creative way to get the capital they needed to make more loans. They decided to repackage mortgages and sell these collateralized loans to investors who would earn money from the interest payments.
Phelan’s job was to review individual loans to decide whether their ratios met the bank’s criteria for inclusion in the collateralized pool. "We only took a mortgage we thought would perform," she says. "If we had a question, we wouldn’t do it." In fact, they were looking only at the primest of prime loans.
Phelan will lead a roundtable discussion on "Smart Money Moves," at the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Leadership Summit on Thursday, April 17, at 8 a.m. at the Pines Manor Hotel in Edison. Cost: $125. To register, go to www.mcrcc.org.
A breakfast panel, "Finding Your Passion," includes Pamela Pruitt, vice president for business development at WIMG/Morris Broadcasting in Trenton; Katherine Kish, president of Market Entry, Priscilla Nelson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Meredith Compton, proprietor of Peaceful Valley Orchards. Other roundtables will cover networking; marketing yourself; potency of people skills; leadership: critical success factors; business finance and entrepreneurship; and growing a small business. The keynote speaker is Lena Matthews, president and chief executive officer of Financial Resources Federal Credit Union.
Ratios weren’t the only things the bank looked at. Phelan remembers once looking at loan applications of people who wanted to buy apartment buildings. One of the loans had a number of problems raised in the credit report, and Phelan threw out the loan based on the buyer’s response to the credit report. But she wasn’t looking at the content of the response as much as its presentation. "Her credit report response was written on a napkin," says. And it might actually have been written with a crayon.
Based on her own experience in the business world and at past roundtables, Phelan offers a number of pragmatic suggestions for women who want to be smart with their money:
Pay off credit card debt. Despite what one might think, says Phelan, there are still many well-off people who don’t pay up each month.
Contribute to a 401k or employer-sponsored retirement plan. This allows women to put away money before taxes, and most corporations will match these contributions. Women who are self-employed should go to a bank or brokerage and request a simplified employee pension (SEP) or Keogh plan, which allow for a yearly contribution of up to 25 percent of net income. To count for the current tax year, the contributions must be made before taxes are filed.
Plan ahead for developments in your personal financial life. Phelan advises, "Get yourself in the discipline of putting away money for your children’s education." She learned this bit of wisdom from watching her mother put $100 away every pay period – and still need a loan when college came around.
For older women, it’s important to be aware of your options in the face of an inheritance. Sometimes people jump to use the windfall to pay off a home mortgage, but that often does not make sense. If a person’s investment portfolio is performing at a higher percentage return than the after-tax cost of the mortgage interest, then she should compare both the income from investment and the cost of a mortgage on an after-tax basis. She could be better off keeping the mortgage and putting the extra money into the alternative investment.
Make a budget. Having a budget, says Phelan, does not mean putting all your pay into necessities and then saving the rest. "People don’t want to budget because they feel they will have to save everything," she says. She recommends rather that people spend in moderation. "With a budget you will know how much you can spend without feeling guilty."
Phelan is a little concerned that the government is encouraging people to go out and spend the current tax rebates. "They are promoting a consumer society – spend, spend, spend," she says. "People say the next crisis is a credit card crisis, where people are totally outspending their income."
She once heard television financial guru Suze Orman offer a challenge to women: Go through your house and take out all the stuff you don’t need and don’t use. Throw it all into a big pile in your driveway. Then she says, "That represents your credit card debt." Phelan is hopeful, though, that the current recession might do a lot to change attitudes and moderate out-of-control buying and credit-card abuse.
Although the experience Phelan gained in the investment banking training program was an amazing learning experience, it also required round-the-clock work. The next expected career step for a trainee was a master’s degree, and Phelan earned a master of business administration in accounting and finance at UCLA.
She got married halfway through business school, and because she wanted to have children, she decided not to return to investment banking. And when people said to her in some shock, "You walked away from that much money?" her response was, "Well, yeah." She now has daughters ages 13 and 14 and sons ages 7 and 8.
Phelan has worked in three public accounting firms. After getting her master’s degree, she worked in the international tax group on mergers and acquisitions at Price Waterhouse in Los Angeles. Then she and her husband decided to move to New Jersey, and she transfered to the Price Waterhouse office in New York, where she also worked in international tax.
After three years there she got pregnant and wanted to be closer to home, so she moved to Coopers and Lybrand in Princeton. Four years later the firm moved to Parsippany, and Phelan found a position at Withum, where she does international tax planning and executive compensation planning.
What Phelan is most proud of professionally is the women’s leadership development group that she started at Withum. Citing the source of this venture as some combination of her Wellesley and graduate educations, she wanted to help women succeed.
And Withum has come a long way, she says. In 1997, when she arrived, there were no female partners and today 8 out of about 60 partners are female and there are many female senior managers. "We’ve made it a great place for women, with flexible time schedules," she says. "We work with women to make sure they succeed here no matter what their situation." -Michele Alperin
All In the Presentation
Susan Onaitis, a sales trainer, author, and speaker for more than 20 years, has given hundreds of presentations to groups ranging in size from 20 to 1,200. And this she knows: "The bigger the crowd, the higher the stakes, and the more likely you are to have the jitters." But with a little preparation, she says, any speaker can make a great speech.
Onaitis offers "Present Like a Pro," a seminar aimed at easing those jitters, for the Mid-New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Training and Development on Thursday, April 17, at 5:30 p.m. at Courtyard by Marriott, Princeton. Cost: $45. To register contact Ronni Rubenstein at email@example.com.
Onaitis originally planned to emphasize the written, rather than the spoken word, in her career. She majored in journalism at Ohio University then began her first job in public relations at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. "I quickly learned that I didn’t want to stay in public relations, but I did want to stay at that hospital, so I went to talk to the director of personnel and she told me a position was open as director of training," she says. Onaitis found she loved her new career and even went back to school to earn a master’s in adult learning and instructional design at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
A native of New York City, Onaitis had moved with her family to Ohio when she was about seven years old. "I didn’t want to leave New York, even at that age, and one of my goals was always to get back there," she says. She took a job as divisional sales manager with Avon in Ohio and eventually "convinced them that I could really help them in corporate training at their headquarters in New York."
She eventually opened her own sales training business, Global Learning Link, based in New York City, and has given presentations for corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive, Prudential, and Standard and Poor’s, among others. She has also taught classes at New York University and Columbia University, and she also found a way to tie her current career into her original vocation of writing. She has authored a book on sales, "Negotiate Like the Big Guys."
One thing that can either add pizzazz to a presentation or cripple it is PowerPoint. "PowerPoint can be a very effective way to make a presentation more interactive, but instead, many presenters use it as a crutch," says Onaitis. The number of poor PowerPoint presentations often seem to outweigh the number of good ones, but there are several easy ways to turn PowerPoint into an asset.
Four-by-four rule. "One of the most common problems that I see in PowerPoint presentations is trying to cram too much onto each slide," she says. Her rule: No more than four bullet points to a slide and no more than four words to a bullet point. That way the slides can easily be seen and read by everyone in the audience.
Visual support. PowerPoint supports a presentation. It is not the presentation itself, Onaitis says. "I see a lot of people put entire sentences on one slide, and then read the presentation straight from the slides," she says. Nothing can be more boring than watching someone read slides that the audience can just as easily read themselves.
Watch the gimmicks. PowerPoint offers speakers the ability to add animation, music, and other enhancements to a presentation, but just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should, cautions Onaitis. "Too often the bells and whistles are used to distract the audience from the fact that the presenter is not prepared," she says.
Know your audience and what works for them. If you are giving a presentation to a group of salespeople, they are probably used to – and will prefer – a more fun-loving presentation. A group of scientists, however, may be turned off by that style, and expect a more serious approach to the topic.
Practice, practice, practice. If you are planning to use PowerPoint, rehearse your material with the slides. Onaitis recommends making hard copies of each slide and laying them out on the floor. "Walk from slide to slide a make your presentation. See what works and where you need to make changes. Do your transitions work? Do your slides give you the cue you need for what you will say next."
Practice is important for any speaker, whether they are using PowerPoint, other visual aids, or just standing in front of a podium, Onaitis says.
Know your material. "A speaker needs to know his or her material, and that does not mean memorizing the speech. Speakers should thoroughly understand what they are discussing as well as the objectives of their presentation.
Many people think that to practice a presentation means "walking through it in their heads," she says. However, when we mentally rehearse "we don’t have a problem. It’s when we open our mouths that we make mistakes."
To make sure you are ready to present you must speak out loud. Onaitis recommends practicing a speech several times and in several different ways before giving it. First, she suggests just saying the speech out loud. "Hearing the words as well as seeing them will help you to remember them," she explains.
Next, give the presentation in front of a mirror so that you can see all of your facial expressions and hand gestures. "It is important to see what your body is communicating," she says.
Involve the audience. It is difficult to hold the attention of a large group of people while simply standing still and speaking. Most good presenters try to get the audience involved in the presentation. "I like to interact with the audience by asking them to take a quiz, tell a joke or story, or just have them turn to their neighbor and ask each other a question."
Anything that will help make the presentation interactive will make it more interesting to the people listening to it, says Onaitis. "People want to feel involved, and you will get better results if you encourage that feeling. No one, after all, really wants to listen to a lecture." – Karen Hodges Miller
New Science Prize
The Applied Systems Thinking Institute (ASysT), a collaborative endeavor of Analytical Services Inc., and the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens Institute of Technology, has created the ASysT Applied Systems Thinking Prize to advance the development, understanding, and application of systems thinking in areas of national security, homeland security, energy, environment, health care, or education.
The prize will be awarded annually, and this year is worth $20,000 to the winner. In addition, the winner will receive special recognition at the 50th anniversary celebration of Analytical Services Inc. in Washington, D.C.
Applicants from all areas of the public and private sector are eligible. Nominations are being sought and the deadline is Thursday, April 24. Complete details on the prize, the selection process, and the nomination form can be found at www.asysti.org/prize. For more information regarding the prize, please contact ASysT at firstname.lastname@example.org.