Project 5 for Competent Communication – National Preparedness Month – 3 September 2013

Square Hero

Those of you who know me know that I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  In this case, it is preparing for emergencies.  September serves as an annual reminder to me that I have to update my emergency plans and supplies.  For the last several years, I have shared preparedness tips with my family, friends and co-workers.  Mostly, I just refer them to info from, but this year I am having a blast participating in 30 Days, 30 Ways (and was even a Day 2 winner!) and am sharing that with them as well. (You can follow my entries @KalKaryn.)  This year, I presented this speech at my Toastmasters group and although I did not win, I did inspire some people to go home make some emergency plans.  The last several weeks, I had virtually eliminated my ah’s, but I lapsed this week and I started out my speech with an ah in the first few sentences.  Luckily, I got back on track and only had the one.  I think the reason for the nervousness stemmed from the fact that we invited another Toastmasters group to join us due to their being dark on Monday for Labor Day.  🙂  I hope you are inspired by this particular blog and I would love to hear what you did to “celebrate” National Preparedness Month.

Who here remembers Boxing Day 2004 when an earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people and displaced millions more half way around the world from one another?  What about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?  Although most of the damage and fatalities were concentrated along the Gulf coasts, remnants of the storm hit the Midwest knocking out electricity for my relatives in Ohio.  A Super Outbreak consisting of 332 confirmed tornadoes hit the American Midwest over 4 days in 2011.  In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused widespread destruction up the East Coast from Cuba to Canada.  At this very moment, the Rim fire in Yosemite has burned over 235 thousand acres.  Luckily, they do not anticipate it growing as large as the Southern California fires of October 2007.

It does not matter where in the world you live, there is a potential for some sort of disaster to hit.  Besides brush fires, in this area we are also susceptible to earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis and flooding not to mention riots, nuclear meltdowns and car chases that shut down the freeways.  Last year, those of us south of Crown Valley experienced a power outage due to someone throwing the wrong switch.  At my house, it lasted about 12 hours.  I could not contact anybody to check on my dog, so I had to head home from work along with everybody else.  After it took me almost an hour just to get off at my freeway exit, I finally made it home.  I was surprised at how very quiet it was.  It seemed that once people got home, they stayed there even though it was life as normal just a couple miles away.  I turned on a radio to get the lowdown.  I had to laugh when I heard the hosts talking to their counterparts in San Diego.  The LA hosts were asking, how bad is the looting?  What looting, San Diego asked?  You mean you have no looting going on?  The San Diego hosts said at stores people were taking their turns to go in a few at a time, get what they needed and leave.  The LA hosts responded with something about it must just be the crazy LA citizens who use any excuse to riot and loot.

Someone firing up their generator on the next street over broke the near silence at my house.  Admittedly, I thought it was a little early for them to fire it up, but kudos to them for being prepared!  After a short while, it was turned off and I did not hear it the rest of the night.  My sister emailed an article to me the next day about the fire department having to pry their gates open so that residents could get through.  When I read the article on their plight, another link told me why I did not hear that generator again.  Seems one of the neighbors was annoyed by the noise and told the other neighbor to shut it down.  Neighbor 2 said no, so neighbor 1 went home and got a screwdriver to come dismantle neighbor 2’s generator.  Things were said and neighbor 1 stabbed neighbor 2 with the screwdriver.  Since neighbor 1 went to the slammer and neighbor 2 to the hospital, there was no one around to fire up the generator again.

Speaking of my sister, she did not sleep until the electricity came on as there had been small brush fires in the area a few days earlier and she was afraid with the phones out, they might miss a reverse 911 call.  Lesson learned?  Cell phones were out due to towers being down, but the landlines were functional.  However, like most people these days, we have cordless electric phones, so we could not access the phone lines.  We both went out and bought old-fashioned phones to plug in the wall for the next time we have a power outage.

As tonight has a back-to-school theme, I thought I should try fit in a little something regarding schools.  For those of you with children do you know where your children will be transferred to if the school has to evacuate during a school day?  How do you retrieve your children during an emergency and if you are not available, who has permission to get them?  What if communications are down?  Would they know how and where to pick up your kids?  Where would you all meet up again?  Some things to think about on the way home tonight.

{Note to readers:  At this point in my speech, I started to “gear up” with an N95 dust mask, safety goggles, CERT hard hat and CERT safety vest.} September is National Preparedness month and my annual reminder to update my plans and supplies.  This year’s theme is You Can Be the Hero.  What are you going to do to celebrate?  I am using my super power of persuasion tonight encouraging all of you to prepare.  Realistically, you cannot prepare for every eventuality, but you should at least be knowledgeable about where you can quickly get the info you need.  I could go on for an hour giving you advice on what to do and how to do it, but instead I am just going to recommend all of you visit and read up on ways to prepare your family and business.  I am also participating in where they challenge you to one simple, yet fun task each day.  If you want cool gear like this, check with your city to see if they offer CERT or Community Emergency Response Team training.  I learned incident command, fire suppression, search and rescue and triage.  While I have not had to put most of those skills to the test yet, I did calmly save my nephew when he was choking and starting to turn blue thanks to training from CERT.  Talk to me at break and I would be glad to tell you about San Juan Capistrano CERT and some of the community outreach programs we are doing this month.

Whatever route you take, I hope you do something.  I am not trying to scare you into become survivalists, but everybody should have some basics at home, at work and in their vehicle.  I have seen how long it takes the government to respond even when they have a heads up such as a tropical storm gathering strength, so I know not to count on them right away when a disaster hits close to home, especially an unexpected one such as an earthquake.  One of my favorite quotes is it is better to be prepared years too early than a minute too late.  Please do not be late and do not plan on coming to my house because I am not sharing.  I hope I never get to be a hero, but if called upon, I am ready to do my part, are you?


Project 4 for Competent Communication – The Art of Negotiation – 23 July 2013

For my fourth project, I again went with the evening’s theme to prepare my speech, this week being The Art of Negotiation.  I was happy to win, but even happier to hear that the Ah-Counter had zero items to report on me!

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests.  The theme for tonight is The Art of Negotiation and it is just that… an art.  One of those skills that is learned from early childhood.  “If you let me stay up for 5 more minutes, Aunty, I promise I will go right to sleep and you won’t have to read me any stories… well, maybe one story…..”  How many times have I heard that one?  Or the more somber, “if you bring my grandmother safely through this surgery, God, I promise I will go back to church.”  From the mundane of postponing a bedtime to the praying to a divine being for a miracle that a loved one pulls through, every day you are negotiating.  One does not even need another person in order to negotiate.  When I reach that weight loss goal, I will get to use my new purse.  I have been within 2-3 pounds for a month now.  That purse has been on the hall tree for me to see every time I walk by.  It is mine.   I found it, I paid for it…  Technically, I can use it anytime I want.  However, I made a goal that I would not use it until I hit the 50 pound mark.  One could call that a negotiation between my mind and my body and I am not going to break that agreement no matter how badly I want to use that purse right now.

Negotiations skills vary from person to person, industry to industry, and culture to culture.  Some people live for the thrill of negotiating, others just want a set price and are happy without any fuss.  Entire phenomenons have grown from industries known for their negotiations.  Who here has seen “Pawn Stars” or “American Pickers”?  They are reality shows about series of negotiations with some small talk thrown in for a little education and/or comic relief.  What about different cultures?  Yousef said last week, the Iranians love to negotiate, but the Indians beat them every time.  Some of the biggest negotiations I have ever been involved with have been on trips to the Mexican border cities of Nogales and Tijuana.  Some of the vendors there are very determined.  One followed me down the street after all I did was glance at an item in his store.  He was giving me lower and lower prices, but I was not interested. He said, “What’s the matter, you no speak English?”  With a puzzled look, I asked “Parlez-vous français?” or “Do you speak French?”  He looked at me for a moment, then turned and went back to his store.  Now before you get too impressed with my French, all I know is “Parlez-vous français” and “Merci.”

Online, there are tons of websites with negotiation tactics for dealing with everything from cars and hotels to contracts and salaries.  Tonight, I am going to bring you some tips for negotiating in 2013 by Ed Brodow, author of Negotiation Boot Camp.  Due to the length of time I have available, I am only going to touch on a few of them, but you can find all 10 at his website.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Everything is negotiable and do not take no for an answer.  However, know the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive.
  2. Shut up and listen. Follow the 70/30 Rule – listen 70 percent of the time, and talk only 30 percent of the time. Encourage the other negotiator to talk by asking lots of probing, open-ended questions.
  3. Do your homework. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have? Doing your homework is vital to a successful negotiation. You can’t make accurate decisions without understanding the other side’s situation.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry. As I stated above, negotiations change from culture to culture.  Brodow thinks being patient is very difficult for Americans and Europeans as we just want to get it over with.  People in Asia, South America, or the Middle East look at time differently than we do. Whoever is more flexible about time has the advantage. Your patience can be devastating to the other negotiator if they are in a hurry because they start to believe that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal and they offer concessions as a means of providing you with an incentive to say yes.
  5. Aim high and expect the best outcome. Successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect more, you’ll get more. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay. Your optimism will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, if you have low expectations, you will probably wind up with a less satisfying outcome.

I hope you been inspired to brush up on your negotiation tactics.  Remember to (1) be assertive, not aggressive, (2) follow the 70/30 rule, (3) do your homework, (4) take your time, and (5) aim high.  I leave you tonight with these parting words from Henry Boyle, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.”  Merci beaucoup and bonsair, fellow Toastmasters and guests.