Read good books!

 Read a lot of books

David McCullough is one of the nation’s great writers of history and biography. And his voice is prominent, too. You’ve probably heard him narrate a documentary or other film. He was the narrator of Ken Burns’ amazing Civil War series, and he was the narrator of the film Seabiscuit.

Read his commencement address at UConn, and you will be challenged to pick up great books and start reading. I dare you to read at least two books this summer. You will be surprised at how much down time you will actually have. To quote from McCullough’s speech:

“To carry a book with you wherever you go is old advice and good advice. John Adams urged his son John Quincy to carry a volume of poetry, ‘You’ll never be alone,’ he said, ‘with a poet in your pocket.'”

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Be a great presenter

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world”

John F. Kennedy.

Change the world

I have a particular interest in presentation skills and presentation design. Okay, call it a bit of an “obsession.” I prefer “passion.” But how many presentations have you sat through, including classes, that truly had an impact on you…that changed your life in some way? I can’t think of many myself. This summer you will be giving presentations every day, sometimes multiple times a day. While they mostly will not be formal, prepared speeches, you will be challenged daily to be an effective and enthusiastic communicator in front of audiences as large as 700 people and as small as a dozen people.

My presentation guru is a guy named Garr Reynolds. He used to work for Apple computer. He lives in Japan now where he’s an instructor and expert in “presentation design.” Check out his presentation tips and bookmark his blog.

Chris Thompson’s dirty dozen

chris-t.jpg

Chris Thompson is a wise man. Learn from him.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful first meeting with your group?

CT: The first meeting goes by very quickly, so try to get as much out of it as you can. All I did was a brief icebreaker, and went straight into telling them about what was going to take place over the course of the day. Then, I tried to leave some time for questions before they went over to listen to speakers.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful evening meeting with your group?

CT: The evening meeting was very hit or miss for me. There’s not a whole lot of awkward silence time in the morning meeting because there just isn’t time. Hopefully they are interested and asking questions, but this was not always the case for me. Try to have something to talk about at all times and really let them know that you are there to talk about what they want to talk about, not your own interests. If it’s not going so well you can always get started on your group cheer a little early.

ML: How did you encourage discussion in your meetings?

CT: By taking questions from them and turning them into questions for them. See what they did in high school and what they might want to do in college. Everyone has their thing, but you’re not going to get across to everyone so just do the best you can to let them know about their options. The best thing you can do is show them you actually care about what they’re interested in.

ML: Did you use icebreakers, and, if so what did you use?

CT: I’m not really into the whole icebreaker thing. Ask my teammates and Adam Gobin to help you with that.

ML: Any tricks for remembering names?

CT: Not really. Looking back, I think the best thing to do is to be honest and tell them you will try really hard to remember their names and faces, but you will not remember them in the fall. If they assume you don’t know their name and you do somehow remember it they’ll think you’re really swell.

ML: What surprised you about leading small groups?

CT: It’s not rocket science, but it can be tough. The truth is that most kids really do respect what you have to say and value your opinion. They may not ever tell you that, but it’s true. Just keep the conversation flowing and talk to your teammates to see if they have some great trick you never even thought about.

ML: What would you do differently in your group if you got to do it over again this summer?

CT: I’m not sure. Maybe have the kids write down questions in the morning and talk about them in the evening. Try some different things and you’ll discover what works best for you. Don’t try to be like somebody else; do whatever helps you best connect to the kids in your group.

Whitney’s advice: It is so hot…

For the kids

Whitney Amos, “double-sticks!,” shares her suggestions for successful small groups at Orientation.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful first meeting with your group?

WA: Be energetic and enthusiastic! The morning meeting sets the tone for the rest of the day and plus most of them are very quiet and tired, so it is important to wake them up and get them ready for a long day. I always went through the schedule of the day, played a short ice breaker get to know you game, and told them about group pride and they were in the greatest group ever…DOUBLE STICKS!!! A lot of groups I made them tell me nicknames or tried to make them up and then call them that throughout the day and it was a big success.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful evening meeting with your group?

WA: This was my favorite part of the day because you get to really talk to the students and answer questions. I always gave encouraging tips and pointers to them from an upperclassman viewpoint, and also told them to set goals and work hard to achieve them here at UGA. This is also a great time to have fun and play likes and dislikes of the day to get them to start talking. At the end of the meeting I always left about 5 minutes for the group cheer and took a picture before we went in for the OL performance. Remember this is the time to show your personality and the message you want to give to first year students.

ML: How did you encourage discussion in your meetings?

WA: In most of your groups you are going to have a few outgoing people and a lot of students who are either shy or scared. Reach out to all of them because you are normally their first interaction with any student on this campus. I always talked to my groups about likes and dislikes of Orientation, read them an inspirational quote, and answered any questions. If I got stuck or had a less talkative group you could always encourage conversation by asking them about worries or fears in coming to college because they all have those.

ML: Did you use icebreakers, and, if so what did you use?

WA: Yes, I tried to switch it up one time and it did not work out for me. Stick to what you are comfortable with and as the summer goes on you can always make changes and get ideas from your other teammates on what works for them. At the night meeting I always played the Starburst game where they had a different question for the different color wrappers out of their bag. I stuck with this all summer, and it worked great for me; but don’t be afraid to change things up.

ML: Any tricks for remembering names?

WA: I am horrible with names, and, honestly, it is really hard with so many freshmen coming each session. The best advice is to try the nickname thing and to continually talk to kids in your group throughout the day and always take a quick glance down at their neck wallets. You can always try to repeat their names over and over, and that helps sometimes.

ML: What surprised you about leading small groups?

WA: I remember last year I was nervous about small groups, but they actually ended up being one of my favorite parts of Orientation. At first they may be a little stressful because you have to remember stuff on testing and get used to the schedule, but after a couple of sessions you will be a pro. Another tip would be to really not give up on the “too cool for school” kids and reach out to them, because when they would come back to my evening group they normally ended up being very talkative and great with the group cheer. Also don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself or be goofy because getting them laughing and allowing them to feel comfortable helps with your meetings.

ML: What would you do differently in your group if you got to do it over again this summer?

WA: I honestly don’t think I would have changed the structure of my small groups. I stayed consistent and felt that I normally always had great conversations with the freshmen and tried to give them helpful advice. If one session you don’t feel like you had an outstanding group meeting then learn from any mistakes, and I promise you your next group could be completely different. One thing to remember is that your small group meetings will probably be completely different from your teammates which is fine, but stay true to what fits with you the best.

Stephen Sowell’s “fearless” advice

 

Fearless Five

Tifton’s own Stephen Sowell, the leader of the ’06 “Fearless Fives,” shares his small group advice.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful first meeting with your group?

SS: I usually made fun of myself and the other OL’s in general. These kids just came off their cool Senior trip/cruise, so they think you’re an idiot…so I found that making fun of myself loosened things up a bit. Also remember that you’re coming off the Intro’s…which more than likely, they will enjoy…so harp on that a bit.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful evening meeting with your group?

SS: GO OVER ADVISING. I found as the summer went on that more and more kids were clueless when it came to advising. It’ll save you a lot of headaches if you just go over what their advising appointment will look like and what their advisor will say. Make them comfortable with this process.

ML: How did you encourage discussion in your meetings?

SS: I had everyone introduce themselves and give the basic info: Name, hometown, high school, intended major. More times than not, you’ll have kids that went to the same high school and didn’t even know each other…especially in Atlanta. For the kids not from Atlanta I’d try to talk to them more about where they were from…tried to get them to elaborate a bit. A non-ATL kid at UGA can feel pretty lonely at Orientation…be wary of this.

ML: Did you use icebreakers, and, if so what did you use?

SS: Not really. I don’t recommend them. I always thought it was sort of silly, and these kids don’t want to be treated like high schoolers any more.

ML: Any tricks for remembering names?

SS: I’d always try to link it to where they were from. For example, I’d say to myself, “that’s Rachel from Beuamont” or “Kevin from St. Simons.” I’d also try to learn their last name. I’ve found even now that if a kid will tell me their last name, I’m able to remember their first name.

ML: What surprised you about leading small groups?

SS: I thought they were fun. It’s the best time for you to have influence on a kid. I always made sure they knew I was there to help them. The best time for you to get to know a kid is at the tailgate dinner. Find someone from your group and have a seat. I loved that part.

ML: What would you do differently in your group if you got to do it over again this summer?

SS: Not much. I never did quotes or played the, “I’m going to try and save the world within this meeting….” I was just real with them. You can have the greatest impact by just spending time with kids. Get to know them.

Frankie shares her wisdom

Smooth 4

Here’s our second installment of advice from the ’06 team. This time, it’s Frankie Grooms, the leader of last year’s Group #4.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful first meeting with your group?

FG: Go with what works for you. There is something special within everyone that can grab anyone’s attention. Figure out what that is and use that. For me, quirky sarcasm and humor worked. It is important that you show confidence from the start – that is how you gain their respect. All of you should be confident knowing that you are an experienced UGA student and (hello!) an Orientation Leader.

ML: What tips do you have for a successful evening meeting with your group?

FG: This is the time when you really get to talk to them and tell them what golden nuggets of wisdom you possess that will help them to succeed. An icebreaker that involves getting the freshmen to learn more about each other is always good. After that, you are more likely to get them talking to you and each other. Also, make sure you leave enough time for working on a group cheer. Have one or two handy in case the group has trouble coming up with one.

ML: How did you encourage discussion in your meetings?

FG: I asked them questions about typical college issues, i.e. alcohol, Greek life, time management, etc. Probably every group I had wanted answers to these questions.

ML: Did you use icebreakers, and, if so what did you use?

FG: I try to loosen up the group by having them stand in a circle and sway from side to side chanting something that had to do with “Smooth 4” or something similar to it. Next, I had everyone introduce themselves and say an interesting fact such as their favorite ice cream. If there was time at the end of the first meeting, I did another one which was to have everyone stand in a circle and to have each make a sound to create a song that was unique to the time in which it took place. This “group concert” is a relatively short exercise and can be done when you have a few minutes left in the meeting. Oftentimes, I ended this icebreaker with one of the quotes that EJ and Milly gave us.

For the evening meeting, depending on the feel of the group, I had everyone play Five Deadly Venoms or the Music Video Name Game. Five Deadly Venoms is a game that involves the group standing in a circle and taking turns striking the pose of a rabbit, dragon, snake, monkey, or crane. If two people do the same animal, they are both out.

For the Music Video Name Game, I had the group split up into smaller groups and make a song using their names and dance moves that everyone in the small group has to do. For more details, please e-mail me (fwg475@uga.edu).

ML: Any tricks for remembering names?

FG: You are more than likely to remember the names of people who stand out in your group. For some of the groups, I did nicknames and I had an easier time remembering those. However, when parents of these freshmen came up to me asking about their child, I didn’t know who they were talking about. The best advice is to try to associate their name with something about them and to try to use their name in a sentence to solidify their name in your brain.

ML: What surprised you about leading small groups?

FG: I was surprised at how influential I could be to my groups. I could voice my opinions and my wisdom to them – anything that would help them to succeed at UGA. I was also surprised at how much the students look up to you. As an orientation leader, you truly are a role model in their eyes.

ML: What would you do differently in your group if you got to do it over again this summer?

FG: I would have made an effort to get to know them more. Aside from what I learned from the small group meetings, I knew nothing more about them nor did they know much of me. I am not saying that you should be responsible for finding out their entire life story, but get to know them enough so that your job is not just a job, but it is making a difference in the lives of the people in every group that you encounter this summer.

Carrie Fusi’s advice on leading small groups

We will be adding posts to this site regularly in the next few days with advice from the 2006 OLs. Carrie Fusi was the leader of UGA Orientation Group #1 last year. Milly asked for her insights on how to make the most of the time you will have leading your groups this summer.

Fun One

ML: What tips do you have for a successful first meeting with your group?

CF: Be confident. Do not freak out if you do not remember every single little thing you are supposed to tell your group. You will have a sheet right in front of you if you forget something. Be excited. Most of the kids in your meeting are tired, scared, and probably could think of better things to do than be at Orientation, but if you’re excited, you can help them become excited!

ML: What tips do you have for a successful evening meeting with your group?

CF: Be real with your group. Try to give them your own, honest personal experiences. Do not try to sugar coat the answers that you tell your group, but be honest with them. Tell them stories from your own first year, or any useful advice you may want them to know. This is your chance to give them advice that you would have wanted someone to give you your first year. I also held my night meetings in a room either in the SLC, or outside. Switching up the location of the night meeting was fun for me because I liked a more laid-back atmosphere. Although it seems very insignificant, this made a big difference for me.

ML: How did you encourage discussion in your meetings?

CF: I tried many different things-some of which were successful, and some that were not. For example, this one time I thought it would be cool to hand out note cards in my morning meeting and have each of the freshmen anonymously write a question. Then, in my night meeting I intended to answer all the “great questions” that my group wrote on the note cards. Well, I did not get that many “great questions.” Therefore, that is a lame idea I do not recommend.

The thing that seemed to work well with me was mentally making a list with couple of broad topics I would want to touch on in the night meeting. I would have certain stories that I wanted to share, and maybe a few quotes I would want to read as well. Depending on the kids, these topics would invite discussion and help the kids think of questions to ask me. Sometimes this was not the case and I would just have to ramble. In these instances, I would want to cry and come to OL live sad with a frowny face.

ML: Did you use icebreakers, and, if so what did you use?

CF: I really hate icebreakers. I felt like I tried many things that the other team members said worked so well, and were AMAZING, but ended up being a disaster in my meetings. Sometimes in my morning meetings, I would make them answer the question, “If you could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone, where would you be, and who would you be with?” A team member gave me this swell idea. This was fun, but was really the only “ice breaker” that I enjoyed using.

ML: Any tricks for remembering names?

I LOVED nicknames. I would go around in my morning meeting and give everyone a nickname. Then, when I would see them throughout the day, I would yell their nickname at them. Some of them thought it was fun, some hated it, but I LOVED it. While my kids were listening to the morning speakers in the SLC, I would look over my list of names, and write down the nicknames that I remembered. Also, if I remembered anything else about the kid (like what they were wearing, where they were from, etc), I would write that down too. This seemed to really work for me. If all else failed and I did not remember their name, I would just yell “FUN ONE” at them.

ML: What surprised you about leading small groups?

CF: It really surprised me at how quickly the time went by. I was really nervous at first of filling up all the time we are given in our meetings. You think you are just going to be in there forever trying to think of things to say and do, but honestly, time flies. You will find yourself having to make your group run to OL Live to try to make it there on time. It also surprised me how shy many of the students were. I guess I have just always been really talkative and did not mind speaking in groups (and I am sure all of you are this same way because you are an OL), but a majority of people are not this way. You must be aware of this, and try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable by calling them out in small group to answer a question. I am not saying it’s not okay to call on people, but try and feel out which kids would not mind you calling on them. Be sensitive to your group!

ML: What would you do differently in your group if you have to do it over again this summer?

CF: I would get better at making up group cheers. A lot better! I was awful, and everyone knew it. At least have an idea of what you want your cheer to be because many of the times it is like pulling teeth to make up your group cheer. In addition, this is challenging because you have all of five seconds to come up with a cheer. Many times, I forgot about group cheers until it was literally time to be in the theater for OL live. If public humiliation is not an issue for you, do not worry so much about group cheers. This was what I did. While cheers are fun for you and your OL teammates, they are not that important. If you are in the middle of a great discussion with your group and are getting lots of good questions, do not stop that to make up a silly cheer. Wing it!