Friday, January 24, 2014

Rescue A Dog!

Training a dog can be challenging.

video


But, having one is the greatest thing in the world! Violet is my best friend. Want a dog? Consider rescuing one instead of going through a breeder. There are a lot of amazing dogs in shelters, such as mine.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

10 Tips to Moderate Your Event Successfully.

I will be moderating a panel at UCLA called, Images in Blackness. It's featuring Lena Waithe and Justin Simien. I am very impressed by these two individuals and can't wait to learn more about them! I was asked to moderate this panel after the director saw that my web show, Single_Never_Married, was announced as an official selection in LAweb Festival. If you haven't already seen the show, here's the first episode:



The process of preparing for this panel discussion has been a long and arduous task, but I feel ready. In order to moderate an event well, you have to have a strategy in place and excellent time management skills. Since I didn't have anyone to help me the first time I moderated, I wanted to write this blog post to help those of you who may be doing this in the future.


10 Tips to Moderate Your Event Successfully

1) Research the Panelists
On average, I start to research the panelists 2-3 weeks prior to the event. In the beginning, I only lightly read the things I find to slowly familiarize myself with them. After that, around two weeks before the event, I go deeper into their work and professional experience. I also start to take notes using Word, which I will incorporate into my outline for the actual event. When it's a week before, I already have pages of notes about each panelist and can easily--off the cuff--tell a stranger their biography. Yes, I know it sounds like it may be too much, but you want to over prepare rather than under prepare. Why? If you're at the event and don't know anything about the panelists, your credibility is immediately destroyed. 

2) Know Your Audience
The first thing I research before agreeing to moderate an event is the audience. Luckily, you usually know what the audience will be like once you know the venue and event. For example, as I prepare to moderate the event at UCLA, I can automatically assume that there will be college students, professors, and faculty members in the audience. So, with that information, I am now able to shape my questions and content. I urge you to take time to really think about your audience and what you want them to get from the panelists. My goal at the UCLA event, since the panelists have a lot of web experience, is to ask various questions about how young individuals can get started making online content. I also have a set of questions geared to the professors and faculty members. You must know who is sitting in front of you!

3) Prepare Questions
Prepare more questions than you'll need. I often practice in front of my father who was a SVP of a major company back in the day and has experience public speaking. When I was getting ready for my first panel I said, "It's a short discussion; I won't need a lot of questions." My father said, "If you have twenty questions, you should have forty ready to ask." That was some of the best advice ever! Coincidentally, the audience wasn't talkative or asking questions, so I would have been in a tough situation if I only had twenty questions prepared.
How many questions do you need? For every hour of the event, write out at least 15 questions. So, if the event is from 7-10, have 45 questions prepared. That way, if something goes wrong or if you have extra time, you aren't thrown off your game. 

4) Type Everything Out 
Please do this. I don't care if you've practiced five hundred times in front of your dog; you will need this paper because we all are capable of forgetting. Sometimes when I get on a stage, my nerves get to me and I blank out. But when I remember I have that piece of paper, I feel relieved. Sometimes I still need to bust it out, but usually I don't. There's something about knowing you can fall back on it that helps. Anything you can do that'll make you feel more at ease, do it!

5) Practice, Practice, Practice 
Practice even when you feel like it's perfect. Then, practice again and again and again. If you're new to moderating, I would say going over everything from top to bottom in front of 5-10 people is best. If you're experienced, still do it. No one is immune to mistakes, nerves, and needing a little support.

6) Get to the Venue Early
So, you live only five miles away and know the venue like the back of your hand? That doesn't matter; still plan on arriving an hour early. You never know what may come up.
Since I live in Los Angeles, parking is always a challenge. For a recent panel I was moderating, I left an hour and a half early to go 6 miles. I arrived at the location over an hour early but couldn't find parking. After an hour and on the brink of being late, I finally found a space. If I didn't have that cushion, I would have missed the event!
Also, being there early allows you the chance to get used to the room. Where's the nearest clock? How big is the room? Is it too hot or cold? How many people are in the audience? Do you have a projector or any other equipment you can utilize?

7) Be Cool and Be Real
Be yourself. Don't try to act or be someone you're not. Just know that who you are is perfect and that you were hired to moderate because you're awesome. I know that is can be nerve racking and sometimes you may wonder if you can do it. You can. Remain relaxed and calm. If you need to meditate, chant, or take a shot before the event, go ahead and do it. I guarantee the audience will respond better when you let your guard down and act as you normally do.

8) Stay on Schedule
It's easy to start the event and get lost in what the panelists are saying, or simply lose track of time. You won't always have the director of the event to keep you on schedule, or some random intern. So, that means as you practice, you must practice with time in mind. Yes, use a stop watch. Make sure you have an idea of how long a panelist gets to speak for each question. 
That's why getting to the venue early is so critical. If you don't see a clock nearby, you'll have time to find one and place it in a good area.

9) Don't Force it
Sometimes you'll be moderating an event and the audience won't give you anything! Meaning, you will hear silence. You can't yell at them and say, "Ask a question!" That would be rude. So, you have a few options: start asking questions or create a new conversation with the panelists. I would recommend going into questions when the audience is silent; usually, they will feel inspired to eventually say or ask something. 

10) 'Thank' Everyone
When the event is over, offer your gratitude to the panelists and the audience. Go up to the panelists and express this, and also e-mail each one after the event. Also, make sure to e-mail the person who asked you to moderate the event. Professionalism is key. That's how you stand out as well. When you do a great job moderating plus you're professional and humble, people want to work with you again. Make contacts, network, and be gracious. It can lead to more work and more money. Who doesn't like money?

I hope these tips helped! Have you ever moderated an event? If so, how did it go? Share your stories and experiences. I'd love to hear them! And if there's anything else you want to add, feel free to do so!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Violet's Survival Story: Days from Being Euthanized to Now Starring in Her Own Web Show!

                               "When Did you Buy Violet?" "Who is the breeder?" 
                                "How much did Violet cost?" "How old is she?" 
                                    "How long did it take to train her?" 


I get these questions on a daily basis about my amazing, kind, and tender-hearted doggie who I named Violet after rescuing her on August 13th, 2013.

Yes, Violet was abandoned on the streets after being bred as a puppy herself and left for dead. Allow me to tell you the story of how we (Lauren and Violet) found each other.

In early August of 2013 I was telling a co-worker about how lonely I felt living in Los Angeles and not meeting anyone special. She replied, "Lauren, why don't you just get a dog then?" As she walked out of the room, her words hit me hard. I didn't realize how deeply until I was up that evening very late at night looking for pure bred dogs. I found quite a few and even emailed several breeders about the puppies they were selling. Most of them were in the range of $1,200-$2,500 each. I finally decided on one that was a pure bred male Havanese at only $1,500. He had slight spotting, which is what I was looking for. I only had to drive to Arizona, which was nine hours away.

Fast forward a few days and all of my friends (three in total) were telling me not to do it. One friend said, "I got a puppy and after six days of him peeing everywhere, I told my husband to take it back. Don't do it, Lauren." At first, I didn't listen to all of these comments but then I got real with myself: "Lauren, can you deal with a puppy? Maybe they're right--just adopt an older doggy. It will be easier on both of you." And that's when I started looking on PetFinder, which is a huge database for dogs in shelters that need to be adopted fast. Oftentimes, these dogs are euthanized within a week. 

So once again, I'm up very late at night under my covers looking for dogs to adopt. And then, after searching for an hour or so, I see a picture of LUCY (now Violet) who looks sad and in need of a bath. It says below it: "Urgent: will be killed in a few days." I immediately fill out the application and, honestly, forget about it. I remember thinking I had no chance to get her. I knew there would be a LONG list of people wanting to rescue Lucy. So, I made plans to see a puppy that weekend in a San Diego shelter. I was going to get a dog no matter what!

August 13th comes and I'm looking forward to my trip to San Diego with a friend until I get an email. It's from an organization called, The Mutt Scouts:


My goodness, I was so excited!! We immediately began to email back and forth to set up a time for me to meet her. I told the woman that I was going to San Diego but that I would go meet Lucy if she was close enough. Turned out, she was staying in a foster home just two miles from my apartment! So, I drove over that day and met Lucy. She immediately came up to me and rested her head on my shoulder. I fell in love with her in that instant and named her Violet that evening. 

A few days later, I had to meet up with Nikki from The Mutt Scouts to sign all of the paperwork and pay the adoption fee. She also had to make sure the apartment was safe for Violet and meet me. As I was filling out everything, she revealed to me that there were a lot of applications for people wanting Violet. She then said, "I saw yours and just knew you were the one for her. Sometimes you just know." And that brought me to tears. Someone believing in me through an online application and knowing that I was THE ONE. It gave me hope and reminded me that everything happens for a reason. So many things are out of our control in life. Actually, most things. Nikki's faith in me has brought a cute bundle of joy into my life and I owe her/The Mutt Scouts a huge hug. Violet is my best friend and, truly, is perfect in my eyes. She's teaching me a lot about unconditional love, particularly when she pees on the carpet!

She's also teaching me about forgiveness. Look at her. A teen mom, bred and then abandonded, left to starve, saved and now happy. She holds NO grudges from the past and just lives in the moment! I'm striving to be like my happy, sweet, Havanese doggie named Violet. 

in terms of how she became a co-star in Single_Never_Married. Angela, the director, and I discussed casting a dog but one evening when she came over to take pictures for the web show, Violet kept looking right in the camera. It was as if she was saying, "I want to be in it, too!" And that's when the idea of having her in it came up. But even at the time, it was only going to be very minor. However, since she loves it so much, is great on set, and the audience adores her, we've chosen to have her in more of the web show. Check her out in this episode of Single_Never_Married below: "I'm Not Her Dog, I'm Her Daddy!"




From the streets to Hollywood. Thank you, Violet, for coming into my life! Love you! The photograph in this blog has a group of dogs in it. Violet is the one on the left side. She was in a San Bernardino high kill shelter when Nikki from The Mutt Scouts was in there to rescue other doggies and saw Violet, along with other ones (they're in the picture) and knew she had to help them. So, she decided to take them to The Mutt Scouts and find them foster homes unti they could be placed in permanent ones. Thank you, Nikki!

Please share this story with others as well as tell people about our web show, Single_Never_Married. We need to get more animals out of shelters and into good homes!