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Training Tip of the Month — May

May 18, 2015

Did you Know

“Presentation Anxiety is the most common phobia that exists. It ranks with the fear of death as a traumatic experience.”*  (Followed by fear of completing the FAFSA, right?)

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another, the sweaty palms, the butterflies in the stomach, the fear that you’ll forget important presentation topics. Being nervous is not a problem if you learn to channel your nerves into positive energy. Conducting a successful presentation can be accomplished by focusing on a few helpful tips.

Practice makes perfect
Be prepared and well-rehearsed for your presentation. A slide show is only a small portion of the presentation; make sure to spend plenty of time learning your subject and rehearsing what you are going to say.  Practice deep breathing, drink plenty of water, remember to smile, and pause. Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact and smile. Channel your nervous energy into an enthusiastic presentation.

Use humor

If you can start your presentation with a laugh, you will put your audience at ease (yes, that’s as important as putting yourself at ease!) and they will warm up to you and want to hear what you have to say. Also, if you are smiling and laughing, you’re increasing your own endorphins, which can help calm your anxiety and help you feel good about presenting.

Allow for pauses

When we’re nervous, we tend to speak too quickly and rush our points. Sometimes merely pausing for a deep breath can calm a shaky voice and allow the audience to absorb your information. Why not involve your audience to give yourself a break in your speech and give you that chance to breathe? Ask questions or for feedback from audience members, or plan for an interactive part in your presentation.

Use already-created presentations and handouts

To lessen the burden of giving a presentation and give you time to focus on practicing, why not use (or adapt) presentations that already exist? Check out Federal Student Aid’s Financial Aid Toolkit at for many PowerPoints, handouts and other resources you can use. Presentation topics available include: Finding Money for College, Successfully Managing Your Student Loans, FAFSA 101 and the Armed Forces, and Financial Literacy Resources, plus you can use already snagged screen shots from FAFSA on the Web to enhance your presentations. FSA PowerPoints have notes for slides that may need more explanation, so you can relax knowing your information is correct! NASFAA also provides a guide to providing a successful financial aid event complete with presentation, fact sheets, a glossary and checklist to keep you on track.

Advice from our esteemed RMASFAA President, Art Young

I think my best tip would be to do everything you can to make the topic relevant for the attendees. I have found that there are many ways to do this. Perhaps the most important one is to present on a topic you are passionate about. If you have been assigned a topic that doesn’t meet that standard, do everything you can to find something new or interesting that has real-world application. Another way to keep a presentation relevant is to focus on the ‘average’ audience member, not on the best-informed person in the room. When presenting, I do my best to ‘demystify’ concepts and explain and simplify everything as much as possible (especially industry jargon or acronyms, which FA Administrators seem to have more than our share of!). Lastly, I rely heavily on personal experiences and humor. If the listeners can laugh and see the way that the topic has impacted you or how you’ve dealt with it (for better or worse), I believe that everyone learns more and walks away with something useful. In fact, I’ve found that sometimes sharing a personal experience about a failure can be even more effective than only highlighting successes; it disarms the audience and sets up a comfortable atmosphere where everyone (even the presenter) is learning and sharing.


*Quote from Guide to Stress Reduction, John L. Mason, Ph.D, of the Stress Education Center

Federal Student Aid’s Financial Aid Toolkit

Other Federal Student Aid resources

Get help with all aspects of planning a Financial Aid Night presentation

NASFAA’s Planning & Conducting a Financial Aid Night toolkit (available to NASFAA members)


How to Add Humor in Public Speaking

Lifehack’s 13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public

Fear of Public Speaking: the Fear that Stalls Careers

Also related: See the latest RMASFAA Exchange blog post! Helping Office Introverts Stand Out

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee

Helping Office Introverts Stand Out

May 12, 2015

How many introverts does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Having the lights on makes more people come and visit.

As one of the nearly 60% of the population who identify themselves as being more introverted than not, I can admit to not wanting to change my lightbulbs every now and then. I’m guilty of turning off all my lights on Halloween night just so I could read a good book in peace (sorry kids). I can also attest to the challenges being an introvert can sometimes present in the workplace. I hope the following offers a few ideas on how introverts (and extroverts) can maximize their potential, while creating a successful work environment.

extrovert problem

Introverts thrive inside their heads and are energized by being alone, while extroverts get their energy from being around others and often think best when they are speaking. Feelings of being misunderstood or overlooked in the workplace are common for introverts. Naturally, many believe the way to overcome those feelings and stand out is to become like their extroverted counterparts. Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler, in her webinar entitled How Introverts Can Shine at Work, disagrees. “Introverts make the most effective leaders and influencers when they stop trying to be extroverts and rely on their own natural strengths,” Kahnweiler notes.

What are some of those natural strengths?

  • Calmness
  • Listening and observation
  • Focused thought time
  • Thinking before speaking
  • More engaged in depth instead of breadth

I am labeled in my circle of friends, some of whom are extremely extroverted, as “Grandma” (slightly offensive to someone in their early 30’s.) They come to me with their problems. I try to be a calm, engaged listener without feeling the need to interject very often. Dr. Kahnweiler argues that the listening and observation skills that introverts possess makes them the best leaders for extroverted employees. That is because a good listener allows the bursting thoughts and creativity of extroverts to come to the surface. Two extroverted employees are more prone to talking over one another, therefore stunting valuable ideas from formulating.

extrovert introvert

Those natural strengths also attribute to natural challenges introverts face. What are some of those challenges and what can be done to minimize them?

  • Introverts have a hard time making fast decisions. Occasionally I find myself sitting silent in meetings as rapid conversation goes on around me. I’m not silent because I have no opinion or nothing of value to add, but by the time I process what has been discussed and sort through my thoughts, I find the moment has passed. Dr. Kahnweiler suggests that providing an agenda of discussion items, if possible prior to meetings, or splitting up brainstorming and decision making sessions can help introverts in your office feel better prepared to contribute.
  • Introverts have a hard time selling themselves.  In her webinar, Dr. Kahnweiler gives an example of two employees. One who regularly makes an effort to share updates of what he’s working on with his boss and one who doesn’t share anything. When the next project or job promotion comes around, the boss will naturally gravitate towards the employee who shares information. He doesn’t have time to pull status reports out of his employees. Introverts need to make a conscious effort to involve others in their accomplishments, even when they don’t feel like sharing.
  • Not surprisingly, introverts suffer from people exhaustion. Making quiet time throughout the day will help introverts tap into their strengths. Dr. Kahnweiler calls it “taking your brain for a walk”, and even endorses holding walking meetings instead of in an office or cubicle.

I hope one or two of these insights have been helpful, or at least interesting. I’ll end by making a deal with you RMASFAA.  You promise to let me take my brain for a walk from time to time and I’ll promise to give those poor kids candy next Halloween.

Eleanor Roberts

-Eleanor Roberts
Association News Committee Member, Utah

North Dakota State Update

May 8, 2015


Our spring conference was held in the state capitol of Bismarck this year, hosted by Bismarck State College.  The theme of the conference was “Trivial Pursuit – Where ‘it depends’ is the only real answer.” Along with the welcomed opportunity to network with others from across the state, the conference provided some very helpful sessions to enhance our professional development.

ND conference

Day one included a Federal Update from Joe Massman, a D.C. update from Jesse O’Connell, and breakout sessions of FERPA and the Top 10 Audit Findings.  On day two, we learned about the effectiveness of communicating with students via social media, the importance of student government’s roll on campus, and had two great sessions from Joe Massman on Verification and Consumer Information.  The final morning provided insight from three different financial aid directors regarding best practices, and a state grant program update.

Joe panel

FUN FACT!  At 3.2%, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the United States. It’s also the least visited state in america.

This year’s recipient of the NDASFAA Philanthropy Project was the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a book gifting program that mails new, age-appropriate books to enrolled children every month from birth to five years of age.  A gift of $25 sponsors a child for one year and by the time they are five years old, they will have a home library of up to 60 books.  We are happy to report that we were able to sponsor more than 22 children through this program.  As you can see, we also had a lot of fun hanging out with Dolly!

dolly 1

dolly2 dolly 3



We always take time to recognize and honor members who have gone above and beyond or have reached a special milestone.

  • Donna Joyce of Dickinson State University was awarded the Rookie of the Year award for her outstanding work planning last year’s conference.
  • Sylvia Brockman and Karen Keller, both of Bank of North Dakota, also received years of service awards. Those reaching 5, 10, 15, and 20 years of service were also recognized.

award 1 award 2

  • Retirees: Marge Michael, North Dakota University System and Kathy Nelson, Minot State University.
  • RMASFAA Summer Institute scholarship winners: Martha Harrison from Sitting Bull College and Kaitlyn Schmidt from Trinity Bible College.


FUN FACT!  North Dakota’s state capitol is 242 feet high.  it’s the tallest buiding in North dakota and the 3rd tallest capitol building in the country.  the original capitol burned to the ground in 1930.

This state update was submitted by Kristie Myers at North Dakota State University.

WYASFAA Conference Was a Success!

May 5, 2015

There was a snow storm before the meeting, and a snow storm after everyone safely returned home, but in between there was a flurry of activity at the WYASFAA Conference two weeks ago in Riverton, Wyoming!

Presentation topics included: the top 10 audit findings, SULA, communicating with students through social media, office stress relief, and financial literacy.

A common problem seems to be how to get more students to complete the FAFSA. So in addition to high school FAFSA nights, College Goal Sundays, and extended office hours, if anyone has had a successful plan we’d love to hear about it (don’t be shy!).

State officers were also inducted. They are:

  • Past President, Darry Voigt (Casper College)
  • President, Julie Wilson (Laramie County Community College)
  • President-Elect, Kristen Gast (Sheridan College)
  • Secretary, Tash Plumb (Central Wyoming College)
  • Treasurer, DeeAnna Archuleta (Western Wyoming Community College)
  • Affiliate Representative, Ken Wallace (Great Lakes)

As you can tell by the pictures, a good time was had by all!


Oh, and WYASFAA’s new president’s official title for 2015-16 is: President of the United States of American Financial Aid People.

President Julie

–Michelle Massey, Association News Committee Member, Wyoming

Michelle Massey

My Summer Institute Experience

April 29, 2015

Summer Institute has been a wonderful event and I have been privileged to be able to participate over several years and in several capacities.  I attended after being in financial aid for about two years, this was my first exposure to not only some great training but to RMASFAA as an organization.  I loved it!  I met so many people and learned so much information, I really came back into my office energized and looking forward to the coming year.

There was so much discussion during the week about volunteering that I filled out a volunteer form right after I got back into my office.  Since then I have served on the Entertainment and Site committees, I have been a faculty member, and this year I get to be Chair of a rockin’ Institute!

SI logo

Being involved with Summer Institute has been incredibly rewarding, both personally and professionally.  I truly feel that I have good friends and resources throughout the RMASFAA region due to my participation.  It can be a hard week, putting on such a great event, the hours are long but seeing everyone enjoy themselves, enjoy their classes and instructors, and really getting a lot out of the week is so fantastic.  Participation and volunteering at any level, but particularly with Summer Institute, has added a dimension to my career that I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to build.

I look forward to many more years of service and involvement with SI!

–Rob Drybread, Summer Institute Chair

Rob SI

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight

April 24, 2015

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight — Sally Schuman and Joe Donlay

lead word

In our third blog post about the Leadership Pipeline, highlighting past and present mentors and mentees, I had the opportunity to speak with Sally Schuman (mentor) (Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Colorado Mesa University) and Joe Donlay (mentee) (Associate Director of Operations for Student Financial Services at Colorado State University).  Sally and Joe were part of 2007-2008 inaugural cohort of Leadership Pipeline participants.

SallyJoe Biz Pic (2)

What was one of the most helpful things that you learned from your mentor/mentee or from the leadership pipeline experience?

Sally: Every one of us who have financial aid careers have been trained, supported, and mentored by our peers. It is the nature of what we do, and the Leadership Pipeline formalizes those critical experiences.

Joe: The most helpful takeaway from Leadership Pipeline was, for me, the realization that this is a TOUGH line of work to be if you don’t have a strong support network.  My experience very much reinforced that investing in the networking, training, and leadership opportunities RMASFAA provides is beyond worthwhile

If you were going to tell one story about your experience with the pipeline or mentoring, what would it be?

Sally: Mentors learn as much from the experience as their mentees. It is a two-way street that continues long after the Pipeline experience. I think the best of my pairing with Joe will come this June when we teach Summer Institute together!

Joe: I think there is a perception that Leadership Pipeline might focus exclusively on “association leadership”… while that is certainly an element of it, the program really is much more all-encompassing of leadership development – the mentee and mentor pairs examine what it takes to be a leader within your community, within your institution, and within your professional associations.  Being paired with Sally was terrific; I loved our discussions and they were usually all over the board… ranging from how to navigate office politics, staff supervision challenges, how to frame or direct conversations and advocate…  These are all skills which tie into leadership development, but are much more easily discussed with someone outside of one’s immediate office – or even one’s own state.  While it’s been over 8 years since Sally and I were initially paired together, she very much remains a mentor to me… and in fact, we are even teaching together at this year’s Summer Institute!

How did participating in the pipeline affect or direct your professional development?

Sally: By formalizing the mentoring experience, we made RMASFAA a more visibly welcoming association. The path to expanded and continued leadership in RMASFAA is defined and a visible priority.

Joe: Leadership Pipeline, has definitely put me squarely “in the pipeline”, so to speak!  Following my experience, I have served on several RMASFAA committees, including having served as Chair of the Electronic Initiatives and Chair of Summer Institute. I’ve also had the honor of serving as Vice-President in 2011 and President-Elect this year.  Each of these roles have been incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth.  The biggest benefit, however, is that each opportunity has truly made me a better and more effective aid administrator – and leader – on my campus.  And THAT’S the whole point.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an individual entering into a mentor/mentee experience?

Sally: DO IT!!! You will make life-long connections on both a professional and a personal level.

Joe: Do it.  It’s an investment in yourself that will yield some pretty awesome dividends, not the least of which include lifelong mentors and incredible friendships.

–Sara Vancil, Association News Committee Chair, Kansas

Sara Vancil

Training Tip of the Month — April

April 21, 2015

Did you Know

If you’ve been somewhat conservative or cautious about maintaining a Facebook page for your office because of a potential drain on staff resources, here are some quick tips on how to set up and manage this valuable social media tool in only two hours per week!

Don’t interrupt your work to check your Facebook page!

Develop a notification and response procedure instead! Review your page roles (Settings > Page Roles) to be sure appropriate staff members have access to your page and can respond to posts as needed. Staff can then choose to how often get notifications (Settings > Notifications), in what format (via mobile or e-mail), and what to be notified about. To maximize efficiency, have staff members who are responsible for responding to posts turn on the notification(s) of their choice, and have other staff members with admin privileges turn them off. It should only take five to ten minutes a day to manage responses, especially if you have answers to frequently asked questions already formatted and ready to copy and paste.

Automate your content curation

Provide students with reputable online resources to scholarships, personal finance and student loan information. Instead of checking popular websites whenever you have time to search for content, subscribe to each site’s RSS feed using a free service like Feedly to compile news feeds you may want to customize and share. Some good sites to subscribe to are the U.S. Department of Education’s Financial Literacy Blog, U.S. News & World Reports’ The Scholarship Coach, and Two Cents. You can also create custom Google alerts for stories of particular interest to your students, and put the URL for the alert into Feedly. Once you’ve developed a list of website subscriptions, you should be able to quickly scan new content and choose what to post in less than 30 minutes per week.

Create interest lists to find sharable content

Did you know that Facebook allows you to create a custom Newsfeed of posts from pages you’ve added to an interest list? Visit any Facebook page, click the arrow on the “Like” button, and choose “add to interest list.” If you already have a list, you can choose it from the drop down, or create a new list.

To access your lists, check the “Interests” menu on the left side of your Facebook Newsfeed (from a desktop computer, not a mobile device), and click the list you want to view. You’ll see all the recent posts from pages on that list. Create a list that includes other campus offices, and maybe another that includes Federal Student Aid and student loan servicers. Then, once a week, take 15 minutes to peruse the list for other great content to share from your page.

Create and schedule posts in advance!

Get ahead of the game by sg content a week in advance. You can schedule posts from your page by choosing the arrow next to “post” and setting a date/time in the future. When you have scheduled posts, you’ll see a reminder on the top of your page timeline that indicates the next scheduled post and a link to view/edit upcoming posts.

Review your data regularly!

Facebook provides a lot of data about the performance of your posts and the behavior of your fans within their Insights platform. You can access this data from the Insights menu at the top of any page you admin. If you have only 15 minutes a week to spend on this task, use it to view when your fans are online and how different types of posts (status updates, links, videos, images) have performed on your page. These two items especially can help you create and schedule future posts that will give you the most bang for your buck by posting things students like at the times when they are most likely to be online.

Schedule it!

Here’s what a well-planned week of Facebook page management may look like for your office:

Task Time allocated/week
Receive and respond to notifications 30 minutes
Review curated content on Feedly 30 minutes
Review interest lists 15 minutes
Create and schedule next week’s content 30 minutes
Review Insights to assess post performance 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Online Resources

Federal Student Aid Social Media Toolkit:

How to use FSA’s Facebook page:

See FSA’s Facebook page:

Incorporate FSA’s Infographics onto your Facebook page:

Explore Feedly (or similar apps), to compile news feeds to customize and share:

Department of Education Financial Literacy Blog:

Learn more about Facebook page roles:

Create fun memes for your page with sites like Be sure to obey all copyright laws.

Forbes’ Ten steps to Create a Facebook Page that Gets “Likes”:

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee