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Hello? Is anyone listening? Have you ever felt like you are not being heard during meetings at work or that you're not even given the chance to participate? It can happen to anyone, but some people find it harder than others to get their point across. Frustrating? Indeed. Especially when you know you have valuable information to share that deserves the team's attention and consideration.

Before you throw in the towel and decide the fight just isn't worth it, understand that there are ways in which you can get your point across in meetings… and others will sit up and listen. It may take a few tries, but before you know it, you will become a pro at participation. Finally, your voice will be heard, and your ideas will become part of the big picture.

Prepare and Practice

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You'd likely practice before giving a presentation or speech, so why not put the same effort into what you would like to speak about at an upcoming meeting? You already have the agenda, so prepare beforehand with clear thoughts and a plan of action as to how you'll relay them. Not only will you be organized and ready to share, but you'll be better informed and caught up on business matters in general.

Forbes recommends, "Find a group outside of work where you can practice speaking or create your own group with friends and colleagues."

Be Front and Center

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If you are already having issues with being heard during meetings, sitting off to the side or in the back of the room won't do you any favors. Jump right in and make yourself seen before you make yourself heard. You'll be noticed by others and right there amid the action.

As Goodwill notes, "Positioning yourself near the center not only puts you in the middle of the conversation flow, but also subliminally reinforces that you're central to the discussion at hand." Sit up straight and exude confidence.

Choose Your Words Wisely

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When you are among a large group, there is little time for beating around the bush or speaking without purpose or clarity. Time is money, and your words are valuable. Make sure what you contribute will move the needle. Don't speak up just so you do not feel left out.

Forbes suggests the use of "power language." "Get to the point and be clear about what you want." Forget the "maybes" and "what ifs." Confidence is power, and your words are your allies.

Ask Questions

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You may not have something innovative to share at every meeting, but proving you are engaged in the discussion is important as well. Mindtools suggests "asking questions about what other attendees are saying. This shows you're attentive and interested."

By delving deep into the discussions and making sure you completely understand what's going on and what others' points of view are, you will be more informed and more likely to have something to bring to the table that others will want to absorb.

No Interruptions

It is inevitable that people will talk over one another during meetings, particularly as the head count goes up. Tact and respect can make this dynamic more palatable, but some people tend to be drowned out and steamrolled.

What to do? Speak up. If you are mid-thought, don't feel shy about asserting yourself and letting the team know that you're not done speaking. Goodwill suggests saying something along the lines of, "I'd love to hear your feedback, but wanted to finish saying one thing first." Your voice is just as important as everyone else's and you deserve your time to be heard.

Do you have advice for being heard in meetings? Which techniques have empowered you?

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

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When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

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If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

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5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.