Overcoming the Fear of Speaking During Meetings

Fear of Speaking

You’re sitting in a meeting, and someone makes a point that you strongly disagree with. You want to speak up, but they’re still talking, and then someone else jumps in. The further along the conversation gets, the more your nerves creep in. Your moment has passed, and now you feel like you can’t say what you wanted to say, because the group has moved on. And even if you got the chance, your voice would shake.

Does this sound familiar?

We as a society have a tendency to fixate on public speaking anxiety related to giving a speech or a presentation, but finding the nerve to speak up during a meeting can be just as daunting. Whether you worry that your ideas won’t be received well, you feel stifled by a roomful of strong personalities, or you worry about how to assert yourself without being rude or unprofessional, here are some tips to help you find your voice and speak your peace in your next big meeting:

Find a mantra that helps boost your confidence.

It may sound silly, but a comforting mantra can go a long way towards settling nerves and helping you find your confidence. Ten minutes before your next meeting, stand in a strong pose, take a few deep breaths, and repeat to yourself, “Your ideas are valuable. Your thoughts deserve to be heard.” Or whatever self-written mantra you find most helpful.

Write notes.If someone makes a point that you want to comment on, but it isn’t a good time for you to raise your comment, write it down. Having your question written will help you keep it clear in your head and give you a bit of a crutch when the time comes for you to raise your hand and speak up.

Be firm, but polite.Every meeting is a bit different, so know the room. But in many cases, if you speak up at the same time as someone else, or if someone else begins to speak over you, a simple, “Excuse me, John, but if I could just make one point…” can be very effective. Unless the other person is incredibly rude, they should cede the floor to you and give you your chance to speak. Just be sure that if you talk at the same time as someone else, you take a moment to acknowledge them before carrying on. Then by all means, carry on.

Remind yourself that you have responsibility.You not speaking up has consequences. Maybe the consequences are for your team, or maybe they’re for customers who you know will be negatively impacted by a poor decision. Whatever the case may be, you’re rarely just speaking for yourself in a work environment, so think about the people who are counting on you to speak up and let that be a source of encouragement for you.Remind yourself that it gets easier with time.

This advice is no fun to hear, but it’s true – the more you speak up in meetings, the easier it will become to speak up in meetings.

Work with an executive speech coach.If these tips don’t cut it for you, it may be time to turn to the assistance of a Chicago speech coach. An executive speech coach can help you speak more clearly, more impactfully, and more confidently. Give our office a call to learn more. 

5 Things to Look for in an SLP

Finding a SLP

With the new school year beginning soon, you may be on the hunt for a speech language pathologist (SLP). Working with a great SLP can help your child communicate their thoughts and needs more clearly, help them socialize with more comfort, and improve their ability to get the most out of their time in school.

Assuming that you’re considering a few different SLPs who are all experienced and certified, how do you go about choosing the right one for you and your child? Here are five tips to help you decide:

1. Pick an SLP who can work with your child in your preferred setting.You may prefer the privacy and distraction-free environment of a clinic for your child’s speech and language sessions. Or you might prefer the convenience or added comfort for your child of having an SLP come to your home. Make sure that the SLP you choose is ready and eager to meet you and your child on your own terms.

2. Choose someone kind.Be sure that the person you choose is a genuinely kind and patient person who takes joy out of working with children. If they often seem flustered or overly stern, they may not be the person to help your child.

3. Choose someone your child likes. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in your hurry to choose an SLP, you may forget to actually introduce your child to your favorite candidates and see who they like best. If your child develops a genuine connection with someone or feels more comfortable with one SLP over another, that can have a huge impact on how well they progress with their speech and language goals.

4. Choose a good listener.You know your child better than anyone. You should be able to talk to your SLP about the behaviors or speech issues that you have observed in your child and feel that you have their full attention and understanding.

5. Choose a good communicator.If your SLP doesn’t bother to fill you in on what they’ve been working on with your child, things you should be watching for, or ways that you can help with your child’s therapy between sessions, that’s a problem. You need an SLP who encourages you to be an active participant in your child’s development.

Finding a SLP for your child isn’t always easy, but hopefully we can make it easier. Give our office a call to schedule a consultation with a highly experienced SLP in Chicago. 

How to Become More Articulate: 4 Tips from Our Team

Become More Articulate

Trouble with proper articulation can take many forms in adults. You might have an injury, a dental issue, or another physical issue that makes it harder for you to pronounce certain sounds. English might be your second language. You might have a hearing problem that affects your speech. Or you may get anxious when speaking publicly and find that your pronunciation suffers the more nervous you get. While none of these situations are your fault nor should speaking differently be held against you in any way, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that if you can’t be clearly understood in the office, that’s going to limit your ability to succeed.

Fortunately, there are several methods that you can use to become more articulate over time. Here are a few simple strategies that our executive speech coaches have found helpful with their clients.

1. Slow down

One of the simplest and best ways to speak more clearly is to slow down. Rushing causes words to blend together. When you take a little more time and remember to breathe, your mouth has more time to form sounds properly, and whoever’s listening to you has more chances to keep up with what you’re saying.

2. Be concise

If you know that you have a tendency to ramble when you get nervous, or if you tend to lose people during long explanations, look for opportunities to shorten your responses and be more direct with your words. You can also combine this advice with tip one and take a short pause to collect your thoughts before speaking. Speaking in a slow and measured way has a tendency to make people lean in and want to know what you’ll say next. Watch videos of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or President Barack Obama – they both take their time when speaking and choose their words carefully.

3. Practice tongue twisters

You can easily find all sorts of tongue twisters online that can help build make your mouth and tongue stronger and more dexterous. Practice makes perfect.

4. Use proper grammar

We’re not saying that you need to use proper grammar all the time. Most people speak one way to their kids, another way to their spouses, another to their friends, and another to their co-workers. It’s perfectly normal to do so. But if you work in an environment where you’re expected to communicate with a wide range of people, you need to be able to effectively use proper grammar, so practice as much as you can.

If you’re having trouble articulating your thoughts, are dealing with an injury, or simply find public speaking terrifying, executive speech coaching could be the right next step for you. Give our office a call to set up a free consultation with a Chicago speech coach. 

Easy Speech Therapy Activities to do at Home this Summer

Speech Therapy Activities

Parents with school-age children tend to view summer a bit differently than the rest of the world. Where many see summer as a time for fun in the sun, parents see summer as that expensive time of year when they need to figure out day camps or temporary child care for three months. For parents of children who receive extra services in school like speech therapy, summer can also be a time of desperately trying to fill the gap.

We understand just how difficult it can be to keep your child’s speech therapy going at home without the help of a school SLP. That’s why we put together this list of at home speech activities that you can enjoy with your child on a daily basis.

Our best advice with any of these speech activities is to schedule them into your day. If you and your child get into a habit of doing speech activities when it’s convenient or when you think of it, speech therapy will quickly fall by the wayside. So figure out a time that works for you and your child and make speech therapy a priority.

Now, without further ado, here are some of our favorite, simple, summertime speech therapy activities:

1. Flashlight Tag

Write the words that your child is working on down on sheets of construction paper. Tape the words up around your home, then turn the lights off. Your child will have a great time searching the home with their flashlight to find the words. Practice saying each one out loud as it’s found, and when you’ve found them all, move them to new locations and start again! This activity is particularly great on those extra hot days when you need to escape the heat and stay inside.

2. Eye Spy

This classic game is a great one to play in the car. Look for things in the world around you, then give a clue – for example, “I spy something red.” Have your child ask questions to figure out what the object might be. Be sure to look for objects that utilize sounds your child is working on. This game is also great for practicing turn-taking, following directions, and critical thinking.

3. Recite Nursery Rhymes

Many classic nursery rhymes double as tongue-twisters, which can be great for practicing particular sounds or articulation. They’re also a lot of fun. Find a book of nursery rhymes you like and practice saying the rhymes out loud with your child.

4. Chalk!

Chalk is a wonderful toy to play with during the summer whether you’re two or seventy-two. You can come up with plenty of speech therapy activities using chalk. Create your own speech therapy hopscotch challenge, or simply practice writing out speech words. You can also play Pictionary with chalk and have your child guess which practice word you’re attempting to draw.We’d also like to remind you that you don’t have to go it alone over the summers. A Chicago SLP can come to your home as often as needed to work with your child and engage them in constructive play therapy. If you’re worried about backsliding or simply want to keep building on the progress your child made during the school year, give our office a call to find an SLP in Chicago who’s right for your family.  

Ideas for Creating More Engagement During Your Presentations

Engaging Presentations for Work

Let’s be honest. Not every presentation is going to elicit a standing ovation. Sometimes you’re the unlucky chap who has to give the annual presentation on fire safety. Sometimes you have to explain the extremely complicated and technical aspects of a new product to investors, and it just isn’t fun. So what can you do to make even the driest of presentations more entertaining and fun?

Here are three simple tips for improving engagement during presentations. 

1. Incorporate StoryIt’s almost certainly advice that you’ve heard before, but it bears repeating. Story is an incredibly powerful tool. When information is couched within a narrative; when your presentation itself is structured like a narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end, when you can incorporate characters who have goals and conflict standing in their path… you’re going to end up creating more engaging presentations.  

How to do it? Your exact strategy will vary from presentation to presentation, but one sure-fire route is to create a hypothetical person to base your presentation around. Take the fire safety example: your co-workers might be a lot more interested in where their closest emergency exit is if they also want to know whether fictional Susie Loo who hides her cat in a file cabinet at work every day is going to make it out safely. 

2. Avoid the PowerPoint Doom LoopWalking into a meeting with PowerPoint slides is essentially an invitation to your audience to mentally check out. That isn’t to say that you can’t give a great presentation with PowerPoint, but PowerPoint is no longer the only option. Plenty of online services let you create presentations that are much more dynamic and visually interesting than PowerPoint. 

If you’re stuck with PowerPoint or resistant to try something different, take advantage of PowerPoint’s many, many functions. Add in a bit of comedic music at a key moment, or add in a video from YouTube. Just don’t let spectacle overtake the point you’re trying to make. 

3. Ask/Take QuestionsThe more you can do to make your presentation interactive whenever possible, the more people are going to engage with what you’re saying. Ask for examples from the crowd, allow time for questions, encourage small group debates, incorporate ice-breaker activities. The actual audience participation elements that you choose to use will depend upon the nature of your presentation, but the main thing to keep in mind is that your presentation isn’t about you – it’s about your audience.  

What are Speech Impairments?

what are speech impairments

Speech Language Pathologists generally help people with disorders that fall into two big categories – speech impairments and language impairments. Speech impairments are any sort of disorder that negatively affects a person’s ability to talk. Language impairments have to do with the other ways that we communicate, such as reading and writing, and how well we understand the people around us. Together, speech and language impairments are considered a high-incidence disability with about 20% of all children who receive special education services receiving speech and language therapies. 

Today, I’d like to focus specifically on the different types of speech impairments among children. 

Type of Speech Impairments 

Speech impairments that affect children can be broken into three basic categories – articulation disorders, fluency disorders, and voice disorders.Articulation disorders are characterized by omissions, substitutions, and/or distortions in normal speaking patterns. These sorts of issues can be the result of physiological abnormalities, injuries, or developmental delays. Most children have issues with articulation as they begin to learn language. When these issues persist, however, an SLP can be a great help. 

Fluency disorders are characterized by disruptions in the normal rhythm and timing of speech. Stuttering is the most common fluency disorder.Voice disorders are characterized by a speaking voice that has an abnormal pitch, volume, or resonance. Voice disorders can be the result of trauma or injury to the larynx. If someone speaks in a nasally voice or always speaks in a whisper, that might signify a voice disorder. 

When It’s Time to Call an SLP… 

In many cases, speech disorders can be significantly reduced or even fully reversed with the help of a trained SLP. We all have different ways of communicating, and all of our differences should be celebrated. That said, if your child is having difficulty being understood or understanding others, that can have a serious impact upon their success in school, their ability to make friends, and their self-confidence.  

If you think your child might be struggling with a speech or language impairment, give our office a call to set up a free consultation with a Chicago speech language pathologist who has years of experience working with children.  

Do You Have Public Speaking Anxiety? Overcome Your Fear

Overcome Fear of Public Speaking


Some of the most common public speaking advice we hear is to “just keep putting yourself out there” until you get more comfortable. If you’re someone who deals with public speaking anxiety, you probably detest this advice, as well you should. It’s basically the same thing as saying, “Torture yourself for a long time, and eventually it won’t feel like torture anymore.” Not exactly the most comforting advice. 

While it is true that practicing is a great way to overcome your fear, that doesn’t mean that you need to practice in front of crowds of people. Instead, you can give yourself opportunities to work on your public speaking in a controlled, judgement-free environment with the help of an expert who can guide you through rough patches and give you helpful tips to accentuate your strengths and make the whole process more comfortable. 

I’m talking, of course, about working with an executive speech coach. 

Whether you want to advance at work, need help making it comfortably through interviews, or simply want help reducing social anxiety in your personal life, executive speech coaching can give you the opportunity to practice your public speaking in a way that is comfortable, relaxed, and confidence building. 

“Just putting yourself out there” might work for some people, but it will inevitably be a much more painful and stressful process than it needs to be. By working with a speech coach, you can take the pressure off and work on your speaking skills on your own terms. In addition, rather than simply improving via trial and error, you can get expert feedback on aspects of your speech that you may not even notice. For example: how is your diction, your pacing, your body language, or your projection? These are things that can be difficult to accurately assess on your own. 

But beyond corrections and a sounding board, the right speech coach can use an array of advice, speaking exercises, and mindfulness routines to help you reduce your stress and build both your confidence and effectiveness as a speaker. From meetings to toasts to interviews to presentations, with a little bit of guidance, you can reduce your anxiety in any number of work and personal situations. 

To find a Chicago speech coach who might be a good fit for you, give our office a call. BNM offers free consultations to discuss your speech goals and assess your strengths and areas for improvement. Call now to learn more.  

Simple Ways You Can Participate in Better Speech and Hearing Month

Better Speech and Hearing Month


May is one of our favorite months of the year because it is Better Speech and Hearing Month.  

BSHM is a great time of year to educate the people around you about speech and language disorders, to be an advocate for the people in your life who deal with speech or hearing troubles, and to celebrate all the different ways that we communicate with one another.  

Here are a few simple ways that you can help spread Better Speech and Hearing Month awareness: 

Schedule a hearing exam 

If you’ve found that you need to turn the volume on your TV up louder and louder to hear your favorite shows, or if you have a little one whose language is progressing a bit slowly, consider scheduling a hearing exam. Call up your family doctor to schedule an appointment. 

Schedule a speech and language consultation 

Many speech language pathologists (including BNM) offer free consultations to find out if you or your children are dealing with a speech or language disorder and what steps to take next. With children in particular, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the normal ups and down of developing language skills and speech issues that might require the help of an SLP. That’s why it’s important to take the time to find out. Arming yourself with information is the first step toward helping your children become strong, confident communicators. 

Spread BSHM awareness on social media 

Get online and share your stories about speech and hearing challenges that your family has faced or the unique ways that you have found to communicate. Celebrate communication diversity and spread useful information to help others learn from your experience.  

Become an ASHA advocate 

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is a wonderful resource full of information about how you can advocate at the state and local levels on behalf of people with speech, language, and hearing disorders. Learn more here. 

Get your school involved 

If your children are in school, reach out to their teachers or principals about including Better Speech and Hearing topics in this month’s curriculum. ASHA has some great tips on possible school activities, such as art projects about all the different ways that people communicate, lessons on protecting our hearing, and classroom discussion that can help build awareness and understanding. 

5 Tips to Speak with Confidence at Work

Speak with Confidence at Work

If you’re someone who absolutely dreads speaking up at work, you’re not alone. For many people, public speaking is their number one fear, and it’s understandable. We are social creatures – we have an innate desire to connect to each other, to be accepted by one another, even to impress one another. And when we give a presentation or have a one-on-one meeting with our bosses, those are chances to be rejected, to fail, to be cast out.  

BUT every one of those experiences is also an opportunity to do exactly the thing that we all want – connect. The problem is that a lot of us focus on everything that can go wrong rather than everything that can be gained from a successfully delivered speech. The benefits drastically outweigh the possible downsides, so it’s time to start focusing on the good. 

If you have a meeting or some sort of speech coming up at work that you’re are dreading, here are five simple tips to help you relax, feel more confident, and focus on the positive: 

1. Stand like Superman. 

Research has shown that standing in a power pose can actually boost your mood and your confidence in a matter of minutes. It’s sounds silly, but literally taking a few minutes to stand with your feet apart, your chest up, and your hands on your hips (like Superman) is a great way to feel bigger, stronger, and more capable. It’s a little mind trick that can work wonders before a big presentation. 

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. 

If you’re giving a speech, read it out loud at least three times before delivering it to practice your pacing, reword any tricky parts, and just generally get comfortable with your words. If you’re giving a presentation or having a serious conversation, you probably don’t want to be fully memorized, but you do want to know your material inside and out. Having answers to every big question ready to go will help you feel more confident. 

3. Stop preparing and take a walk. 

Once you know your stuff, it’s actually best not to rehearse right up to the last minute. Instead, literally go take a walk. Walk around your office building or in the park next to your work. Get the blood flowing, get out some of your nervous energy, and maybe run over a few points from your presentation in your head. The act of walking will help you relax and feel more confident. 

4. Pick up a few mantras. 

Again, it sounds silly, but mantras can be incredibly powerful things. Finding a few simple sentences that you can repeat in your head during times of stress can help alleviate tension and bring you toward a state of mindfulness – not analyzing the moment your living as you’re living it, but instead just being present in the moment without judgement. One of my favorites is “Only good things can happen.” In most cases, it’s true. If you flub a salary negotiation, for example, it’s not like you’ll get a pay cut. Only good things can come out of that conversation. 

5. Plan ahead. 

Being a good planner and knowing yourself are key parts of exuding confidence, even if you aren’t actually as confident as you appear. For example, if you know from past experience that you’re likely to sweat during a presentation, wear clothes that will keep you cool and that won’t show sweat so that you don’t need to worry. Or if you know your throat is likely to get dry, bring along your own water bottle, just in case. If you know red nail polish makes you feel more powerful, by all means wear it. 

For more practical advice or for executive speech coaching services, give our office a call. A Chicago speech coach can help you turn your dread for public speaking into excitement about the opportunities that each chance to speak holds. 

Stuttering Among School-Aged Child: What Parents Need to Know

Stuttering Among School Aged Children

Stuttering, or disfluency, is most simply defined as a disruption in regular speaking patterns. Stuttering can be characterized by the repetition of certain sounds, difficulty getting out words, or prolonged sounds. 

Many children will experience some level of disfluency from the ages of about two and a half to five years old. During this period, children are rapidly expanding their vocabularies and learning the complicated rules of proper language. It makes perfect sense that many children go through phases of stuttering to one degree or another during this time. 

Once children get to be school aged, though, stuttering tends to drop off significantly. At this point, children who continue to stutter or who develop a stutter can become more aware of their disfluency, and it can cause embarrassment and frustration. Even when children don’t have any other sort of developmental issues, a persistent stutter can cause a lot of academic and social difficulties for your child.  

When your school-aged child develops a stutter, or when a stutter that started in her preschool years doesn’t go away on its own or gets worse, it’s time to talk to a speech language pathologist (SLP). A Chicago SLP can help you identify factors that might be contributing to your child’s stutter and work with you and your child to help improve her fluency over time.  

Sometimes stuttering is connected to other developmental difficulties, but it can also appear on its own. Stuttering is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls, and it also tends to have a genetic component – about 60% of children who stutter have a close family member who also stuttered in their youth. 

Here are a few simple ways that you can help your child face their disfluency: 

  • Look for ways to build confidence. Give your child praise that is specific whenever they accomplish something to help them see the variety and value of their many unique skills and personality traits, not just their speaking ability. 
  • Practice active listening. Whenever possible, be patient with your child and listen to what they have to say without any sort of judgement or pressure. When you speak to them, try to speak in a slow, relaxed manner to help show them that there is no need to rush. 
  • Avoid being critical of their speech. Even well-intentioned advice like “take your time” or “try again” can be frustrating and embarrassing for children with disfluency to hear over and over again.
  • Instead, be patient, be kind, and be generous with your time and attention. 

For more information or to sign up for a free consultation with an SLP in Chicago, give our office a call.