Being a Good Presenter is an Acquired Skill, Not a Gift

Being a Good Presenter

The New York Times published an excellent article making the case for small business owners to hire speech coaches. Writer Hillary Chura made the point that while business owners might be experts in their particular field, that doesn’t automatically make them good at presenting themselves or their ideas to investors, potential clients, or even other business people. The same is true for executives at every level. 

Whether you’re running a one-woman operation or a manager in a 10,000-person organization, the ability to express yourself clearly and professionally is an important asset that should be practiced and polished. It’s a mistake to assume that some people are simply better at public speaking. While we all have our natural talents, speech and presentation skills are exactly that – skills – that can be practiced and improved upon with focus and time. 

The New York Times article uses the example of a civil engineering company that brought in a speaking trainer for one day to work with 25 people. The company had an upcoming pitch that was potentially worth millions of dollars in new business, but they were the underdogs going in. By taking the time to hone their pitch with a professional – working on timing, descriptive word choices, poise, and cohesion – the company was able to win the bid. 

Spoken presentations are a central part of the modern office. We may not all be putting together pitches to garner million-dollar deals, but we all use speech in our professional lives to one degree or another, especially at the executive level. Business leaders must: 

  • present goals and plans to their teams
  • organize meetings and keep the agenda moving forward with diplomacy
  • make their case for raises and new responsibilities to their bosses
  • pitch to new clients
  • give presentations at conferences
  • network with colleagues
  • maintain healthy and respectful workplace relationships
  • give great interviews when new opportunities arise 

If you’re looking for new ways to expand your horizons and become a more invaluable leader in 2019, executive speech training is a tool that will benefit you for the rest of your life, in and out of the office. Whether you struggle with anxiety, want to be taken more seriously, or need help preparing for a specific presentation, a Chicago speech coach can help you achieve your goals. Call today to schedule a free consultation. 

The Many Roles of a Speech Language Pathologist

role of speech language pathologist

The formal title of “speech language pathologist” or “SLP” often gets shortened to “speech therapist,” and this can cause some confusion, because the role of an SLP and the variety of speech, language, and literacy issues that an SLP can help with are incredibly varied.  

From children who are having trouble chewing and swallowing their food to stroke victims who need to relearn how to speak altogether, a qualified SLP can take a on a wide variety of roles in a person’s life. Here are some of the main areas that speech language pathologists can help with: 

Language 

A variety of disorders can affect how well a person understands what they are reading or what is being said to them. Some disorders can also make it difficult to form thoughts into words. This can be the result of damage to the brain – whether through illness or injury – or a developmental issue. An SLP can work with both children and adults who have language difficulties, giving them strategies to better express themselves and find the words they’re searching for. 

Speech 

Speech refers to the sounds that we make to express language. There are a wide variety of speech disorders that can result from over or underdeveloped muscles, damage to the mouth or throat, or other developmental difficulties. A lisp is a common speech impediment that an SLP can help with through exercises and practice. 

Literacy 

Problems with reading and writing can frequently accompany speech or language disorders. Often literacy issues can be addressed by an SLP, helping children and adults feel more confident and preparing them for greater future success. 

Communication 

When children in particular have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, that can lead to frustration, acting out, and inappropriate social behavior. SLPs can help children who have difficulty in social situations learn how to take turns, follow directions, and express themselves appropriately in a variety of social situations. 

Voice 

The tone and pitch of our voice can be hindered by injuries and illness. Regaining the ability to speak in a normal voice – or finding that ability for the first time – is something an SLP can help with. 

Fluency 

Fluency refers to how well a person’s speech flows. Someone with a stutter or other speech impediment can work with an SLP to improve fluency with practice over time. 

Feeding and Swallowing 

While nothing to do with speech or language; chewing, sipping, and swallowing have everything to do with the same muscles used in speech. SLPs can be excellent resources in addressing feeding and swallowing disorders such as dysphagia. 

To learn more or to schedule a consultation with an experienced speech language pathologist, call our office today.

Why Should Improving Your Speaking be One of Your Goals for 2019?

improving your speaking

Public speaking is said to be more feared than death. Some people literally claim that they are less afraid of dying than they are of giving a speech in front of a room of people. The big problem with this is that public speaking is all but unavoidable if you hope to have a successful career in pretty much any field. 

No, you won’t need to give a prepared speech in front of a crowded auditorium every day if you work in human resources or in software development or as an executive assistant. But the further you move up the line in practically any job, the more often you will need to present your ideas to your boss, pitch a project you’d like support for, or give compelling interviews that separate you from the crowd.  

If you don’t have the confidence and skills to speak well in both one-on-one and group situations, your opportunities for career advancement will inevitably be limited.That’s why improving your speaking should be one of your big goals for 2019. Whether you have a particular speaking event ahead of you or simply want to communicate more effectively with your boss or your employees, executive speech coaching can be a tremendous asset. 

Effective speaking is about a lot more than the words that come out of your mouth. An experienced speech coach can help with: 

  • Tone of voice and pacing
  • Projection and diction
  • Strategies for boosting confidence and calming nerves
  • Organizing presentations for maximum impact
  • Improving storytelling ability
  • Improving listening ability
  • Reading a room
  • And more.

When you work on your speaking skills, what you’re really working on are your presentation and communication skills. You’re learning how to be better understood and how to better understand others. Those are skills that have practical applications in every aspect of life, from marriage to parenting to career to friendships. 

To learn more about how to prioritize your speaking skills this year, give our office a call today.

Speech Therapy Activities for Winter: Inside the Classroom and Beyond

 

speech therapy activities

One simple way to make speech therapy more fun all year long is to incorporate different events that happen throughout the year. With the winter holidays behind us, it can feel like we’re in a bit of a lull at the beginning of each new year, but there are still plenty of winter-themed activities that can make speech therapy more enjoyable and special during this particular time of year. 

Here are a few of our favorite speech therapy activities for winter that can be enjoyed in the classroom, outside, or at home. 

“I’m building a snowman” activity. 

This is a simple game that gets children thinking creatively and learning how to take turns, all while practicing speech. Start by saying, “I’m building a snowman, and he has…” then name one item that the snowman is wearing. It could be a top hat or a carrot nose – whatever you like. Go around in a circle or back and forth (if you’re playing in pairs) and list new things that the snowman might be wearing.  

This game can turn into a lot of fun once the basics are covered and children start coming up with more and more ridiculous items (such as a unicorn horn or an astronaut’s helmet) to put on the snowman. For older children, you can add an extra element to the game by having each child repeat all of the previous items in order before adding something new to the list. 

Write and recite winter poems. 

Writing and reciting poetry is a great way to stretch those creative thinking muscles and practice rhyme, diction, and pacing. Older children can find a great deal of inspiration in falling snow, crunching leaves, and cozy fireplaces. Younger children can repeat poems after you or simply listen along. Look for winter poems with a lot of fun onomatopoetic words like “crunch” and “blustery.”

Consider taking a wintery walk to find inspiration before you write or as you recite. 

Make winter vocabulary flash cards. 

Winter is a season that comes with its own set of words. From the warm clothes we wear to the sleds we ride to the multitude of terms for falling snow, practicing winter words can be a lot of fun.

You can start with a list of words and have children draw corresponding pictures to make their own flash cards. Or you can print out flash cards and practice putting the words into sentences together.  

For more activity ideas or to schedule a consultation, feel free to call our office any time. Our Chicago speech therapists are always here to help. 

What to Do About Communication Misfires

Communication Misfirings at Work

We all put our feet in our mouths from time to time. Sometimes it takes a while to realize a misstep. Sometimes you realize you’ve made a huge mistake as the words are coming out of your mouth. Saying something inconsiderate or rude or offensive is awkward when it happens among family or friends. When it happens at work, it could get you fired.

So what should you do when you know you’ve made a mistake?

It’s simple: apologize. These are the characteristics of a true apology.

  • Timeliness – Apologize for your actions as soon as you realize that you’ve made a mistake. Don’t wait to see if the person gets upset or if they show signs of holding a grudge. Own up to what you did as soon as possible.
  • Sincerity – If your apology begins with, “I’m sorry if…” that’s not a real apology. A real apology should begin with “I’m sorry that…” It’s not the person’s fault that they were offended. Even if you think the person overreacted, it will not help either of you feel any better to insist that they are in some way at fault for their own feelings.
  • Thoughtfulness – Show that you’re not just apologizing because you think it’s expected but because you actually feel regret. You can do this by explaining why you acted the way you did and what you now recognize your error to be.
  • Amends – Following up a spoken apology with an offer to make amends is the best way to demonstrate sincerity. Simply asking, “What can I do to fix this?” is a good start. Offering up a solution is an even better one.

Keeping Your Foot Out of Your Mouth

Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all avoid saying regrettable things in the first place. Especially in the workplace, it’s important to be aware of your environment and the feelings of everyone you work with, not just the people that you’re talking to. For example, the fact that there are only men in a meeting doesn’t make it ok to tell a sexist joke. Nor is it ok to spread gossip about someone behind their back. Such actions have no place at work and will always come back to haunt you.

Likewise, if you suspect that you may have said something out of turn but aren’t quite sure, it’s almost always the right choice to ask the affected person if you upset them. By showing your concern in borderline situations, you can help reinforce your workplace relationships and show the people you work with that you care about them.

To learn more about effective workplace communication, consider the many benefits of working with a Chicago speech coach. Executive speech coaching could help you nail your next presentation, negotiate more persuasively with clients, and even earn you a promotion ahead of schedule. Call now to learn more.  

The Importance of Caregivers and Language Development

Caregivers and Speech

Your child’s brain develops faster in their first three years than at any other point in life. In fact, by the time your child is three, their brain is 85% of the size it will be when your child is grown up. More and more studies are showing just how critical the first few years are to brain development. Foundational physical, emotional, and language development all take place during your child’s first three years.

This can feel like an awful lot of pressure, especially on first time parents. The good news is that you don’t have to be a psychologist or a doctor to raise a healthy, happy child. Likewise, if your child is a bit behind on certain milestones by their third birthday, that’s usually nothing to worry about. All children develop at different rates. Even within the same family, different children can have very different strengths and weaknesses.

Three simple ways that you can help your child develop strong language skills are reading to them, singing to them, and talking to them.

Reading

Start reading to your child on day one. If your child is already a toddler and you’ve never spent much time reading her books, it isn’t too late to start. Some children will tell you that they don’t like books and are not interested. Don’t let that deter you. Keep suggesting reading time to your little ones, and do your best to find books that they like. For example, many infants are interested in books with black and white pictures, and many toddlers enjoy books with pictures of babies. Books with flaps to lift and pop-ups can be a great introduction to story time. Stop by your local library with your little one to discover books that interest her without spending a dime.

Singing

Singing engages different parts of the brain than speaking alone. Simple melodies like lullabies and nursery rhymes tend to captivate children, because it’s easier for children to start to recognize patterns in simple songs. Likewise, rhyming helps develop language skills by making new words easier to learn. You can sing songs to help your little one’s focus, to calm them down when they’re upset, or to help them pass the time in the car.

Talking

Talking to your child is a simple way to expose them to more language and help them learn to speak faster. Try to avoid “baby talk,” but use consistent words for certain daily activities so that your child can start to associate the words to the activity. You can also narrate what you’re doing to your child, even if you don’t think she’ll understand. One day you may just be surprised to find that you can tell your toddler, “Go get your blue dinosaur,” and she’ll successfully retrieve it.

If at any point you become concerned that something is off with your child’s language development, don’t hesitate to contact a speech language pathologist (SLP). A great Chicago SLP can provide a free consultation to help you determine whether your little one has any speech or language concerns that need to be addressed. To learn more about speech therapy in Chicago, feel free to give our office a call.

The Use of Effective Storytelling During Presentations

storytelling during presentations

Humans have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been able to communicate. Some researchers believe there are as few as seven basic stories that get told over and over again. And within those seven stories, there is just one basic story structure – beginning, middle, and end.

But as simple as the mechanics of story are, and regardless of how many stories we hear, stories still have a powerful way of captivating our attention and pulling us in. Oftentimes, story can be even more powerful than facts or debate, because story puts us in the shoes of the protagonist (main character), no matter how similar or different that person is to/from us.

When giving business presentations, it would be easy to assume that story is irrelevant, but nothing could be further from the truth. From political speeches to advertisements to the ways that we communicate with our family and friends, speakers who use story to get their points across are always the most engaging and the most persuasive.

Here are a few basic principles of story that you can use in your next presentation:

1. Stories have three parts.

The beginning, middle, and end. First a story establishes the way the world used to be, including an important problem that wasn’t being addressed. Then the story introduces a big change, something that throws everything upside down and forces a new path. And in the end, the story reveals whether that change led to a better world and the resolution of the problem or not.

In terms of a business presentation, you’re likely sharing information about some sort of change, whether that be a new product or a new protocol or idea. To effectively get across the benefits of the change, you need to first establish what the situation was before the change came into being and the problem with that situation, then you can introduce the change, and finally you can show how the change solved (or will solve) the problem. That’s story.

2. Stories set up expectations and defy them.

Every good story sets up expectations. We all understand the basic patterns of stories, so when we’re introduced to a guy and a girl who seem perfectly suited to each other at the beginning of a story, we expect that they will soon meet and fall in love. But what if the two people meet and become worst enemies? That defies our expectations and causes us to lean in, because we no longer know what to expect and instinctively want to get ahead of the story once again.

The same is true in business presentations. Your audience is always going to assume that they know where you’re going, so if you can find opportunities to surprise them with better than expected results or maybe a feature that they never would have predicted, that will keep them on their toes and engaged.

3. Stories are emotional.

Not every business presentation is going to bring your audience to tears, but it’s always important to remember that humans are emotional creatures who crave connection. Whether you can find a way to put your audience in the shoes of a particular person facing a particular challenge or more generally in the shoes of a case study company, doing so will help them emotionally invest in the story that you’re telling.

To learn more about the dynamics of story and how you can become a better business storyteller, call our Chicago office today.  

At Home Speech Therapy Activities for Kids

at home speech therapy activities

With Thanksgiving and winter breaks right around the corner, your children are going to be spending a lot of time at home. Finding ways to fill all of that time can be stressful for any parent, and the challenges are only bigger if your child is missing out on their typical in-school speech therapy sessions during school breaks.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can help your child practice their speech and language skills at home while engaging them in a bit of holiday fun. Here are a few of our favorite holiday-themed speech and language activities to do at home:

Recite holiday poems.

Many of the best children’s poems involve snow, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other fall and winter holiday fun. Start with a short poem and either feed it to your child line by line, or print it on a large piece of construction paper and hang it somewhere accessible in the home for your child to read and practice whenever they pass by. They’ll love putting on a performance for you, and the rhythm of the poems will help them fall in love with words and language.

Here is a great selection of poems to get you started.

Sing holiday songs.

From “Over the River and Through the Woods” to the endless array of winter songs, you’ll find no shortage of carols to sing with your little ones. Singing is a great way to build confidence and practice forming sounds that can sometimes be easier to sing than say.

Little helpers.

During the holidays, you’ll often find yourself in need of a little helper, and many kids will be excited to participate in the festivities. Whenever you can, find opportunities to let your children help you with cooking, decorating, setting the table, and other such tasks that will help them feel involved and important. Just remember to find age-appropriate tasks and use language to direct them.

Ask them questions throughout the process, and encourage them to also ask you questions, if they’re old enough.

Ask questions about presents.

Leading up to any holidays involving presents, engage your children in conversation about what they’re hoping to get and why. Ask what they’ll do with their presents. Ask about sizes, colors, and textures. After your child opens their presents, ask them to tell you what they got and to describe their feelings. Even if your children are just starting to speak or are not verbal yet, talk to them about their presents, about the holiday, and about all the people in the house.

And remember, if you need extra speech therapy support during the holidays or any other time of year, we are here to help. Give our office a call to set up an assessment any time. 

5 Ways “Busy-ness” Impacts Your Communication and Presentations

Avoid Busyness in Presentations

It’s no secret that a large portion of Americans are overworked. We’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it in. All the tasks on our plate have a tendency to seep into the way that we communicate with each other, and that can create big problems in the workplace.

While you may not always be able to help how much you need to do, you can be cognizant of how your “busy-ness” affects your business. Whether you’re going through a work-heavy week or “busy” is simply a constant state of being for you, consider how you could improve these five busy-ness related missteps that might be hindering your communication:

1. Poor Body Language

When you’re overly busy or stressed, you might be more likely to check your phone during conversations or more likely to give into nervous ticks like twirling your hair or tightly crossing your arms. Regardless of how busy you are, put the phone away, look the person you’re talking to in the eye, and stand up straight. If it helps, take a deep calming breath before heading into your boss’s office. That will help you focus on the subject at hand and be more productive and professional.

2. Sloppy Emails

When you get busy, the quality of your emails is likely to go downhill because you have to send so darn many of them. If you find yourself sending the same sorts of emails over and over, set up some templates for yourself to make the process faster. Always use proper punctuation and grammar. And remember that you have a phone! Instead of defaulting to email, recognize that you might save a lot of time and energy by simply calling the person you need to speak to.

3. Underpreparing

When you’re busy, you might choose to go “off the cuff” in your next presentation. A disorganized presentation isn’t going to help the people you’re presenting to or your career. Prioritize getting your presentation right to avoid the possibility of having to do it again later – or never getting that chance.

4. Focusing on the urgent rather than the important

A big mistake that we all make from time to time is getting caught up in immediate deadlines rather than the overall big picture. Try to communicate according to your priorities, not your pressures. By keeping a grasp on the big picture, you’ll be empowered to communicate with purpose.

5. Foot-in-Mouth syndrome

When we’re hurried, we tend to say things without thinking, which can have a devastating effect in the business world. Whether it’s a bad joke or a white lie gone too far, it’s always worth taking the time to consider your audience and think about what you’re going to say before speaking.

If your busy schedule has had a detrimental effect on your communication skills, it may be time to work with a Chicago executive speech coach. Executive speech coaching in Chicago can help you harness your communication strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Whether you have a big presentation coming up or want to be a more effective overall leader, we can help.

Strategies to Enhance Language Stimulation in Young Children

Language Stimulation in Young Children

It’s never too early to start practicing language skills with your children. From the day your baby is born, she starts absorbing information and stimuli from the world around her, and you are one of her main points of focus. There are a wide variety of ways that you can encourage your child to communicate with you, including:

At Birth…

Talk to your baby. Let her know what you’re doing and how you’re feeling using soothing, pleasant tones. She won’t understand yet, but she will be listening.

Sing to your baby. Take time every day to sing lullabies and learning songs. Simple melodies are the most appealing to young ears, but you can mix it up with a few of your favorite songs, too.

Read to your baby. Head to your local library sale or Good Will and invest in board books that your baby can admire, handle, and chew on. The earlier you can expose your children to books, the better.

At Six Months…

Start to introduce baby sign language. It may take several months before your baby signs back to you, but she may be able to sign before she can speak, which gives her a way to communicate her needs and reduce her frustration when she’s hungry, wet, or tired.

Babble with your baby. Repeat the sounds that she makes back to her. Practice the rhythm of conversation by listening to her babble, then babbling back, then listening again.

At One Year…

Identify your child’s favorite objects. You likely already do this, but take extra care when your child points to an object by identifying it with simple words and/or descriptions of the item’s color, shape, or size.

Try to limit TV time. Research shows that your child will learn much better from you than from TV, even if she is starting to be engaged by what she sees. Try to limit screen time as much as possible before the age of two (and beyond).

At Two Years…

Ask lots of questions. Point to objects in books and ask your child to identify them. Ask her what sounds various animals make. Give her choices whenever possible.

Gently test her language. Your child may understand more of what you say than you realize. You can gently test her by asking her, for example, to go get her green dinosaur in her room. You may be surprised at just how many directions she can follow when asked.

In Pre-school and Beyond

Keep reading books and singing. The more you play with your child, the more you’ll communicate with her. Reading together should be a daily habit that will help her build strong pre-reading skills like turning pages and calling out objects she recognizes in favorite books.

Ask about and share feelings and emotions. As your child gets older, your conversations can get more mature. Remember to ask how she’s feeling and to answer the questions she asks you as honestly as you can.

If you’re worried about your child’s language development, it’s important to remember that all children develop differently, and “normal” milestones can happen at very different times for different children, even within the same family. But if your child seems significantly behind in some way or another, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. Your pediatrician may be able to point you to an early intervention program – there’s one in every state and territory – that can provide services and support if your child has developmental delays.

You should also reach out to a Chicago speech language pathologist (or an SLP in your area). Call our office to ask any questions you may have or to schedule an assessment with a Chicago speech therapist.