Oct 082019
  • Do people really want to hear my story?

  • Do I want to relate personal details to strangers?

Whether you’re an executive presenting your sales pitch, a college graduate interviewing for your first job, or a high school student speaking with an admissions officer, your personal narrative can be the key to reaching your goals.  Telling someone else about why you believe in your work, what you seek to achieve, or why you’re the best candidate connects you to your audience in a powerful way.

Yes, other people do want to know why you’ve chosen to work in a specific field, why you want to attend a particular college, or why you have a service or skill that you’re promoting.  We all have a fascination with the details of people’s lives, primarily so we can learn and sometimes identify with other people.

At a recent Democratic presidential debate, the candidates were asked to describe a setback in their professional lives.  Vice President Biden chose to speak about the accident that killed his wife and young daughter and seriously injured his son.  He took a bold step in relating this critical event in his life because it shaped everything personally and professionally that followed.  Sworn in as a senator sitting at his injured son’s bedside in the hospital, he undertook the most challenging job of his life while in mourning.  The odds were certainly against him when he became a member of Congress as a grief-stricken husband and father.  Yet he prevailed and the rest is history.  While some media individuals criticized his choice of this personal event rather than a professional incident during the debate, no one could deny the power of his personal narrative with viewers.

The answer to the second question: do you want to share your personal story?  You’re the storyteller and you have the right to share whatever is comfortable.  Your goal is connection, not catharsis.  The specifics you choose should have a direct link to the context; for example, why you’re a good candidate for a job based on your personal experience.

A case study:

A client recently asked me to write a personal narrative she could weave into a presentation of her organization’s investment approach.  She chose to work in this field because of her family’s immigration  and success in this country: their careful investment strategy allowed them to accumulate enough money to support them in retirement.  She wove this narrative very successfully into her presentation using her personal history as the basis for her confidence in her team’s product.

You control the narrative so rest assured, no one compels you to reveal personal details you’d prefer to keep to yourself.  But using your own story to connect to others is one of the most powerful, effective tools to reach your audience and create your success.  Use it and empower yourself!

You may want to read more articles on my blog related to this area:  Learn To Tell Your StoryBe Happier and Healthier By Telling Stories Throughout Your Life


Check back soon for more articles on effective speaking, speech writing, cognitive function and speech pathology.

Mar 112019

Create a Dialogue

If I’m giving a presentation, why do I need to create a dialogue with my audience?

When you make a presentation — to one or 500 people — you want to capture their attention and engage them so they see your point of view.  If you’re simply speaking “at them,” it’s likely you will not gain their full attention and communicate your ideas. 

A dialogue is an interactive process where the speaker engages with an audience and creates a “give-and-take” exchange so the audience genuinely responds, a process where the speaker’s words and ideas spark interest, provoke questions and elicit an internal reaction from members of the audience.  

Does dialogue naturally occur in an interview?

The obvious context for a dialogue is an interview or a one-to-one discussion. But in my work as a speech coach, I find that many people miss the opportunity to create a truly interactive exchange with another person.  Understanding another person’s point of view, interests, and objectives is critical for creating a meaningful context to connect.  

For example: Why should you be hired for a particular job?  The answer is not simply because you would like the job.  If you prepare in advance to understand the company’s structure, goals, and clients, you’ll have a chance to be specific about your credentials.  But in every interview, listening is critical.  Allow the interviewer to tell you about what the company needs, the specifics of the job so you can describe your skills and experience for this position: “why you’ll be an asset to this company.”

How can I create a dialogue with more than one person?

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Have you considered what will be of interest to this audience?
  • What can the audience learn/gain by your presentation?

Planning a presentation tailored to your audience is the first step in creating a dialogue:

  • Consider the time you have to present: include enough information to convey your ideas but don’t burden the listeners with more information than they can process.
  • Make it clear what they can gain from your presentation, your take-away points.
  • Plan your presentation for the allotted time and don’t include more than you’ll be able to say — so you won’t feel compelled to speak fast.
  • Look at your audience, make eye contact, watch your body language and speak in a natural voice.  

All of these critical features for making a great presentation can be found in articles on my website: see the Blog and Publications sections of my website and use the “Search” tool or choose from “Categories”.

Here are a few links on the subject, but you can find many more on my website: 

What You Mean Is In Your Eyes, Not Only In Your Words

Capturing the Authentic Voice

The Two “P’s” for Effective Speaking

Is It WHAT You Say or HOW You Say It?


Check back soon for more articles on communications, effective speaking, writing, speech pathology and executive function.



May 212018

After childhood, what value lies in storytelling?

As adults, the willingness and ability to talk about one’s observations and experiences not only provides a way of keeping verbal skills sharp, but perhaps as importantly, becomes of means of emotional health.

As we grown older, many people hide their feelings and experiences out of embarrassment or concern about boring others.  The example of the person who “tells the same stories over and over again” inhibits many people from telling stories about themselves.  For those people, discussing current affairs or business interests becomes the pivot for conversation.  But they deprive themselves of the opportunity of expressing their own feelings and ideas — and important outlet for personal expression.

In some families, traditions exist that everyone, children and adults, tell a story at the dinner table or family gatherings.  Many skilled writers credit their success to the expectation that each person tell a story to the family at night.  Within families, the opportunity to tell one’s story can be a first step toward building self confidence and learning to bond with others. 

As we become older, we often relate to others by the stories we tell — if we use the opportunity — and solidify our connections to other people.  

As people age, the wisdom and experience they relate to their children, grandchildren, and those around them often comes through stories.  Personal history doesn’t have to be recorded formally in writing: we all have the opportunity to tell our stories and enrich the lives of others, as well as ourselves.

Tell a story and give yourself, and others, the joy that comes from using the unique talent we have as humans: connecting through ideas and words.


Check back soon for more articles on communication, writing, cognitive function and speech pathology.




Apr 252017

“The eyes are the window of the soul.” Old English proverb.

Beyond the power of words, the way you speak conveys what you mean.  In the face to face conversations between human beings, the eyes and facial expression transmit at least half of the message.  A person’s eyes communicate interest, care, anger, distrust, sincerity and a host of other mental states.

In the age of email and texts, so much of the potential for direct human exchange has been diluted.  The opportunity of establishing dialogue between individuals diminishes when so much interaction takes places electronically.  While opportunity may diminish, the importance does not.

Why is it important to establish dialogue?

When people speak to each other face to face, an expectation exists that one person wants to convey information and establish rapport.  From the mundane activities of daily life to professional interactions, speaking effectively to someone else requires establishing a direct connection to an individual, a dialogue.

How important are the eyes in dialogue?

When we speak with someone our first instinct is to look at the other person’s eyes.  Interest, mood, trustworthiness are some of the key features signaled by an individual’s eyes.  Maintaining eye contact remains one of the universal fundamentals in establishing a relationship, whether meeting someone for the first time, interviewing for a job, or making a presentation.

What else besides the eyes is important? 

We convey information about ourselves through facial expressions, body language and vocal features.  How we say our words communicates almost as much as what we say.  People expect to be “spoken to, not at.”  Sometimes more meaning is conveyed in face to face interactions by how someone speaks, rather than the words spoken.

Can we lose the ability to speak to other people?

As a society, can we evolve to becoming poor communicators? With limited practice and opportunity, many teenagers and young adults today are less comfortable and capable of speaking with others, especially adults. 

In my practice I have worked with students who think they interact well with their peers but have little skill in interviewing for jobs or presenting themselves in an articulate, mature manner.  The first skill they need to learn is the importance of looking at another individual in order to create dialogue.

When we speak to people, if we want to express truth, sincerity and concern, we need to remember that we speak through the eyes as much as the mouth.


Check back soon for more articles on communication, speech pathology, executive function and writing skills.






Feb 102016


Learn how to speak with confidence to one person, a small group, or a large audience. Whether you are selling yourself, your business, a product or a concept, being a great speaker is not just important…it’s essential. Take advantage of the opportunity to make a special occasion-toast, corporate presentation or sales pitch by improving your speaking skills. In this hands-on workshop you will learn and practice the basic tools to gain and sustain the interest and respect of your listeners. Limit of 10 students.


Gloria S. Lazar, M.S., M.Phil., CCC, is a speech-language pathologist and has been in private practice since 1988 working with adults on speech skills. She coaches professionals in a variety of fields, including law, medicine, teaching, financial services and entertainment. Tuesday, April 12 • 7 – 9 pm Bronxville School $45.

Register at www.bronxvilleadultschool.org, by phone at 914.793.4435 or by mail.

Nov 122015
  • Isn’t communication more efficient through email, text messaging, voice mail and automated phone systems?
  • In our technological age, aren’t we wasting time by speaking to one another?

While email, text messages and social media have broken down barriers of geography and time, they have created an illusion that face-to-face communication has lost relevance.  As a global society, we run the risk of losing the skills to articulate our thoughts in spoken language if we place greater importance on technology over verbal interaction.

In the 21st century, the value of the spoken word, both for information as well as a learning tool, has been eclipsed by various forms of technology.  The need to speak to another person, to gather information and to learn, seems to have taken a back seat to the concept of efficiency.

In his excellent book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, Fareed Zakaria speaks about “a related method of learning through the ages… pure conversation.”  He quotes A. Whitney Griswold, former president of Yale: ‘Conversation is the oldest form of instruction of the human race… a great creative art.’

Zakaria adds the words of the scientist and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead: ‘outside of the book-knowledge which is necessary to our professional training, I think I got most of my development from the good conversation to which I have always had the luck to have access.’

Throughout the history of the United States, as well as well as abroad, coffee houses, taverns, even sewing circles have provided a venue for conversation and debate.  Would the United States exist without the word-of-mouth news and exchanges that encouraged revolution?  The verbal skills to express oneself, argue beliefs and present a personal point of view remain critical tools for everyone.

Many individuals contact me for speech coaching because they lack the skills and confidence to create a verbal statement of their work or their personal views.  Successful professional and social interaction continues to be a mainstay of our modern society.  Whether interviewing for college, a  job, even meeting new people, the ability to converse smoothly still counts.

But without practice by actually speaking to one another, these skills may not  develop or reach a higher level  of sophistication.  While contracting information into 140 character text messages–sound bites with abbreviations–may be efficient, we should not devalue the long history of personal, spoken interaction.  The ability to tell a story and to verbalize one’s thoughts remains a skill that still has relevance and importance in our technologically-driven society.  What we perceive as mere conversation can provide the means for significant learning and personal enrichment.


Check back soon for more articles on communication, speech pathology, writing and cognitive function.

Mar 162015
  • Some people seem able to answer a question or express an opinion effortlessly in an open forum.

Whether in a business meeting, lecture hall or classroom, it seems there are always individuals who can pose a question or make a comment smoothly, without hesitation.

  • Don’t they have the heart hammering, sweaty palms that many people experience when all eyes are on them? How do they appear so confident?

THE ANSWER:  They’re confident because they have the skills to express themselves.

  • Is this a natural skill for most people or one that’s learned?

For some, verbal fluency comes naturally, but for the majority these are skills nurtured by teachers and the opportunity to practice.  Years ago, schools and colleges used to require poetry recitation, class presentations and public speaking courses.  The goal of developing the skills needed for successful public speaking have been largely replaced by an emphasis on subject matter knowledge.  Strong verbal skills have been relegated to a less important status in our highly specialized, technology-driven society.

As a speech pathologist and public speaking coach, I see many professionals, as well as students, who dread making presentations, answering questions or offering a comment in public — and the most challenging situation —  interviewing for a job. 

The answer to the question about what is the key to public speaking effectiveness? Both confidence and skills.  But these are not mutually exclusive: verbal skills bolster confidence.  Acquiring the skills to express yourself can be learned and practiced so that you are confident and successful as a speaker, one-on-one, in a class, or a public venue.  Being able to describe your thoughts, your work, your expertise in a field is a life skill that enhances your professional value and provides an outlet for your accomplishments.


Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, speech pathology, communications and cognitive function.


Feb 192015

The little girl’s lisp and the boy’s “British” r’s sound cute at age 3, but not in the adult speaker.

  • Do children outgrow early articulation errors?

Children learn to pronounce the sounds of their language from a young age by imitating what they hear and using trial and error.  By matching their own production to the sounds of adults, teachers and the world at large, children develop speech during the first years of life.  Most modify early errors by age 5 to 6 in a predictable pattern. A normal feedback mechanism based on listening and imitating is the key to how a child learns to speak.  By age 6, nearly all speech should be pronounced with standard sounds (within a child’s environment.)  By age 7 at the latest,  a child’s speech patterns become “natural” and will not self correct.

  • What affects normal speech development?

Frequent ear infections often cause delays in a child’s speech development.  The regular feedback loop for hearing and matching speech sounds can be disrupted by fluctuating hearing loss during ear infections and by congestion that persists afterward. Some children have difficulty in oro-motor dexterity so that imitating the speech sounds around them can become difficult.  Sounds requiring highly coordinated movements of the tongue may develop later (by age 6-7) — or not at all.

Once speech habits become ingrained, however, they become more difficult to change.  So the longer an incorrect pattern persists, the longer it will take to correct. The key to helping a child develop a speech pattern free of articulation errors is early intervention: before the ear to mouth feedback process shuts down — generally by age 5 .  After age 7, children stop modifying their speech patterns on their own.

Older children, teenagers and adults rarely listen to how they speak; what they’re saying becomes the focus.  In this way the errors in a child’s speech pattern become part of the adult’s normal speaking habits.

  • When should speech errors be corrected?

The earlier professional treatment takes place, the easier and faster the process to correct speech errors.  Teenagers and adults who are motivated to develop clear, error-free speech can be helped by a speech pathologist at any age.  But early intervention will prevent childhood problems becoming adult errors.

Most adults recognize that to some degree we are judged by what we say and how we say it.  To the adage “we are what we eat” one may add, “we are how we speak.”


Check back soon for more articles on speech and language, voice, writing and cognitive function.

Sep 202013

So you’ve finally gotten an appointment for an important interview.   How do you prepare?

It goes without saying that you research the company, anticipate the questions you might be asked and consider the questions you want to ask your interviewer.  Questions you want to ask?  Yes, what you need to know about this company/job.  The questions you ask become part of the profile you present — which leads me to my first key point:

Tip # 1.  Listen to the interviewer

Don’t  become so enraptured by the sound of your own voice that you don’t listen carefully.  You may have a script in your mind about your story, your education, experience, aspirations, but don’t throw it all at the interviewer.  Let your story unfold in response to the questions you’re asked.

Tip # 2.  Maintain eye contact

Even if you feel yourself thinking hard to respond to a question, try not to let your eyes shift around the room too much. You don’t have to stare at the interviewer, but you should maintain a comfortable level of eye contact.

Tip # 3.  You’re speaking to someone, not at someone

This point follows directly from Tips 1 & 2:  when you’re interviewed, respond as if you’re telling a story about yourself to the interviewer by answering the questions you’re asked, offering additional information where there’s a natural segue, looking directly at the person, and maintaining a natural tone.

Tip # 4.  How you say it is almost equally important as what you say

For the moment, we’ll assume you know how to answer the questions you’re given.  Can you ruin an interview by saying things the wrong way?  Absolutely.  Giving an impression of being nervous, over anxious — or even worse — being less than truthful can be conveyed by how you speak.

Tip # 5.  Don’t forget to breathe

Many of the mistakes people make in an interview can be avoided by remembering to breathe.  Sounds too simple?  In my work I see many intelligent, capable individuals who don’t represent themselves effectively at an interview.  Talking too fast, using poor intonation, hesitating, too many ums & ahs are just a few of the features you want to avoid.  While there are specific strategies for eliminating these common errors, controlling your breath remains the basis for effective speaking.

Tip # 6.  Your body language speaks about you

In addition to how you speak, your body language carries a message.  Your hands, posture, gestures all convey meaning in an interview.  Maintaining an erect but not stiff posture, using your hands appropriately, matching your facial gestures with your words are a few of the keys to presenting yourself in the best possible way.

Is there more?

Simple as it may seem, these are the key points for giving a great interview.  Certainly there are strategies to improve components of the features I’ve mentioned, but these are the basics.   Like many things in life, we benefit from practice.  As you interview, you’ll hopefully learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and work toward becoming the speaker you want to be.


Check back next week for more thoughts on communications, speech and language, and executive function skills.



Sep 042013

“Speak up, speak clearly.”  Sounds like a mother’s or a teacher’s reminder. Growing up, most people hear these words of advice.  Speaking in front of a class, an audience, interviewing for a job, meeting new people  — these are just a few situations in which speech counts.  Not speaking too softly, not mumbling or rushing your speech seem to be the keys to being a successful speaker.  Indeed, they can be considered as  cornerstones for effective speech.

But what’s behind the idea of speaking clearly? Surprisingly perhaps, the individuals we consider good speakers all share the virtue of what used to be called good “elocution,” a term one rarely hears now.  The basis of elocution is pronouncing the sounds of the English language with “standard sounds; that is, speech without articulation errors. Good articulation develops in childhood and needs to continue throughout the adult years.

Doesn’t everybody learn to imitate what they hear when they’re young?  The majority of people learn to articulate the sounds of our language in their early years.  But not everyone.  Frequent ear infections, colds, enlarged tonsils and adenoids are just a few of the reasons that speech skills may not develop uniformly. Children who don’t pronounce the standard sounds of English by the time they’re five or six years old may need speech therapy to learn to speak properly.  When these problems aren’t addressed or solved in the early years, the same speech patterns continue into adulthood and become one of the key reasons why some adults don’t “speak clearly.”  And if they realize they don’t “speak clearly” they may not be confident in “speaking up.”

Can articulation be remediated at any age?  While it’s certainly easier to change a speaking pattern at a younger age, adults can modify their speech at any age.  With children, the process usually works best in a play context in therapy supported by home practice with parents.  Older individuals can make these changes as well, sometimes with less difficulty because they recognize the problem and bring self motivation to the process.

What about the other keys to speaking up and speaking clearly?  The basis for all good speech rests on pronouncing the sounds of our language in the same way as everyone else in society. Once the fundamental issue of proper articulation is resolved, the other factors critical for effective speech can be addressed.

I’ve written about some of these other important elements in previous blog articles:  “The ‘Um’ ‘Ah’ Problem”  and “The Two ‘P’s’ for Effective Speaking“.   You might like to read further on the question of how to speak clearly.


Check back next week for more thoughts on speech and language, communications, and executive functioning.