Don’t Just Stand There, 2015!

Posted on January 26, 2015 by karen

don't just stand there

 

“Don’t Just Stand There…”

Love that phrase. It’s exactly how I feel about my personal and professional life. Thanks to that mindset, 2014 was a fantastic year for me. I continued to grow my company on the East Coast, moved from the East to the West coast, traveled for work (and play), and expanded AstiNova even further by opening up in San Francisco, California.

I’ve worked with so many amazing clients who have shared their ideas, cultures, and personal lives with me. Both past and present clients continue to inspire me with their needs regarding accent reduction and public speaking. Some clients do best 1-on-1, others thrive in groups, some need weekly audio recordings and others do great with follow up videos from me.

So I started to think: What can I do to make things better for my clients? What will help them neutralize their foreign accents, pronounce difficult sounds better, and make their overall experience better?

Tada! Below is a client inspired list of things to come in 2015! Disclaimer: This isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of the list. Do you have an idea? Do you have something that you think would help you out or make things easier? Then email me!

2015 Goals:

1. Multi payment methods: Accept Credit Cards, PayPal, Square etc.

2. Office Hours for extra Accent Reduction Help

3. YouTube Pronunciation Videos

4. Accent Reduction Video Training Packages geared towards specific languages

5. Client Specific Videos and Tutorials

6. Packages: VIP, Corporate, Individual, & Small Group

7. Tech & Startup Specific Accent Reduction Training Groups

8. Increase Conference Attendance for Public Speaking Clients

9. Corporate Consults or Seminars for Public Speaking and Pronunciation

10. Free (Live!) Language Specific Seminars

Bonus: Company Paid Accent Reduction Help!

What languages or sounds would you like me to make videos of? What was your first language? Would you like to see something else in 2015? Want me to email your boss? Email Me!

 

What the heck is your job?!?

Posted on August 12, 2014 by karen

 

I get this question all the time. People are always curious about what I actually do. I am a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) specializing in English Pronunciation. Most people think of SLP’s working at schools with children who have trouble talking. But, that isn’t the type of thing I do. I specialize in the pronunciation of sounds in the English language. I know exactly which muscles to use for each specific sound. I can teach you how to use these muscles, properly direct the airflow, and control your voice so that you can be heard loud and clear.

What is it called that you do?

So many names but essentially all the same thing: Accent Reduction, Accent Modification, American English Pronunciation, Accent Neutralization, Business English, English Clarity, Accent Training, and good ole Speaking Clearly. I work with individuals on improving their English Pronunciation so that they can be understood by others.  So go for it and Google your brains out. If you think you need it- You probably do.

Okay, So what is it?

I meet with clients, teams, and companies to work on improving their communication skills. Specifically with improving a client’s English Pronunciation. If a client can improve their pronunciation they automatically improve their overall confidence, their communication skills, and no longer need to deal with the frustrations of repeating themselves over and over again. I also work with individuals on presentation skills, interviews, and anything else that relates to both individual and corporate communication needs.

Who do you work with?

We all have met my clients. They are doctors, professors, lawyers, CEO’s, engineers, programmers, translators, au pairs, and team leaders. They are customer service representatives, pharmacists, architects, journalists, hotel concierge, news reporters, and the radio show host on your local channel. I work with individuals, small groups, startups and corporations to improve their communication. I work 1-on-1 or in a small group. I fly out to big conferences when my client needs extra work on their presentation. I plan intense sessions at company headquarters before the CEO pitches to a VC for funding. I work with fast paced, motivated, creative and brilliant professionals.

How do I know if I need your training?

Two ways: Really unsure if you need to go through training? I offer a Free Screening tool that you can complete on your own. I listen to it and then check in with you about the things I notice. If you know you want to move forward with training you can email me. I’ll meet with you on Skype (AstiNovaSLP) and send you an online assessment to complete. This is how I plan your individualized training sessions. Honestly? If you found this blog post by searching the internet that means you think you need my training. Which is awesome because all you’ve gotta do now is start training!

How does the training course work? 

First comes the online assessment that you’ll complete on your own. I’ll analyze the results and use the information to create your game plan. By completing this assessment I outline exactly what sounds need to be worked on and when. I completely map out a program that is specific to YOUR needs. Even if we are in a small group of your coworkers- everyone has their own game plan. We then meet weekly for an hour or so. Each session has a plan with the specific sounds we are going to work on. After the session ends I send you practice work to complete online. Just like learning a new language- you’ve got to practice and use the skills you learn everyday.

What if I don’t live near you?

Even the clients that live a block away from my office still prefer to do their training over Skype or Google Hangouts. The flexibility is unmatched. So you can live in NYC, San Francisco, or Paris! I meet with clients all over the world using video conferencing. If a client or company wants me to come to their office- I can do that too. But most prefer signing online during work, after their meetings are over, before they work out, etc.

Does it work? 

Absolutely. After 12 weeks of training I have the client retake the assessment. If the client has been staying on task in our training sessions and doing the required practice daily then I guarantee at least a 50% increase in pronunciation and clarity. Honestly? Most of my clients that practice daily get higher than 50%.  It makes sense doesn’t it? If I’m learning Italian and I work on it everyday my success rate is going to be much higher than if I just work on it once a week. That goes for any sports, hobbies, languages, or new tricks.

Is it hard? 

Some of my clients grew up with English as their first language. It’s accented mostly due to the region of the USA they grew up in or perhaps another country that they call home. However, most of my clients have English as their Second Language. Many of which have only learned English in the last 5 years or so. What am I saying? I’m saying that it is a breeze compared to learning a new language. Yes, my training course is intense and I make you work. But that’s because I want you to succeed. This is just fine tuning the way you are already speaking. I’ve been learning Ruby on Rails since January 2014. I can promise you that my training course is much easier than that.

 

Do you want to be understood by your coworkers, peers, and others? Can you make room to meet with me for just 1 hour a week? Do you want to dominate your next presentation, meeting, or interview? Email me! I’ll get you on the schedule and get you seeing results in a few weeks.

 

 

Relocate Your Life

Posted on May 17, 2014 by karen
One of many pictures from my drive across the USA! From Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA.
One of many pictures from my drive across the USA! From Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA.

So, I quit my job. Then picked up my boyfriend at the airport. In the 20 minute ride home we decided we would move from Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA.

I’m not kidding. But why?

Because I’m worth it. I mean this in all aspects of “worth.”  My time, education, experiences, patience, happiness, and morals all deserved more. I’m still head over heels in love with my career as a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). I just was no longer in love with the constant conflict I was living at my job. So I peaced out. 

My first experience with Accent Reduction was in graduate school with a client from India and I was hooked. However, coming out of school I went to work in Pediatrics and then transitioned to Geriatrics. It was when I was working with adults again that I realized how much I missed Accent Modification or Reduction. So I started it back up. Within a session I was hooked, again. This was the day AstiNova was born. Tada!

Why San Francisco? Because I couldn’t freaking help it. The culture just tied me up and dragged me here. Well, we considered Australia or New Zealand too. Maybe next time. I can’t explain the city lights, background hum, the taste or the feel of each and every different neighborhood. I’m in love with the motivated people. I couldn’t have asked for a more creative and innovative “new home” to grow in.

Stop.

Stop whatever you’re doing and relocate your life. Where is it? Where is it heading? Where do you want it to go? If your life isn’t aimed where you want to be then you won’t get there. I want my life to learn, grow, and change. I want full control over my career. I want to work with people who want to change and improve. I want happiness. So I changed the course of my life and career. You don’t need to go to the extremes that I have gone to. But you do need to reevaluate your life- and do so often. I always want to be exactly where I am. If I wake up one day and find {here} is somewhere else… then I’ll make a change to get there.

Side Note: If you ever get the chance to drive across the country- Do it. America is absolutely gorgeous. It’s incredible the changes that occur from state to state.

 

 

In late January, I received an email from a former client of mine. The subject: Yo, Badass!

So of course I opened that one first over the 17 emails that were new to my inbox.

This client frequents Hacker News and had stumbled upon a blog post from Jessica Livingston at YCombinator announcing that they would be hosting the First Female Founders Conference on March 1, 2014. I thought about it for 30 seconds and then applied. There were approximately 1200 applicants for this event.

Acceptance

Woot!

Hell Yeah.

Fast Forward…

When I arrived at the Computer History Museum I saw something I’ve only seen once before (when H&M opened in Charleston, SC): Women everywhere. In line, up the stairway, spilling out of the door etc. Not your typical Tech Conference.

Networking

Everything was fantastic. From the healthy food and networking to the speakers and friends made. I am not your average founder when it comes to what I call Startup Nation. I am a licensed and ASHA Certified Speech-Language Pathologist. This was shocking to some of the gals as they had grown to know these events as being “tech heavy.” The only difference to me was more people were curious or interested in what I did at AstiNova. Almost immediately I was asked about English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction, my typical type of client, the amount of success people have with me and I was even asked if I could assist some of the founders with their pitches to VC’s. It felt amazing to share ideas and even headaches. Amazing. I guess because a lot of my struggles were validated and some even solved at a One Day Event. Solved.

I’m not totally code illiterate. I consider myself as using Training Wheels when it comes to Rails thanks to One Month Rails, which is a YC Alum!  Several founders asked Me: Why would you want to learn code?! Answer: To make my own awesome stuff! If you’re like me you know the pains of having great ideas spilling out onto your legal pad but having no way to actually make these ideas come to life. I’m all about outsourcing as I can’t possibly learn and accomplish everything my company needs. But… it’s so hard to describe and explain your vision to someone else. So, I’m learning to code. Baby steps…

Presenters

I won’t bore you with a step-by-step recap of the event but I will share some things that have left a permanent tattoo on my brain. The opening act and introduction from Jessica Livingston was wonderful. I know she was concerned that she may receive backlash from some people {media, bloggers, haters} but I thought it was outstanding. What more can you ask for in a conference, meeting, or life other than honesty? If you don’t like it you can always STFU and GTFO. Yup, I said it. We are too fast paced and positive here for those who want to spend time finding something to complain about.

Adora Cheung founder of Homejoy showed pure determination. Most Startup’s are born because of a problem and her successful idea solved just that. Her willingness to frequently sleep in her car just so she could learn the ins and outs of cleaning houses shows her determination. Her honesty of the bumps along the way was really important to help show support for new founders.

I think The Muse Cofounder Kathryn Minshew’s presentation hit home immediately. I loved her “Start Somewhere” philosophy. I am frequently victim to my own sabotage when it comes to my ideas. I think about the pros & cons and the incredibly distant future instead of just starting the damn project. Like writing this blog post that I intended to start 5 days ago.

And then there was Diane Greene Cofounder of VMware. There were ladies cheering and jumping out of their seats when she was announced to come and speak at the podium.  I’m serious. This modern-day superhero was so laid back and candid. Her messages were delivered as stories and examples. She did a fantastic job of making sure her experiences assisted every founder in the room. She said: You can never over communicate.  Immediately I wanted to print that on mugs, notebooks, t-shirts, and everything I own. My company was born to increase positive, confident, and clear communication. So I felt pretty badass when she said this.

Success

I still feel over the moon after having been accepted and attended the 1st Female Founders Conference. The value of the ideas, relationships established, networking opportunities, and learning experiences can never be matched with a price tag.  After the conference concluded I was able to continue to network with other founders. I’ve gone to dinner with some of the gals, swapped ideas over coffee, emailed articles and research found, and I even have a Google Hangout scheduled for this weekend to share marketing ideas. Nothing holds more value than sharing life and experiences.

Thanks to those founders and speakers that I had the honor of talking to. Your positive support and wonderful ideas have already helped me to grow in new ways.

-Karen

 

Startup Life: CEO’s & Founders with Foreign Accents

Posted on February 19, 2014 by karen

I recently went to a networking event where someone had compared my Accent Reduction or English Pronunciation Training with the article in Inc. Paul Graham on Building Companies for Fast Growth” by Issie Lapowsky. The part of the interview we chatted about was when Graham noted seeing a correlation with CEO’s of Startups with strong foreign accents being a bad indication of their future success. This apparently ruffled some feathers in the Startup community because it prompted him to write this response.

Many of my clients and future clients fall into this category:  Brilliant, ambitious, Startup centered, and foreign accented. The majority of clients come to me because they want to be more successful, be better leaders, sound more professional, improve their communication and many to gain more confidence.

I love P.G’s response when he says:

“Everyone got that? We all agree accents are fine? The problem is when people can’t understand you.”

Clear communication is vital in every position in every company. But if you’re a Founder or CEO you are always talking with customers, investors, employees, and all of us random folks who go to networking events. It’s important to be able to sell your product or services even if it’s someone you met at happy hour. You’ve always got to be on.

Being fluent in English is only part one of being successful in the States. Clear pronunciation is part two. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule but they’d probably be the first to tell you their success could have come easier if they were understood better. You don’t have to lose your accent entirely, you don’t need to leave behind your culture-  I’d prefer if you brought it with you. I bring my Boston attitude with me everywhere I go. From San Francisco to Charleston, SC I’m always my authentic self and you should be too.

If you want at least a 50% increase in your English Pronunciation send me an email at karen@astinova.com and we’ll dive in. I’ll give you fast and effective personal training, provide a web based program for easy practice, and work with you over video conferencing so you don’t even have to leave your office.

 

Even American’s Have Accents!

Posted on November 22, 2013 by karen

I get this question all the time:

“Wait, You work on Accent Reduction with Americans too?!”

My Answer: Hell yes.

Lately I can’t seem to keep up with all of the new publications regarding American Accents or Dialects. A favorite of mine is this article from Business Insider “22 Maps That Show How American’s Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other.”

Isn’t it such a fun website? I really enjoyed reading the question or word for each slide and trying to figure out how I would naturally say it. I was born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts but have lived in Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina as well. I currently split my time between Charleston, SC and San Francisco, CA. So my exposure to different pronunciations is pretty extreme compared to many who have only lived in one state. I get to hear so many different types of accents here in the States.

Most people assume that “Accent Reduction Training” is for those that were born outside of the USA.  Wrong! No matter where you were born, what your first language was, or what language you prominently speak- Accent Reduction Training is an option for you. Many American born individuals seek out Accent Reduction Training for what we call “Accent Neutralization.” I train using only General English or also called Neutral American English.

I love when my friends or clients from other countries come to visit the States. It isn’t long before they note the differences between the Boston Accent, Southern Drawl and the San Franciscan accent. It’s about 2 seconds later that they start poking fun at each accent.

Do you have a favorite American Accent?