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“Voices Carry” (‘Til Tuesday).  That was the song playing in my head as I guest lectured to students in Professor Deborah Streeter’s course, “Women, Leadership & Entrepreneurship.” Maybe because I sang “Voices Carry” in my band at Cornell? Or maybe because the final lyric is: “I wish he would let me talk.”

I was blown away by these students. They were engaged, thoughtful and curious, asking question after question about career challenges as an entrepreneur and as a woman in business, speech anxiety, verbal habits, and the inspiration and mission behind my own startup, Say It Media, and suite of speech apps for confident communication, LikeSo: Your Personal Speech Coach and LikeSo PRO.   

Since my return, my inbox has been filled with their insightful and gracious emails offering ideas, stories, and confessions.  Sixty-plus highly intelligent juniors and seniors with different majors – from computer science to animal science to communications – native and non-native speakers.

Their keen observations are worthy of their own post:

Katy:

Now that I’ve had a few major final internship presentations, I see the importance and prevalence of public speaking in the work world. I think your new business-focused version of the app will be highly successful – companies can enormously benefit from this! I even saw the opportunity for this during my summer internship at SC Johnson. The company utilizes outside ad agencies and consultants, and in certain meetings I observed, those who weren’t the best at public speaking/articulating their thoughts seemed less confident and less knowledgeable about what they were talking about (even if this wasn’t the case!).  

Caitlin:

Especially at Cornell, where students come from all across the country and the world, communication can be difficult, whether it’s a difference in vernacular, the context of a word, or vocal inflections. I’m in classes that require class presentations, I run chapter for my sorority, I announce events in class; if the people who I’m speaking to can’t understand me or can’t follow my sentences, then I’m not communicating effectively.

Your workshop and app in general, has proven to be very beneficial in helping me speak clearly and with intention. I’ve been in so many classes where I get distracted by the number of times a lecturer says “um”, and I don’t want to be that person whose material is overshadowed by the way they speak. The articles you sent over reinforced the sentiment that I had been feeling as a woman in engineering: that if I don’t speak authoritatively and with purpose, I will not be taken as seriously, even if my contribution is ultimately beneficial.

Sarah:

Before class on Friday, I had really enjoyed playing with the LikeSo PRO app to practice my public speaking; your lecture only underscored both the value of the app and my perception of my communication skills. I appreciated your statement that you are not trying to make women self-conscious about how they speak, but rather draw attention to how they can improve their speaking abilities. Your handout of “10 Tips to Say it LikeSo” included worthwhile information: I valued the tip to “stop saying sorry”. Far too often I find myself afraid to come across as too aggressive, but I know to not apologize and just make my point! Your company’s platform highlights the importance of female empowerment in the workforce, which I admire greatly.

Your passion for helping women is unparalleled. I especially enjoyed hearing about the path you took to found your company. Knowing you took time off to raise your kids but were able to find such success reentering the workforce with a greater purpose was inspiring for us to hear. You are positive example of a working mom that is always striving to help others, and I know many girls would aspire for your level of success.

Vas:

My generation is often criticized for our technology addiction, as well as not being great at the art of conversation. Your idea to combine those two factors was brilliant. Communication skills are important in all aspects of our lives, especially in professional settings irrespective of the job or the rank. Furthermore, you mentioned that in your job you were often the only woman at the table and you had to make your voice heard. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality many women face. Thus, your company is extremely beneficial to women to hone their communication skills and gain confidence.

It was extremely inspiring hearing about your future goals for the app. Since communication is something that is crucial globally and cross-culturally, it will be extremely advantageous and as you mentioned, help create equal opportunity by levelling the playing field in terms of speaking skills.

I left your talk thinking how helpful and practical your app is. I didn’t believe I needed to work much on my communication skills as I am fairly confident in speaking, however after our break out session I learned that being put on the spot is hard, but I can improve with practice, and thankfully now I have a tool that will help me do so.  

Samantha:

As a woman studying computer science, your presentation resonated with me in several ways.  First, I recognize that my self-presentation is scrutinized particularly harshly in a male-dominated industry.  I’ve found that if I demonstrate hints of uncertainty or lower intelligence, my technical abilities are immediately doubted.   

In addition to developing my self-presentation, your product served as an inspiring example of how I can have social impact in my own career.  I am constantly torn by the ethics behind current technological innovations and struggle to be proud of the products I am creating. You have inspired me to keep a journal of problems I see in the world around me, and how I can use technology to address them.  I liked your suggestion of sharing your ideas to gauge their viability, and plan to do that with my own ideas.

Yike:

You said most people are afraid of public speaking, even more afraid than death. I can’t agree more because I’m this kind of people. I still remember when I was in primary school, I was a very confident public speaker. I don’t know why things changed so fast that I never want to speak in public anymore. And this became even worse after I came to study at a US university. I realized I could not even say a complete sentence in front of the public in a second language, even though I had almost no problem in daily communication.  

I’d like to share an interesting thing in my debate course (A huuuuuuge challenge for me! But I want to improve myself soooo much!). I had my first mini-debate today, and I found one native speaker in my debate team also felt very nervous and cannot speak clearly. Different from him, another Asian boy spoke a lot more fluently. At that time I realized I could speak perfectly in public like that Asian boy, and even better than natives.

Melissa:

I really appreciated your thoughts on the importance of personal interactions and I completely agree that we, as a generation focused on technology, have lost the ability to communicate. I think that your app is a perfect way to combat this issue due to the combination of the technology we love so much and the communication that we lack.  

I would also like to thank you for your insights regarding a start-up business and the struggles that come along with it. I admire your courage leaving the work you were comfortable doing in order to follow your passion. After following my brothers track record starting a business, I realize that every step of the way is not a complete success. There are a lot of ups and downs and regardless, it’s a lot of work. Thank you for being honest while speaking with us about these truths. I really liked how you phrased it as, “if there is anything else you could see yourself doing, do it.” You have to have complete passion behind the business in order to have a successful startup and I think that your honesty really reflects how much you care about what you are doing. I think I would love to work for a startup or have my own at some point in my life but I will absolutely make sure it is something I am passionate about before doing so!

Nicole:

I am so grateful to now be a user of LikeSo. I know it will be particularly useful as I prepare for internship interviews. Hearing your story from inception up to this period of growth was inspirational. Your ability to take an interest (particularly, an interest in helping fellow women!) and create a successful business is what myself and so many of my peers hope to achieve in our careers.

I called my mom as I walked home Friday to tell her about how interesting my class was. We had a great conversation about women in entrepreneurship.

Emma:

Myself and many of my peers are guilty of ‘verbal graffiti’ (as you put it). I feel as though when you’re around people who speak like you do, you don’t notice that it can be a hindrance. Its unfortunate that we live in a society that shames women for the way they speak, but I really appreciate that you created a tool that can help women combat that bias. I enjoyed your candid discussion about the process of creating the app. It seems like a process that is romanticized and over-simplified in the media, and I very much enjoyed getting a ‘real’ take.

LikeSo is such a great app; I’ve recommended it to friends who are in the process of interviewing right now. I know I’ll use it myself to practice for presentations and interviews. I even showed it to my mom, who is a speech therapist, and she thought it was a great idea.

Christina:

I love that one of the motivations behind creating your Say It Like So app was to help women speak confidently in the workplace and eliminate those gender stereotypes. Gender equality in the workplace is something that I am really passionate about and so I really enjoyed the opportunity to try out the app in class.

Chrissy:

I have been really enjoying learning about women in business as well as gaining useful insights as to how I can be a strong woman in a male-dominated, challenging field, and a tool in my pocket like your app is one more step in the right direction.

I am very much for enabling women to channel the confidence they have outside the workplace into a marketable skill, and this is mainly conveyed through speech in combination with body language. I very much appreciated that this app was not created as simply a marketable tool, but truly as an aid to help a cause that you both feel extremely passionate about, as well as use and experience first hand.

As a woman, I am far more likely to use a product that is created by women, for women, to continue to lift us up. I am so glad that you have introduced me to LikeSo, and I will definitely share it with my friends and sisters.

Jillian:

I truly enjoyed hearing about your career path and your entrepreneurial endeavors. I, too, am a Communication major, so I was very impressed and inspired by all that you’ve accomplished! After three years of Communication coursework, I have learned the importance of speaking with confidence and eloquence, and I am focused on continually improving my presentation skills. However, it is something that I still find challenging, and I am thankful for the work you have done with Our Digital Daughters and Say It Media to help young women like myself become more successful in the workplace.

Christine:

I come back to you saying that you shared your idea with your friend who was a Cornell engineer never imagining where this would go. That part of your story really challenged me to take risks even when the end result is blurry and not promising in the moment. Again, being a Senior has made me excited in one way but also scared in another. I’m excited for my possibilities and options that will come to me in the future, but I’m also scared of leaving college and knowing that I will have to take more risks. I see a tendency of limiting myself during the job search process because I’m scared of what could go wrong. But after listening to your story, I learned that taking risks even when you feel small is all part of the process in finding what you love doing and are passionate about. I hope that your story would continue to challenge me and push me forward to not limit myself but instead be reminded of the endless possibilities out there.

Min:

When you talked about how media and the people around us influence us on the way we speak, I was able to relate to this very much. Before I came to Cornell, I spoke with a valley girl accent (I lived near Los Angeles for a long time). After studying at Cornell and speaking with people without the valley girl accent, I fixed the accent by speaking more “normally” and confidently. However, I still wanted to improve my communication skills because I knew that speaking more “normally” and confidently wasn’t enough. I am so thankful that you created the LikeSo app because now I can see what my verbal habits are and what I need to improve on. After a few practice rounds, I realized how often I use filler words and became more aware of how I speak even in my everyday life. For example, instead of saying “um’s” or “so’s” to fill in the silence, I pause. At first, it was difficult, but slowly, I’m becoming used to pausing. Also, I found it interesting how my friends noticed that I was using fewer filler words, which positively influenced them to use fewer filler words as well.

Sharon:

One of the things I really appreciate about the LikeSo app is that not only does it allow me to practice answering questions eloquently, but it is also a tool for self-reflection and awareness. From the practice rounds in class, I was already able to identify weaknesses in my communication that I otherwise would not have been able to without the app. For example, my team tried the questions from Interview, Speed Dating, and Teen Scene, and I noticed that I was quicker and more fluent when I answering deep questions (such as “Do you ever want to be invisible?”) compared to when I had to answer more surface-level/standard questions (such as “What clubs do you want to join?”). This unique point stuck with me and motivated me to reflect on the times when my social skills shined compared to when they were lackluster and I noticed a pattern.

Julia:

I never realized or imagined the vital importance of good communication and voice skills in the business world. Moreover, this is even more important and difficult for us women, given the fact you shared with us about how during the years women have tried lower their pitch into a deeper voice tone in order to achieve a more “manly” tone, which implies authority and power.  

As an exchange student from Spain, I personally find the app very useful for non-native English speakers. We need to work on our English speaking skills probably more than everyone else and these kind of digital tools are really helpful and innovative for practicing public speeches or interviews in English.

Narhee:

I resonated with a lot of your points about upspeak and articles regarding women’s voices in the workplace. I feel at a disadvantage because my voice is on the higher side and because I have a smaller stature. I think that using the app will help me with public speaking in preparation for interviews but also leading clubs on campus.

Paige:

I have had a fair amount of public speaking practice in the past from organizations such as FFA and 4H (youth agriculture organizations that have a strong leadership aspect), and prior to using your software, thought I was relatively good at not using words such as like and so. After going through the workshop, however, I found I wasn’t as good as I thought. I’m sure you have helped countless others also realize this, not just from the class.  

Kelsie:

The app is excellent and I look forward to using it in the future, especially in preparation for interviews and presentations. There has obviously been a tremendous amount of time, thought, and effort put into the development of the app and it was definitely worth it. I will be telling my friends about SayitLikeSo!

Sasha:

As someone who dreads public speaking, your advice and practice really helped me take a step back and appreciate the importance of communication as a skill.

What you also said about practicing speech in order to change our verbal habits is something so simple, but at the same time also so useful, because nowadays I realize that there isn’t enough of an emphasis.   

 

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