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July 20, 2021

Inclusive Meeting Practices for Employees With Communication Differences

Communication is a prized skill in the professional workplace, but one that does not come easily to everyone. Most job postings list “strong communication skills” as a basic requirement, without really specifying what that means. Extraversion is often rewarded in the western professional world, even though introverts demonstrate traits that are critical to effective leadership.

Not everyone has a natural inclination toward verbal expression. Even senior employees with significant expertise and comfortable positions may struggle to contribute in a meeting context if they are not a natural “talker”. Many successful professionals have hidden communication disabilities.

It is normal for employees to contribute to a meeting in different ways and in different amounts. However, managers who value inclusiveness should pay attention to the structural and cultural elements of the meeting which may inadvertently raise barriers to communication. 

Here are four ways to ensure that your meetings are inclusive to employees with diverse communication needs. 

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February 23, 2021

How To Moderate A Panel

Conference season is here! One year into COVID, our gatherings are still confined to the digital world—but most of us are now familiar and comfortable navigating online conferences.

This includes one of my favorite conference events: panels. Panels offer an engaging way to tap into the experience and insight of subject matter experts. Great panels are informative and dynamic. Each panelist has the opportunity to shine while contributing to a larger group conversation that captures the diverse nature of differing perspectives.

Well, that’s what a great panel can be. There are also...not so great panels.

As a professional, I have attended not-so-great panels. As a communication therapist, I have worked with many clients who have been panelists on not-so-great panels and told me of their woes after the event. 

One panelist hogged all the speaking time. There was no moderation. The moderator talked over the panelists or even argued with the panelists. The panelists didn’t have responses to the questions or seemed uncertain about what they were supposed to say. 

Who’s responsible for this? The moderator.

Moderating is an art and a skill, but it is also very much a science. Inexperienced moderators can create successful, rewarding panel experiences for both speakers and audience members by completing a series of very basic tasks. Surprisingly, many moderators (even experienced moderators) don’t do this, leaving even the most illustrious of panel speakers to flounder.

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December 15, 2020

Training and Culture: A COVID-Era Case Study

2020 taught us what is possible in a virtual work world. When it comes to training, how does virtual compare to IRL? A case study from 2020.

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November 19, 2020

The Art of Political Small Talk

The general rule for small talk is you can’t talk about politics. However, COVID-19 and the 2020 election have flipped this upside down.

Small talk often begins by talking about the shared environment—commenting on the weather, discussing upcoming holidays, etc. When we are talking through masks or over Zoom and experiencing an election of historic proportions, it’s a little hard to avoid the elephant in the room. 

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September 21, 2020

Common Unethical Employment Practices in Speech-Language Pathology

Congratulations on graduating, CF-SLP! Welcome to the CFY job search, the first gauntlet of your new career. The good news is, getting that CFY job is something you only have to do once.

...well, hopefully once. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who take CFY jobs that turn out to be miserable, to the point that they decide to quit and find another CFY job to finish out the fellowship period. You know how much the CFY hunt sucks, so it really says something when a person decides to jump ship and put themselves through the wringer again.

New clinicians often struggle to determine if a job offer is reasonable, and if an employer seems decent. In many cases, the CFY is your first experience ever with a professional-class job, where the expectations and standards are different from positions like retail, hospitality service, or working at summer camps. 

I will say this as politely and professionally as I can: a lot of SLP employers are crap. The quality of clinical service delivery may be outstanding, the practice may be decades-old and have multiple locations, and the clients may report high satisfaction. Sadly, when it comes to what is good for the practice, what is good for the clients, and what is good for the clinicians...the clinicians are prioritized dead last (if even considered at all). Clinics can get away with this because there is a constant supply of naive, eager, and debt-ridden CFs who graduate every year that can be reliably recruited and discarded as needed.

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July 22, 2020

How to Speak 2020

This post is for anyone who gets overwhelmed by headlines, Instagram stories, and tweets that use all kinds of social terms you aren't familiar with. You want to ask questions, but are afraid of saying something wrong in the process. Here's what you should know before you download "Social Justice" on Duolingo.

“Katie, you know what makes me so angry?” My passionate teenage client had just arrived, the conversation ready to explode out of him before he had even sloughed off his backpack.


“People using the wrong pronouns! Like, I have a bunch of friends who have updated their pronouns, and it’s like, cool. I use their new pronouns. And my other friends, they all use the new pronouns too. You know what I’ve noticed, it’s adults who don’t use the right pronouns. And they make all these excuses, like ‘Oh I’m trying,’ ‘Oh it’s hard to change habits’, whatever. Like, bullshit. It’s not that hard. Just be a decent person, shit!”

“That’s a pretty interesting observation.” I paused. “I have that same problem, too. I am trying, but I mess up a lot.”

He blinked, confused. “Wait, what? You?”

“Yeah. I think you’re spot on about adults versus younger people. It is a lot harder to change those verbal patterns when you’re older. I’ve noticed the difference in my brain now, back from when I was a teenager. Even with the work that we do at speech IRL now, I am really clumsy with pronouns. You’re still right, of course—it is no excuse, it’s a reminder that I need to dedicate more time to practice. But adult brains...we’re very slow at changing patterns like this.”

His body language softened. “Hmph. I guess. But it’s still wrong.”

“Yes, that’s absolutely true,” I agreed. “It’s not fair or right to those on the receiving end. So, support your friends who are dealing with people like me. And make sure you enjoy your adaptable brain while you have it.”

In the era of memes, tweets, angry acronyms and eponymous insults, the words we use mean more in 2020 than ever before. As this client pointed out, we’re all making changes to the way we talk about certain things—especially this year—because our society as a whole is changing. It was easy for me to empathize with his frustrations because I’ve had my own moments of disbelief and impatience with others who aren’t adjusting as quickly as I’d like them to. 

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May 20, 2020

How to make the most of video chats and avoid Zoom fatigue

Video conferencing apps like Zoom have become a daily life staple, for work, play, and personal connection. As we adapt to a socially distanced lifestyle and routine, this medium of communication is getting harder for many, not easier. “Zoom fatigue” is real. Video-based communication requires more intense focus and attention than face-to-face communication. We have to filter out pauses, glitches, background noise and other distractions while processing what others are saying. Your brain does all this receptive processing first, and then you need to determine what to do with that information or how to respond. If you are feeling drained and slogging through your days at the computer, you are definitely not alone. More time to adjust won’t make you less exhausted.

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April 17, 2020

Executive Function In Fatigue And Fear

Is it realistic to recreate some semblance of a “normal” work environment? What should you expect of your team? How much of your own uncertainty do you share? How do you maintain your executive functioning ability, when you’re drowning in executive fatigue?

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March 21, 2020

Connecting during COVID: the new IRL

Hi friends. Here we are. 

How are you doing?

I was honored that the New York Times proclaimed the demise of our humble practice this week, in an article titled There Is No More IRL Now. “The biggest void,” the author writes, “is connection.”

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March 9, 2020

Say hello to speech IRL West

speech IRL is expanding to the west coast!

2019 was a big year for us at speech IRL. We formalized our graduate student training program, sponsored our first booth at PrideFest, created the initial draft of our 3Es stuttering framework, and moved into a brand spankin’ new Michigan Ave office across from the Bean. We celebrated personal milestones on the team, including a wedding and our first speech IRL baby, Santi.

True to form, we are continuing to experiment, explore, and GROW. In particular directions. In particular, west.

That’s right, friends. We are beyond excited to announce speech IRL West! 

This summer, our fearless Director of Talent, Rachel Muldoon, will be heading out to the East Bay area to open our SECOND physical base for speech IRL. Rachel is a longtime core member of the speech IRL team, with a deep passion and commitment to the values and practices of the work that we do. She will use her expertise in professional speech therapy, business communication, and organizational training and development to offer all the same services as our Chicago office, while creating a new home base with a distinctly California flair. 

speech IRL West will officially open in August, but we are well underway in the meantime. Here to tell you more is Rachel, Director of speech IRL West!

The one and only, Rachel Muldoon

How does speech IRL West connect to speech IRL? What's new, what's the same, what's different?

Expanding our company to a completely new environment with different wants and needs will be challenging. It will take courage, perseverance and self-compassion - coincidentally the same values that we encourage to our clients! Making this move is an opportunity for speech IRL to continue to put these values into its own practice, self-assess the impact, and learn from the experience. Modeled from our original Chicago structure, we will offer individual and group therapy, as well as corporate training options.

For now, I will be the only member of the team physically located in California. My long-term vision is to build the team out West, where I hope to offer some of our additional services such as transgender voice therapy. I also hope to engage with and learn from YOU, California, to better understand your different needs. This continuous conversation and reflection will guide the evolution of speech IRL West so we can thrive by best serving our clients.

What areas of CA will speech IRL be servicing?

speech IRL West is excited to be located in the East Bay, providing in-person speech therapy services as far north as Berkeley, as far south as Fremont, and as far east as Mountain House. We also offer telepractice options to all residents of California. Our corporate facilitation, training, and consulting services are already available nationwide, but a California office will allow us to provide stronger local support for CA-based firms and improve our own contextual understanding of their geographic communication culture.

What services will be offered?

speech IRL West will offer the same speech, language, stuttering, social communication, and business communication coaching services as our Chicago location. I’m a certified bilingual Spanish-English speech-language pathologist, so services will be available in both languages.
While our corporate communication training and D&I/culture consulting services are already available nationwide, we’re excited to have a more local presence in the northern California tech and business hubs. Many of our corporate clients use us as a “business therapist”, requesting brief as-needed meetings and ad-hoc facilitations. This type of relationship really benefits from close geographic access, and we’re really excited to move that access beyond Chicago.
As a certified yoga instructor, I am especially passionate about incorporating a degree of mindfulness into each of my communication services. My goal is to help my clients explore their communication strengths and weaknesses while encouraging and guiding them to develop a deeper understanding of how they think and function. A more holistic understanding of their mind and thought processes can lead to increased confidence, self-awareness, and independence in their communication journey. 
On the subject of mindfulness, I will also be offering a Mindful Communication 5 week series to companies in the Bay Area. This course will be available for small groups (3-6 people at a time) of professional teams to explore the mental-emotional connections to communication, and access the ability to communicate effectively during moments of mental-emotional strain (e.g., anxiety, stress, etc). 

What excites you most about speech IRL West?

This move is exciting for me, both personally and professionally. I am energized by the opportunity to develop not only as a speech-language pathologist, but also as an entrepreneur. I am very passionate about speech IRL's philosophy of coaching honest, functional, and individualized methods of communication. We have begun to make a difference in the lives of individuals and company teams mainly in Chicago and the East Coast. This move will be an opportunity to expand our services, reach more people, and talk about our methodologies to individuals and companies nationwide. California, specifically, is a hub for conversation and innovation and I hope that through our work here we can continue to make a positive impact on how people listen, how people speak, and how we all build relationships. In short, at speech IRL West, we want to do our small part to make the world a more empathetic and understanding place. 
speech IRL has a unique, revolutionary vision for communication growth. Much of traditional speech therapy focuses on rote learning and repetition. Traditional therapy says, "You can't express your thoughts? Let's drill sentence structure." Or, "You stutter when you talk? Let's practice speaking slowly and taking deep breaths." Instead, we believe in teaching our clients about how their brain, body and mind work together. We explore the psychology of communication, and how our relationships are built on values, risk, and, in the end, some minor drill work. It has been an honor to work alongside and learn from my team here in Chicago over the past few years. Now I feel the privilege of bringing our methods and our vision to a new part of the country, to spread the word far and wide.
On a more personal level, I am excited to trade in our Chicago winters for California sunshine. Although my extended family is from California, I have never lived there personally! I am thrilled to explore such a beautiful state with my husband and our 11 month old son. We will happily accept any weekend trip suggestions! 

This is awesome! When can I hang out with you???

speech IRL West will officially be open in August 2020, coinciding with my move out there. But we have a bunch of visits planned to get things going, and would love to see you!

Katie, Courtney, and I will be at the CSHA Convergence 2020 Convention from March 18-20 in Anaheim, CA. Katie and Courtney will be co-presenting their 3Es stuttering therapy model, and all three of us will be at the convention to get to know the CA SLP community. You can find us at our session Thursday afternoon at the convention, or message us on social media (@speechIRL on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to connect!

If you’d like to set up a time to meet with us, e-mail me at

We’ll be posting more updates as August approaches and once we’re officially set up this fall. Stay tuned!