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Local creates successful speakers

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
12:43 pm PDT July 28, 2014

A born and bred New Yorker, current Malibu resident Ita Olsen learned at an early age the persuasive power of speech and inflection.

“When I was 14, I knew I had a New York accent,” Olsen said, laughing. “I remember talking to my teachers, my classmates, everyone around me, and trying to categorically improve my accent. I did it systematically. Years later that was what helped me design my own program.”

Through the course of her bachelor’s and master’s degrees programs in speech language pathology, Olsen continued crafting her approach to bettering her own communication skills and the skills of others. Although she began her professional career working with children in a school setting, Olsen quickly recognized the need for her brand of speech betterment in corporate environments with adults.

In 1996 Olsen established OlsenSpeech, a language improvement center which trains its students in verbal and non-verbal communication.   

“People lose sleep over these things; you have a meeting in the morning and you know all your material but there’s so much anxiety because you have to make it magic,” Olsen said. “You have to deliver a message that’s crystal clear and persuasive, but it can be scary. I take that away. I make them comfortable.”

Since moving to Malibu in 2004, Olsen took her skills to the Internet, conducting sessions with clients across the country, each from the comfort of his or her own home via webcam.

“Originally I thought it would be less effective and that it would take longer,” Olsen said. “It actually takes one third of the time and you get the benefit of being able to see yourself in the screen. Plus, its taking the person out of the training room and putting them in their everyday environment, where they’ll be using the skills.”

Representatives from organizations of all sizes — from Morgan Stanley and American Express, to Malibu’s own Richard and David Ellis who own GemCap Solutions — have utilized Olsen’s coaching techniques to learn how to “talk the talk.” Olsen has even expanded her teachings to include skills that improve interpersonal communication in friendships and romantic relationships.  

“Everyone gives the advice, ‘Just be yourself,’ but sometimes just being yourself is hard to do,” Olsen said. “People need to know that they don’t need to have a difficult time communicating, and that pertains to all their relationships.”

Olsen works with her clients on breathing and body language exercises to help them find “their relaxed place,” a process she learned first hand when, years ago, doctors attempted to give her prescriptions to solve the common nerves associated with public speaking. 

“I never filled the prescription — I told myself, ‘I’m not going to take a drug,’” Olsen said. “Relaxation is the foundation for really good communication skills. So I did my research and learned relaxation in a habitual way. Drugs shouldn’t be the answer.”

Additionally, Olsen has worked with her clients to correct issues with intonation, inflection and verbal cadence, instilling an air of authority, yet warmness in their voices.

One of her most memorable success stories came from a client’s audition to play the voice of Tony the Tiger, an iconic voice that commands an air of prowess.   

“He came to me with a weak, strained voice and after a few sessions he had the most amazing voice,” Olsen said. “It was full and resonant and magnetic. He nailed it.”   

For more information on OlsenSpeech, visit www.olsenspeech.com.