Make Room For The Stuttering

Public Speaking Energy

Posted on: December 10, 2009

In case you didn’t realize it, public speaking requires a lot of energy and concentration. And that goes whether you are fluent or not. I am not sure if people realize how much effort and focus is really needed to “perform” in front of large and small groups.

Yesterday, I did five presentations to high school students. I met with all of the 10th graders in one school, visiting their Social Studies classes, period by period. I had 40 minutes to present the information they need in order to make decisions about their schedules for next year. I have a routine down, and use a Power Point with photos and video clips to illustrate the talk, and keep everybody engaged. I ask questions: how many of you live in apartments or houses? Every hand goes up. How many of you have heat in those homes? Every hand up!

Then I remind them that there are jobs for people who can build homes and put heating and cooling systems in those homes. And so on, into the spiel about recession proof jobs and how having a marketable skill, even an unglamorous one, is proactive in today’s economy.

Doing this over and over may seem easy enough. After all, it’s the same material and I am comfortable with it. But it’s not easy. Public speaking requires effort. I have to project my voice, be flexible if there are unplanned announcements over the PA system, wait for side talk to abate, and most importantly, don’t freak out when I stutter.

Because it is a “when”, not an “if”. As a person who stutters, I know I’m going to stutter sometimes during these presentations. I no longer “hope that I won’t” like I used to. It’s going to happen, and I am the one who has to react comfortably and confidently when it does, so my listeners will follow suit.

When I don’t get flustered, the audience stays on an even keel – as much as 10th grade kids are ever on an even keel. But they really do follow my lead. I am learning this more and more as I speak. And I am seeing how much energy really goes into speaking 4 or 5 times a day.

People have been telling me, “Oh, you are such a pro now, you have done it so much.”  “Nothing should bother you anymore, right?” Wrong. It is hard work to be talking all the time. It may look effortless, but it’s not. I prepare and have a back-up plan. I check all of my technology several times. I arrive early. I bring several large bottles of water. And I put my best foot forward.

Lat night, two friends at Toastmasters, both fluent, told me I am their inspiration. That felt funny. I don’t feel like an inspiration. I just feel like a person who happens to stutter who also happens to have to talk a WHOLE LOT as part of my job. It sure does require a lot of effort.

What do you think? Do you use a lot of energy when you are speaking to groups? What helps you out during the stuttering moments?

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3 Responses to "Public Speaking Energy"

I find giving the same presentation several times in row is challenging. The first time or two you pay full attention, but after a while the times merge. Did I remember this point? Did I say it already (one time an audience comment caused me to say it early) or is it still waiting?

Great article! I’ve to do an English presentation in Phoenix on a conference next March and I’m alreday freaking out because I stutter. I still think ‘hopefully I will not stutter’ but I know I should change ans think ‘you will stutter, that’s OK and you’ll deal with it’. Well, about 3 months time left…

Oh most definitely. Speaking to groups requires serious mental and physical energy. That feeling you get when you’re ‘in’ the presentation or just after it is finished, it’s like you have to remind yourself to breathe and slow down. During stuttering moments, we all have our own strategies and I know for myself, they sort of change depending the type of day/week I’m having.

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