Make Room For The Stuttering

Bit Of A Thespian?

Posted on: September 4, 2010

At a recent training, I found myself assigned to one of the dreaded small break-out groups where we work together on a mini assignment.  I am sure you know what I am talking about. The large group counts out numbers, and all the “1”s form a group, and the “2”s and so on. We work on something and then present it out as a team to the larger group.

I have always hated these things. I think everyone does. I was with a group of teachers and did not know anyone. We had 20 minutes to work on our project and then decide how EACH one of us would participate in sharing our results with the larger group. Which meant we would all have to talk. There was no escaping!

No one was nuts about it. Even as teachers who stand up in front of a classroom every day, everyone seemed anxious. We all worry about making a fool of ourselves up in front of a group we don’t know. But, we were all in the same spot, so we just sucked it up and made the best of what we had to do.

Of course, my worry was would I stutter and how much? No one here knew me, and it didn’t feel like a place to do any advertising or disclosure. I don’t think anyone else was worrying about that.

It was a science project we were to work on and then present our findings. Me and science do not mix. There were 4 science teachers in my group, me and one administrator. Everybody set out immediately to work on the problem that needed to be solved. The teachers were busy writing and one even pulled out a calculator and began working on the numeric portion of what would need to be presented.

I was feeling quite lost and after a few minutes of observing everyone working individually, I asked how were we going to make this a group presentation. I also reminded everyone we were running out of time and had not yet decided who would do what. I took the lead, and suggested that the teachers “do” and “present”the middle part and the other non-teacher and myself would handle the intro and conclusion.

Everybody seemed in agreement, and we even decided we would stand in the order we would present. I liked that idea, and with a few precious minutes left, we all worked on what we would say. Even though this was just a simulated science project and nothing real was “at stake”, we all wanted to do well in front of our peers. I insisted we take a few minutes and each quickly review what we each would say. We did, and then it was show time.

I wrapped up our presentation with a summary and “call to action”. I improvised much of what I said in the moment. It came off sounding great, and I was relieved to have had only a few blips of stuttering. Several of my group commented that my wrap-up sounded polished and easy, and I looked very comfortable.

I attributed much of this to my participation in Toastmasters. Practicing impromptu speaking has really helped with my courage and confidence.

On the way out of the training for the day, one of the organizers also commented to me that she thought I had done a terrific job. She added, “looks like you are even a bit of a thespian. You have a flair for the dramatic. Do your students ever pick up on that?”

I told her that I think most of my students tolerate me as much as they do any other adult standing before them!

But I wondered about her comment, suggesting that I infuse a little drama into my speaking. I have noticed that as well when I do a speech in Toastmasters. When I speak in a non-conversational mode and project my voice, as in “acting out a role” perhaps, I stutter less.

I wonder if this is inadvertently a technique I use to manage my stuttering when doing public speaking. I don’t intentionally set out to “add some drama”, but evidently I do, as I have noticed it and others have.

What do you think? Has anyone had a similar experience? Maybe I am courting a new career . . . . . . .

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4 Responses to "Bit Of A Thespian?"

There are many actors and actresses who stutter in “conversational” moments but not when acting. Some singers also stutter but only when they AREN’T singing. It is possible that you are doing the same thing even if it is unintentional.

I have definitely experienced that Pam. I was in an amateur dramatics group for a a number of years and love acting. The rush I get from it seems to firm up any dodgy neural pathways associated with speech formation. Pretty weird stuff really.

John Harrison of the NSA has a terrific publication entitled “How to Conquer Your Fears of Public Speaking”. Really, Really good.

As well, it helps me to have a ton of IDGAS… To me, addressing the Fear of Stuttering and Fear of Talking are the “ball of wax” when it comes to me getting past stuttering. The technique stuff was all garbage and actuallly made my stuttering more severe and talking more weird.

@ Retz I have that book! Bought it at a NSA conference after hearing Jon H speak. I don’t think of it as an intentional technique, just wondered if anyone else noticed that they might do it as well.
But mostly, I am all for your IDGAS – that helps me out more than any speech technique that I could never master.

@ John yes, it is strange how we can seemingly trick our brain into doing something different for a bit. I can be strangely fluent while “performing” my speech and then if anyone asks me about it after, I will stutter!!

@ Sarah yes, I am sure I am doing something similar, even if unintentional.

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