Make Room For The Stuttering

Don’t Let Them See You Sweat

Posted on: November 17, 2016

Earlier this week, I gave 4 presentations to high school students about career planning and options for scheduling for their last two years of school. This is something I do every year as part of my job as Outreach Specialist. Every November and December, I go out to school districts in my area and present about vocational programs that students can choose.

As I’ve been doing this now for many years, you’d think I would be totally used to the challenges of public speaking with a stutter. Right? Wrong! I still feel self conscious when I have lots of stuttering and sometimes my mind wanders with thoughts that the students are thinking there is something wrong with me.

Monday happened to be one of those days where I stuttered a lot and was very aware of it. I did not disclose to the audience ahead of time like I sometimes do, because I didn’t want students focusing on my stuttering. I wanted them paying attention to the information I was sharing.

In between two of the presentations, I overheard two students whispering (loudly enough for me to hear) and laughing about speech impediments. Clearly they had heard me stutter and were talking about it. I felt very uncomfortable but didn’t react or say anything to them. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have disclosed that I stutter at the beginning of the presentations and just trusted that the students would take it in stride and act respectfully. Maybe I didn’t give them enough credit.

It bothered me that I let stuttering and someone’s reaction to it bother me as much as it did. I did a pretty good job of not letting it show though. I’ve always believed that when you’re speaking in public, you should never let the audience know that you’re uncomfortable or “sweating something.”

Someone told me yesterday that there will always be another day where I’ll have a more positive experience. He’s right. I’ll have plenty more opportunities to present in the coming weeks and choose to disclose my stuttering if I think that will be helpful.

What do you think? How do you handle the challenges that come with public speaking and stuttering?

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1 Response to "Don’t Let Them See You Sweat"

I thought you (almost) systematically disclosed that you stutter up-front when making oral presentations. I understand your point of not disclosing because you did not want students to focus on your stuttering.

Do you think students noticed your discomfort or that you were “sweating something”? If so, it would have made sense to disclose, but it’s more easily said than done, specially after the fact. I think that when the audience doesn’t know us and don’t know that we are people who stutter, it would make sense to disclose, but there should be a balance between the communication of information vs. disclosing to make our lives easier (and by doing so drawing attention upon ourselves). Sometimes I wonder if disclosing could be perceived as if we are asking for mercy, or are kind of apologizing to the audience because we stutter; that could certainly explain our resistance to disclose.

What do you think?

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