Posts Tagged ‘public speaking and stuttering’
Last week I was meeting with some students who had been recommended by their teachers to help me with outreach presentations. The students will co-present with me at their home school and share their experience as a current student enrolled in one of our career areas.
I was meeting with two young men from one of our programs, describing the details of the presentations. One of the guys said no right away. He said he wasn’t comfortable at all with standing up in front of people and speaking. I encouraged him to look at it as an opportunity to get some practice. He was adamant that he didn’t want to speak. This is a voluntary speaking opportunity and I let him off the hook.
Another student was in my office at same time, overhearing this conversation I had with his classmate. When I asked him, he expressed apprehension and said he didn’t really think he could do it, because he stutters. I leaped at the opportunity to let him know that I stutter too. He looked at me with surprise, as if he couldn’t believe that a staff person could also stutter.
I assured him that I do these presentations all the time and don’t let my stuttering interfere with conveying my message. He agreed to help out. We are doing the presentations at his school tomorrow. I am proud of him for deciding to take a chance and push himself out of his comfort zone.
I was surprised to learn that there is a student who stutters in my school. I haven’t run into any students that stutter in my 9 years here. I am glad that I shared with him right away that I stutter too!
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?
For years, I believed that stuttering could not be used in the same sentence as effective communicator. The two did not equate. Stuttering to communication was like a bull in a china closet – not going to work.
But ever since I joined Toastmasters and practiced public speaking and realized that I could communicate effectively, things changed. I began to believe in myself as a communicator and others did too. I’ve been asked to speak to many groups about my stuttering journey, something I never imagined myself doing when I was younger.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a high school science class about the neurobiology of stuttering.The students were a great audience and asked thoughtful questions. They also provided me with great feedback.
These are just a few of the comments students emailed me the day after the presentation:
“Listening to you speak was amazing. You’re so confident and knowledgeable on the topic and it was truly inspirational.”
“Your ability to conquer your fear of stuttering was inspiring. I wish I had your amazing communication skills.”
“I truly admire the courage it took for you to present to us! You are an inspiration and I hope you know what a great communicator you are!”
It was so gratifying to talk to these kids and have them share that they think someone who stutters can still be a great communicator.
We CAN be great communicators. Remember, there is so much more to effective communication than being fluent. Speaking regularly and getting feedback proves that.
Episode 14 of the series of conversations with men who stutter features Grant Meredith, who hails from Victoria, Australia.
Grant works at the University of Ballarat, as a Lecturer in multimedia and gaming. He is also coordinator for introduction and welfare for first-year students.
Grant takes a very matter of fact approach to his stuttering, and will tell his students upfront that he stutters, and then never mentions it again. His expectation that stuttering is not an impediment cues others to follow his lead.
We have a great discussion about public speaking, and how stuttering can make us more lively, interesting speakers. And Grant makes a great analogy about how understanding stuttering is akin to learning a foreign language.
Listen in as we also discuss the expected reactions of listeners, positive attitude and mindset, perception, and being self aware.
This was a great conversation between two lively speakers and great communicators! Feel free to leave feedback for either of us.
The podcast safe music used in this episode is “The Living Physicist” by DanoSongs.