Toastmasters & Stammering. Can the two really go together? Many would consider them contradictory. I consider them complementary.
I joined Toastmasters in January 2010. The primary reason I joined was because I stammer - I have been since I was eight years old. A friend had told me “Toastmasters makes you a better public speaker”. At that point in my life, I was desperate to try any method that would make me a better public speaker. At that point in my life, I would stammer on almost every single word while giving a public speech; I had to give daily briefings to my staff in my restaurant. Consistently, after each briefing, feelings of embarrassment, shame and inadequacy would swell inside me.
I resolved to attend Toastmasters to challenge myself to speak in public. This resolution was bittersweet. I knew Toastmasters would help me, but I dreaded going to our weekly 7:30 pm Monday meetings. Every Monday, I would have butterflies storming in my stomach in the early afternoon. By the evening, my heart would be racing and my mind would play out all possible scenarios in which I could stammer. I would then consciously try to avoid each of them.
By February 2011, I stopped going to Toastmasters. Partially due to a lack of time, but primarily due to the fact that my fear of public speaking grew stronger than my will to be a public speaker.
Towards the end of 2012, my speech had cyclically dipped into a recession once again. I decided, and this time acted upon the idea, that I needed professional help. I turned to a 3-week Intensive Therapy program in January 2013.
After completing the program, I arrived back in Guangzhou and decided I would try to join Toastmasters again. Since I have been back I have religiously attended every Toastmasters club meeting and taken a role in each and every one – from Joke master to Table Topics Master to Grammarian. My club held an International speech competition, and Table Topics competition on Saturday, March 23; I won 2nd place and 1st place respectively.
I then participated in our Area competition - all clubs in Guangzhou. I gave a speech on a mental tool useful for PWS, called Turn Around Thinking. It’s when you make a conscious decision to stop beating yourself up, and focus on the positive aspects of the situation – What did you do well? Why was the situation a success? You can watch the speech below. PS: I use the word Stutter because I’ve been educated in American schooling systems. Enjoy :)