Presentations! OMG. The word still sends chills down my spine. Although I have probably given over a hundred counting my school, college, and office days.
There was something I learned pretty fast during my school days. If I volunteered to go first, the anticipation was significantly less. It didn’t give fear a chance to take over. I didn’t have to listen to how fluent my classmates were.
I got to stutter as much as I liked, and people were typically more patient since I was the first speaker.
Volunteering to go first is really a win-win for anyone who stutters.
However, in college, uni, or at the workplace, you may not get to choose when you get up on the dais. That has happened to me as well. That’s when I employ the strategies I will now mention.
Hopefully, once you practice and apply these in real life, you will also find more confidence and freedom from fear while giving presentations –
1. Select a Topic That You Care About
If you are at liberty to pick a topic, choose one that you are passionate about.
I have had to give presentations on the genetic factors and proteomics of early-onset Alzheimer’s. And holy moly! Was it a disaster?!
Even to date, I cannot go through the first introductory slide without stumbling and blocking.
The reason? Well, I simply wasn’t interested in it.
Next, I chose to give a presentation on the genetics of Stuttering and the neurological differences between the brains of PWS and neurotypicals.
I went first. If I say I didn’t stutter at all, that would be a lie.
I did stutter, but significantly less.
Talk about something that moves you and inspires you! It can be the history of hip-hop or the mechanism of a V12 engine.
You will find speaking to be less of a chore. Your passion for the subject will grab the attention of the audience with much less effort too!
2. Do Your Research
When I did my research for the presentation, I also included my observation of the presentation space.
I go to the room or auditorium. Check out the acoustics, seating, and light options.
Pace up and down while rehearsing my speech while including fluency shaping strategies on the main stage.
On the day of the presentation, I check out the sound equipment.
I consider it important since I already have a speech disability. I don’t want additional glitches to make it even more difficult for my audience to understand what I’m saying.
3. Add Some Humor into the Mix
No matter what topic you pick, you should think about adding a couple of anecdotes.
One of my favorite speakers is a standup comedian. When she’s not performing on open-mics or for TV, she’s out there talking about stuttering and spreading awareness.
I love borrowing a quote from her when I find the audience to be particularly serious and impatient.
Nina G is an icon. She speaks to educate people on stuttering and dyslexia.
One of her signature catchphrases inspires millions – “I stutter…wait patiently for all my brilliant ideas.”
You can come up with something similar. It will give you the chance to own your stutter.
It will introduce you as someone who stutters. And it tells that you have some great ideas in store for those who are ready to wait.
Something like this is great for breaking the ice. It tells people that I have a speech disfluency. However, it also subtly guides them as to how to react to stuttering.
4. Communication Isn’t About Fluency
Think about it! We know hundreds of people who are fluent. Are all of them great communicators?
Then, why should stutters make you a bad communicator?
Today, we have successful entrepreneurs, politicians, actors, singers, and comedians who stutter.
Strong communication includes multiple factors – confident body language, eye contact, and using the right tone of voice.
Practice confident delivery of your points in front of family and friends. Ask for feedback. It is one method I used during the initial days of my preparation.
Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself on video. Go back and check the different hand gestures, body language, and voices you are using.
Note the changes you need to make.
Remember to use every mode of expression you can, such as visual and auditory cues.
Do not neglect your presentation (slides or video) while preparing the speech.
5. Channel your nervous energy
The mind is complex and beautiful.
There used to be times when I was so nervous I could barely get a word out without blocking.
Then I learned to channel my nervous energy. It has little to do with control.
A lot of people will tell you to “control” your fear, anxiety, and stress. However, it makes little sense to me since I never found out concrete descriptions of how to control the negative energy.
So I found a way to channel them.
If you ever hear someone who stutters and they speak confidently in front of people, you will notice that they move a lot, and use a lot of hand gestures.
This reminds me of Drew Lynch. He begins slowly without a lot of movement of hands, but once he’s into his material, he begins using hand gestures.
Although his stuttering may have a different nature, it is quite apparent that he channels the extra energy through body movements.
And boy! Does he do a great job of making every audience member laugh?!
6. Breathe and Then, Breathe Some More
This one isn’t just for right before the presentation.
I have found out that breathing exercises work in favor of my fluency. I practice them daily for at least 20 minutes.
If you have never practiced deep breathing exercises before, you can seek guidance online, on YouTube or from a dedicated stuttering therapy app like Stamurai.
Deep breathing or costal breathing can relax your articulators. I almost always find it easy to initiate a particularly difficult word when I empty my lungs completely.
If you can manage to incorporate costal breathing into your daily speaking, you might be able to employ fluent and easy onset during your presentations and speeches.
7. Spend Time on Speech Exercises
Speech exercises recommended by speech therapists can work wonders. They can teach you light articulatory contact, easy onset and super-fluency techniques.
If you have been to speech therapists or speech-language pathologists (SLPs), you may already know a few exercises.
You can keep at them. Or, you can practice more with Stamurai.
While using Stamurai you will receive a detailed analysis of your speech improvement and performance.
It is an excellent way to boost your confidence in the long-term.
Stamurai doesn’t offer a short-cut to fluency or a cure for stuttering. However, you will begin to understand your stuttering much better, like I do with daily practice.
In conclusion, you should not aim to stop stuttering at all. Don’t try to hide it. Don’t feel ashamed of it. You speak in your unique and beautiful way.
Keep the seven points in mind to ace your next presentation or speech.
We have standup comedians who stutter. Their pieces don’t always feature pieces on stuttering. However, they deliver the joke complete with involuntary stutters and make us laugh nonetheless.
Then there’s LeRon Baron, Megan Washington, and Joe Biden, who all have commanding stage presence despite their speech disfluencies.
Instead, think about letting it flow out without any difficulty. Aim to stutter with ease and fluency. Download and use Stamurai to know more about stuttering with confidence!
It’s about delivering your message to the people. They are here to listen to you! So, tell them what you have to say, in your unique and beautiful way.