Public Speaking in the land of Fire and Ice

Every year, Malbjorg, the Icelandic Stuttering Association, celebrates ISAD, the International Stuttering Awareness Day, by inviting their members to an event in October each year.

Last summer, the board of the association started to organize the event, and it was decided to have it in the form of an interactive workshop. After evaluating some options, we decided to contact my dear friend Harminder Dhilllon. I met Harminder for the first time on a Nordic stuttering conference in Finland in 2006.  Nordic stuttering conferences are held every year in one of the Nordic countries.  I have attended most of those conferences held this century, and since the one Harminder attended in 2006, he has attended those quite regularly too.  Amongst those he has attended are the two conferences held in Iceland in 2009 and 2014.   He has visited Iceland quite often and has held workshops and lectures a few times at various events of Malbjorg.  In fact, he was one of the main speakers on the Nordic conference in 2014. He was very happy to visit Iceland once again and was more than ready to deliver a 3-hour workshop about public speaking.

It was on a beautiful Saturday, the 7th of October when Harminder and I drove to downtown Reykjavik in good advance before the workshop started. It was a warm autumn day of  8°C (hey, it´s Iceland, and yes, it is considered warm for this time of the year!) 

Iceland has a small population, of around 330.000 people, so the attendance to our events are usually not huge, and we were expecting 10-12 people to attend this time. The workshop started fashionably late, at around 15:15. The theme was Public Speaking. Around 12 people were in the room at the beginning, but a few more joined in later during the day, so we were 15 when the workshop ended. It was enjoyable to see such a big crowd for the event, and I can guarantee that it exceeded everyone´s expectations.

The workshop was very challenging for most people, but also very interesting and entertaining, as is expected from Harminder. He started by giving us some advice about public speaking, and then divided us into small groups, where we had to deliver a speech to each other.  This was repeated a few times. Harminder gave more and more excellent advice, and we had to deliver further speeches and make sure we implemented the advice, tips and methods he had been teaching us.

It was really inspiring to see how everyone´s performance in the group improved significantly from the first speech to the last one. In the beginning, most people were quite insecure, looking up and down, with no idea what to do with their hands, etc. Confidence grew speech by speech, and when doing the final speeches, everyone was much more comfortable, making great eye contact with the crowd, with fantastic use of their hands, excellent body language and this made the speeches much more interesting to listen to.  We even discovered a few hidden stars in the group who flourished when they discovered that adding drama to a certain type of speeches simply made them much better.

Harminder dhillion, founder of kings speakers, in iceland

Harminder dhillion, founder of kings speakers, in iceland

People were thrilled by the workshop, and each and every one left feeling better about themselves and more comfortable at making speeches than ever before. After the workshop, the whole group went to a beautiful Italian restaurant for a nice dinner before heading to a pub for few drinks and a great chat about life, the universe, and everything. The day was a great success for the Icelandic Stuttering Association as well as for Harminder Dhillon.

I´m also incredibly happy to inform that, as a result of this workshop, two board members of the association have started working on creating our own Toastmasters club in Iceland.  There used to be an active club in the country some years ago, but that one, like many of our volcanoes, has been dormant for years now. Three of us have visited Kings Speakers in London, and we would love to create something similar in Reykjavik.

I also want to use this opportunity to tell you about the 13th World Congress for people who stutter which will be held in Iceland in 2019 from June 23rd to June 27th in the incredibly beautiful town of Hveragerdi (30 min drive from Reykjavik).  Reykjavik is only 2:30 hours flight from London, and there are over 10 flights per day between the cities and cheap flights are easy to find, especially when booked in advance.  I encourage you to attend this World Congress and enjoy a few days with hundreds of fellow stutterers, laughing and crying and making new friends.  I will give Kings Speakers a visit in the Autumn of 2018 and give you a presentation of the World Congress when the program, price and other details have been confirmed.


Arni Birgisson

Treasurer of the Icelandic Stuttering Association