Finding my voice through Toastmasters

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One of my biggest regrets in life was opting out of every class presentation during university; I didn’t have the guts to speak in front of people because I was too insecure about my stutter. So I would email the professor explaining that I had a speech impediment and requested to do the presentation in private. I was disgusted at myself because I gave in to my insecurities and let fear take over, from that point I knew I had to do something about it and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t confront my demons.

I found out about Kings speakers while browsing reddit, a thread caught my attention under the /r/stutter subreddit mentioning a public speaking club for people who had a stutter or social anxiety, and it is based in London. I knew it was something I needed to do so I decided to bookmark the page, then promptly closing it because the thoughts of public speaking were about to give me an anxiety attack.

I joined Kings Speakers at the start of 2017 where I received a warm welcome by the members and making me feel at home. I remember my first time on stage, and it was for a table topic where I lasted just under a minute, I don’t recall what I said, but I was just happy I got it over and done with. 

Every second and last Thursday I woke up dreading the fact that I had to attend Toastmasters, I was questioning myself saying why do I put myself through this. My day would be spent full of nerves and anxiety preparing for the role I accepted and hoping that I’d be fluent enough so the audience could understand me. At some point I found enjoyment in the discomfort, I learned to embrace the challenge of going up on stage and feeling glad I had the opportunity to contribute to the meetings. 

The one thing that stood out to me about Kings Speakers was how inspirational the speeches are; members would add that personal touch to their speeches, sharing stories about their struggles and what they’ve done to overcome them. For me, this really put things into perspective, realising that going up on stage was such a big deal for people and how brave they were for taking up the challenge.

My Toastmasters experience allowed me to accept my stutter and gain the confidence to freely express myself, something I wasn’t able to do for most of my life. Being a covert stutterer, I would always avoid social situations, and that’s where my favourite part of the meeting comes in, the drinks at the local pub after every meeting. I got to meet new friends from Toastmasters, getting to know people from different types of backgrounds and different walks in life and being able to work on my social skills, something that I’ve been lacking my entire life. 

Kings Speakers gave me a voice and allowed me to express myself in an environment where I am free from judgement, everybody is supportive and wants you to succeed. The skills I gained transferred to my personal life where I built up the confidence to speak up during work and socialise with peers from university instead letting my stutter control my life. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, and I have grown so much from the experience in such a short period of time. 

 

Tony Hoang