I’ve always stammered; hence I never enjoyed public speaking. I was the quiet person both in my family and at school. So my parents took me to the LAMDA drama school and Stagecoach Performing Arts to try to help. Sadly, it didn’t improve things. In fact I hated them!
My dyslexia and speech impediment have been a long-term burden. I gained a place at Nottingham University but being far from home, I knew I’d get little family support. But I was determined to do my very best there!
My degree was in biochemistry which involved many presentations in which I had to explain my findings and results to my fellow students. I got around this by uploading private Youtube videos for my lecturer.
The reason I started public speaking at university was because I met this Polish student who asked what my name was. But her great beauty got the better of me and I couldn't say it! I felt so naked and embarrassed. Finally, I claimed I didn’t know my name, which didn’t go down too well…
So I joined my university public speaking society and enrolled in Level 4 diploma presentation skills. I did 20 presentations on cancer, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It felt like I was about to give birth to my heart—but somehow I got through them.
When I completed my degree, a friend recommended Toastmasters so I joined King’s Speakers. The club specialises in people with stammers and social anxiety. They are a wonderfully supportive and experienced club and none of my difficulties are new to them. The president takes time to help with my breathing techniques and while it’s not easy, I’m definitely improving. I’ve only been a member for a few months but am already up to my seventh speech. With each one, I take a step forward…and grow in confidence.
My greatest thrill is when the audience laughs during a speech! I remember when I was describing how I struggle at job interviews. The room was silent. Two dozen people were nodding in sympathy and understanding. Then I explained that when things were going badly, I’d start flirting with my interviewer—male or female! After a few disbelieving glances, the whole room erupted—I’ll never forget that feeling! It was such a rush!
One day, I will talk without stammer. That’s my goal and what an achievement it will be! Maybe I’ll become a world-class public speaker or even a stand-up comic. No matter what happens, I’m enjoying my Toastmasters journey.
Thanks so much, King’s Speakers!