It's a Thursday evening. I've just worked a ten hour day. All I want is to get into bed and switch off from the world. But I don't. Instead, I'm on a train. My stomach is bubbling away, this familiar dread haunting me. I still cannot believe I am doing this. I must be crazy. I am voluntarily going to a meeting for public speaking. Doesn’t sound appealing does it? There are at least a thousand things I would rather be doing. But there's one thing in particular that is tightening that nervous knot in my stomach. Public speaking is my idea of hell. I have a stammer.
I have stammered my whole life. From dreading answering the register in school (just my luck I had a teacher called Mr Wilimont!) to hating class presentations, I've felt all the pain of having a stammer. Yet, it is something I have never let define me. I have worked on it my whole life to the point where I can control it. It has almost become a second thought. But I wasn't going to settle for that. I wanted that extra push, that extra practice so I can stand before anyone and inspire them with my words. The reason? Because I want to be an officer in the British Army.
I found out about King’s Speakers, one of only three Toastmaster public speaking clubs in the world aimed at those with a stammer or social anxiety. I walk up to the meeting door, my stomach still somersaulting. My mouth has gone dry. I think about turning back, just going to the pub I passed. But I know that I won't. I need to be here. I sigh. I walk through the door. I have never looked back.
King’s Speakers is really a club like no other. With a variety of stammerers, members with anxiety and those who just want the practice, the atmosphere that greeted me was amazing. It was so relaxed and supportive. I was blown away by the fantastic speeches I heard from people who had a stammer like me. It was the first time I had met other adults who stammered. I was in complete awe of them. I wasn't alone in the world! When I left, my whole body was buzzing. There was one emotion that filled me. I was inspired. I was inspired by every single person I had met. They refused to be controlled by their fears. They were there to face their demons head on. I knew that I could too.
That was six months ago. My demons are firmly being destroyed every session. With the fantastic support of other members, I raced through every speaking role I could. Then it was on to the real fun… The speeches. I have just completed my third one with my fourth already in the planning stage. The feedback has been amazing with each one. The sense of achievement has been unreal.
The benefits are already showing. I have blitzed all my army interview stages so far, with feedback including how impressive and confident my presentations have been. I am now down to my final assessment in May. My only fear about applying for the army had been that my stammer would hold me back. With the support of King’s Speakers, I know that my stammer isn't even an issue anymore.
Of course, the nerves still come with every speech. But speaking in front of people isn't the hardest part of King’s Speakers. Walking through the door for the first time is. Once you are through, you can achieve anything you want with hard work. You just have to decide that you want it. And the crazy thing? I now actually enjoy public speaking!