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‹ View all articles 21st March 2013

How to overcome stutters in public speaking.

Delivering a Talk

Being tongue tied, tripping over your lips, lassoing your larynx, fumbling with your tongue, and getting words muddled in the mud. Stutters happen to the best of us... spluttering and stammering, fumbling and blathering. Remarkably... stutter free public speaking is all about space-time.

Ever found yourself inexplicably stuttering & spluttering when you're speaking in public, even though that's not your usual habit? This mini-guide is for you... *

Why stutters happen

Stuttering happens in public speaking when we try to squeeze out words faster than our mouth can cope with. The reason we speed up when we are public speaking is that we are under pressure with a lot of adrenaline coursing through our bodies. Our bodily functioning goes into the fight or flight mechanism as biologically we are getting ready to run away from predators. Our bodies tell us that we should run, but at the same time we know we're supposed to stand there and speak.

It’s a very odd sensation that we are ready to flee but still find ourselves standing in the same spot ready to give a presentation. And that leads to the over-adrenalized mouth twisting itself into knots.

The pressure to rush

It might feel like you need to rush your words because that is what your body is telling you to do. If you're also feeling self conscious, you may be eager to 'get through it and get off'.

Pause for a moment and think. There was a reason why you've been asked to speak. Isn't it better for everyone if you get your point across in a considered and powerful manner?

If you think about your audience you’ll realize that your audience are NOT in a hyper aware state of adrenaline powered intensity. They are seated in (sometimes) comfy chairs, settled in to be taught something amazing.  If you speak to the speed of your adrenaline your audience simply will not understand.

The pressure to stop the stutters!

As if the adrenaline didn't cause enough trouble, we then load on extra pressure by judging our stuttering. Many people tell themselves:

"Oh no! If I stutter, they'll see I'm nervous and I'll fail as a speaker" In reality, if you stutter for a moment and you try to force yourself to stop, you will get more nervous rather than less. Instead, forget about trying to stop your stutter and accept it as part of who you are.

As you stop trying to stop, your stutter will gradually relax and you'll access you full & usual way of expressing yourself.

Audience Time Space.

To overcome stuttering for good, ask yourself: How willing am I to take up the audience's space? How willing am I to take up the audience’s time? 

Simply put, public speaking stutters occur when you are not giving yourself enough space as a speaker.

Give your words time and space to be fully heard by your audience. To do this you need to give yourself permission.

If we haven’t given ourselves permission to take up the time of the audience, we feel we haven’t the right to take up that “space”. This speaks to confidence in yourself, your message, and whether or not you feel as if you’re “bothering” the audience with your speech.  Once you begin to realize that your words are going to bring value to your audience you’ll soon see that you are indeed providing them with a useful tool.  This tool, your speech or presentation, has a right to be given the space and time it deserves.

Refocusing on the importance of what you have to say instead of worrying about what the audience thinks allows you to see the value of what you are offering. You will allow your words their proper space and decrease the chance of tripping over your own tongue.

Remember... One small space for you... one even smaller space for your audience. One slow-and-steady-I-deserve-to-be-heard space... one huge LEAP for your audience!

 

* A profound stutter could be indicative of the need for the assistance of a speech therapist - these suggestions are for nerve-based stutters that don't show up in your normal speaking. 

 

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