Nobody delivers a speech perfectly all the time. Oftentimes, committing mistakes is unavoidable. However, for people who stutter, this can happen more frequently. Because this does not go away instantly, it is a good thing that there are ways to stop stuttering when speaking in public.
To stop stuttering, you first have to accept that you stutter. By doing this, you can easily condition yourself that you are in control by preparing and practicing your speech. Also, to divert your mind away from stuttering, you can perform warm-up exercises, use audiovisual materials, and do body movements. But even if you stutter, you just have to keep going.
Want to learn more about all of these? This blog can guide you in achieving stutter-free public speaking. Just keep on reading!
What does it mean to stutter?
Stuttering is a speech disorder that usually occurs during childhood and is a common part of learning how to speak and enunciate words. It is also known as stammering.
Stutterers are aware of what they want to say, yet they struggle to express it fluently. Noticeably, they repeat or lengthen the syllables or consonant and vowel sounds of a word. Also, they usually take pauses in the middle of speaking, especially if they encounter a difficult word or sound to enunciate.
Normally, stuttering is outgrown in childhood. It is viewed as a developmental part of speaking at an early age. However, some cases of stuttering continue until adulthood. For improving this condition, speech therapies are a great way to practice fluency.
When it comes to stuttering in public speaking, some may be too obvious while others are not much of a concern. Stuttering is not generally a problem, but if it is already affecting the flow of speech, addressing it is necessary.
Signs of Stuttering in Public Speaking
The manifestations of stuttering can either be noticeable or not. Although the listed signs of stuttering in public speaking below can occur to non-stutterers as well, stutterers unknowingly commit them repeatedly.
- Having a hard time starting a word, phrase, or sentence: Opening a speech is already challenging enough. For stutterers, this may manifest by doing an unintended pause in the beginning. Additionally, nervousness can worsen this.
- Unknowingly prolonging a letter sound in a word: This may occur if the stutterer tries their best to be careful in enunciating every sound in a word. But some are unnoticeable to the audience. It may come across as if the stutterer is only emphasizing the word.
- Repeating a sound or syllable: This is the most common manifestation of stuttering. A stutterer finds it difficult to enunciate a sound, making them repeat it. Also, this may come across to the audience as a sign of nervousness. Because it is noticeable, this may affect how they understand the presentation.
- Abruptly pausing in the middle of saying a word: Committing this can be mistaken for an error in the delivery. This is noticeable as well, especially when the sound of the voice is tense.
- Frequently adding filler words, like “uh” and “uhm”, in between words: Although non-stutterers are also prone to saying these words, it is much more noticeable in stutterers, especially if accompanied by other aforementioned signs.
Is stuttering a lack of confidence?
Stuttering should not be confused with a lack of confidence. To begin with, stuttering is a speech condition that is influenced by many factors, like genetics, neurophysiology, and familial development and dynamics. It can neither be immediately controlled nor stopped to automatically speak fluently.
However, it is worth noting that stuttering and lack of confidence are closely associated with each other. As stuttering hinders speakers to convey their message clearly and fluently, they can develop a fear of speaking and rejection, leading to a lack of confidence and low esteem. In the long run, this can develop into stage fright.
Nevertheless, stuttering does not automatically equate to a lack of confidence because there are already various ways to manage it. After all, this condition cannot undermine the power of the message you want to communicate to your audience.
Debunking Myths About Stuttering
Even though stuttering is a medical diagnosis, we should not forget that it is also socially conditioned. In effect, many stereotypes have been attached to stutterers that are not always correct. Thus, in this section of the blog, we will debunk the myths that we usually associate with stuttering:
1. Stuttering is caused by nervousness.
Although stuttering and nervousness are associated with each other, it is wrong to assume this claim. Remember that stuttering is a speech condition that is medically diagnosed. Many factors contribute to stuttering, like genetics and neurophysiology.
Instead, nervousness can make stuttering worse for some stutterers, especially if they have stage fright.
2. Stutterers stutter all the time.
The cases of stuttering vary among people who stutter because this condition cannot be controlled instantly. Some speak fluently at a certain time but stutter on different occasions.
At the same time, correcting stuttering is not as easy as changing a bad habit. Speech therapy guided by a professional is the best way to manage severe stuttering.
3. Stuttering is a sign of being unintelligent.
The intelligence of a speaker cannot be measured by disabilities. In public speaking, even though how a speaker delivers their speech is important, stuttering cannot undermine the message they are trying to convey to the audience.
Aside from public speaking, several stutterers have created respectable names across different professions. They can be as intelligent as other non-stutterers, too.
4. All stutterers grew up through bad parenting.
Even though the environment where a stutterer grew up is a big factor in the worsening of the condition, it is a mistake to blame it on the fault of parents. Stuttering is a medical condition, specifically a neurological one.
Similarly, if the parents are stutterers, too, assuming that the condition is contagious is wrong. Genetics is potentially at play in this situation, not imitation that developed into a habit.
5. Stuttering is a psychological/mental condition caused by emotional trauma.
The emotions caused by trauma contribute to the worsening of stuttering that can lead to psychological problems, like fear and anxiety. However, it cannot automatically mean that stuttering is rooted in psychological causes. Rather, it is a neurological condition that can only be medically diagnosed.
6. All people who stutter are introverts.
Even though stuttering can make someone develop shyness when speaking, this condition cannot solely be attached to personality types. Some can be extroverts who love to socialize with other people while stuttering. Hence, this is proof that stutterers can still be good speakers, despite their condition.
How do you stop stuttering in public speaking?
Although stuttering cannot be cured instantly, the good news is that you can manage or even stop it from happening. If you are preparing for a speaking engagement, like delivering a speech to your class, refer to the list below to know how you can stop stuttering when speaking.
- Accept the fact that you stutter, and do not try to hide them. It should not hinder you from delivering a speech as it does not make you less of a speaker. If it will help you, you can disclose to your audience that you stutter. This can make you worry less throughout the speech.
- Condition your mind that you are in control. Remember that you are bigger than stuttering. It cannot define you as a speaker. As long as you put your mind to it, rest assured that you will speak excellently.
- Prepare for your speaking engagement. This can give your speech a structure that you can follow. Knowing what to say, instead of just winging it, can make you less stressed. In effect, this lessens the chances of triggering stuttering. After all, your message is much more important than worrying about stuttering.
- Practice days before the presentation by recording yourself. By doing this, you can backtrack how you delivered your speech. If you stuttered, this can give you time to adjust or practice even more.
- Do some warm-up exercises before going to the stage. Apart from being mentally prepared, you also have to be physically ready. You can practice deep breathing, vocalization, and some stretching to condition your body.
- Use some audiovisual materials or hold your notes where you can divert your attention away from thinking about stuttering. You have to keep your mind occupied. Apart from focusing on the message that you want to convey, channeling your attention to using them can avoid triggering stuttering.
- Practice some body movements. This is similar to the previous point. Doing some movements will not only show your audience how comfortable you are in front of them but also release all of the tension from your body.
- Keep going even if you stutter. No one speaks perfectly all the time, so do not dwell on stuttering during speaking. Move on to your next sentence, and just keep talking. For sure, your audience will not notice that you stuttered.
Best Practices for Speaking Fluently and Confidently
If you suffer from stuttering, even though you cannot cure them instantly, remember that there are ways to help you manage it, like the ones mentioned above. For one, you can develop simple habits. Below are some examples to help you avoid or even recover from committing mistakes during a speech.
1. Deep breathing
This exercise not only conditions your lungs and vocal cords to support you but also calms you when speaking, especially if you are feeling nervous. Do this by inhaling as much air as you can breathe in through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds, then exhale through your mouth. Repeat these if necessary.
2. Rhythmic speaking
It is almost impossible to stutter while singing because of the rhythm that you follow. Fortunately, this is also applicable to speaking. You just need to develop a rhythm when speaking. You can do this by tapping your foot or finger on each syllable while following a subtle melody.
3. Taking small pauses after every sentence
The key to limiting stuttering is taking your time while speaking. This is why pauses are very important. They compose your brain before starting to say another sentence. You can also take a moment to breathe after a few minutes of straight speaking.
4. Using a digital speech app to monitor progress
Having a digital app to assist and plan practices for you to better your speaking skills is a good way to manage your stuttering. They can provide you with customized training plans and guided meditations to your liking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is stuttering because of anxiety?
No. Anxiety is not the root cause of stuttering. It is not a mental health disorder but rather a speech disorder. However, anxiety can worsen stuttering, especially if you fear public speaking.
How common is stuttering?
Millions of people around the world are affected by stuttering. Mostly, kids ages 2–6 experience stuttering as part of the developmental process of speaking and enunciating words. However, stuttering can persist until adulthood. If this happens, undergoing speech therapy is advisable.
Why do I stutter so much when I am nervous?
Nervousness triggered by stressful situations, like public speaking, restrains the muscle movements of your body that, in effect, worsens stuttering. Additionally, this may cause your mind to feel worried as it anticipates stuttering more out of the fear of stuttering itself.
Is stuttering a weakness?
No. Stuttering is never a weakness. It is a speech condition that cannot be controlled instantly, just like being soft-spoken. Stutterers should not be discouraged to speak publicly as there are many ways to control stuttering. You might take a while to enunciate words, but this does not automatically negate the impact of the message of your speech.
If I am part of the audience, how should I properly deal with a stuttering speaker?
It is important to focus on what the stuttering speaker is saying, not how they are delivering the speech. Try to look relaxed and calm, and never show the speaker that you are feeling uneasy. If you want them to repeat an important point, ask them nicely. Never interrupt them in the middle of their speech.
Key Takeaways: How to Stop Stuttering in Public Speaking
No cure for stuttering has been identified yet. However, this condition should not hinder you from delivering a speech in public at your best.
Remember that accepting that you stutter is key to gaining control over public speaking. You can also do body movements, use audiovisual aids, and perform warm-up exercises to take your thoughts off of stuttering.
And do not forget the golden rule: Keep going even if you stutter!
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.