written by: Dhruv Gupta
Toastmasters & Stuttering. Can the two really go together? Many would consider them contradictory. I consider them complementary.
I joined Toastmasters in January 2010. The primary reason I joined was because I stutter – I have been since I was eight years old. A friend had told me “Toastmasters makes you a better public speaker”. At that point in my life, I was desperate to try any method that would make me a better public speaker. At that point in my life, I would stutter on almost every single word while giving a public speech; I had to give daily briefings to my staff in my restaurant. Consistently, after each briefing, feelings of embarrassment, shame and inadequacy would swell inside me.
I resolved to attend Toastmasters to challenge myself to speak in public. This resolution was bittersweet. I knew Toastmasters would help me, but I dreaded going to our weekly 7:30 pm Monday meetings. Every Monday, I would have butterflies storming in my stomach in the early afternoon. By the evening, my heart would be racing and my mind would play out all possible scenarios in which I could stutter. I would then consciously try to avoid each of them.
By February 2011, I stopped going to Toastmasters. Partially due to a lack of time, but primarily due to the fact that my fear of public speaking grew stronger than my will to be a public speaker.
Towards the end of 2012, my speech had cyclically dipped into a recession once again. I decided, and this time acted upon the idea, that I needed professional help. I turned to the American Institute for Stuttering’s 3-week Intensive Therapy program in January 2013.
After completing the program, I arrived back in Guangzhou and decided I would try to join Toastmasters again. Since I have been back I have religiously attended every Toastmasters club meeting and taken a role in each and every one – from Joke master to Table Topics Master to Grammarian. My club held an International speech competition, and Table Topics competition on Saturday, March 23; I won 2nd place and 1st place respectively. I am going on to participate in our Area, all clubs in Guangzhou, competition next Saturday, April 6. I am looking forward to the judge handing me that 1st place award!
This change in attitude/heart would not have been possible without the American Institute for Stuttering. Heather, Carl, Amy, the clinicians and clients who attended the January intensive were catalysts for my change. They provided the encouragement, knowledge and challenges that helped me turn-around my thinking. I will always be grateful to the Institute and to the incredible clinicians who have helped me, truly, change my life. A big THANK YOU to all of you. The work you are doing is life changing.