I recently participated in a public speaking workshop for people who stutter in the new AIS office in Atlanta. We gave both planned and impromptu speeches. It was a tremendously meaningful experience for me. I used to think that I needed to be perfectly fluent, however, this workshop reinforced for me that fluency is not required in order to make a great presentation. Intellectually, I knew that a person can be an effective communicator and stutter, but I saw firsthand at this workshop that a person who stutters overtly can be a tremendously effective communicator.
We have all heard that a great deal of communication is nonverbal. So, we send a message by how we react to moments of stuttering. We can learn to physically respond to moments of stuttering as to not detract from communication, instead conveying confidence. For me, it has become important to reduce the urge to be fluent because chasing fluency often leads me to poor communication due to avoidance and secondary behaviors.
During the workshop, I noticed how incredibly effective a PWS can be, even if stuttering significantly, as long the speaker acts confident and makes eye contact. In fact, the stuttering actually made some of the speeches more interesting! Leaving this workshop, I am reminded that my goal is not to be 100% fluent and that demanding myself to be fluent is unhealthy. Instead, I strive to be a more confident speaker whether I stutter or not and learn to accept myself unconditionally even when I stutter.