Beginning My Public Speaking Career as a “Sportswriter Who Stutters”

It has been quite a while since I posted anything on here but hey, no time like the present to kick-start a new habit.

Last month was a very important time for yours truly — a turning point, if you will — both in my personal and professional life as quite a few accomplishments had been made. For now, though, let’s focus on one accomplishment, in particular.

The date was Saturday, October 19, 2019. It was the Canadian Stuttering Association’s annual conference and, after attending my first conference in 2018, this year marked the first time that I’d be a speaker — at this event, or any event, for that matter.

Back in April, I had just left a sleep clinic, walking through a deserted parking lot with the sun just coming out. Now, Monday mornings at 6:30am are cause for dread for some, but this certainly wasn’t the case for me.

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Speaking at my rehearsal before the CSA Conference (Photo credit: Elliot Ng)

So, walking through that deserted parking lot, I received an email from a fellow stutterer who happened to do some work for the CSA. She had remembered my story about being a sportswriter who adapted to conducting phone interviews and encouraged me to formally apply to the 2019 Conference for this reason.

Naturally, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As soon as I had access to a computer (later that morning), I applied and ultimately receiving word that my idea was accepted. As thrilled as I was, though, I was nervous — albeit a very good type of nervous. After all, I was given a major platform to speak about an affliction which, for many years, I saw as, for lack of a better term, a curse, only to change my perspective in recent years. I’m so happy I did, by the way, but more on that later.

Even my bosses were excited for me when they heard the news. One boss, in particular, had done a great deal of public speaking herself and had given me tips, going as far as edited my speech with me. My other boss allowed me to rehearse for him on multiple occasions and even went as a far as booking an auditorium while inviting some colleagues to watch my do a dry run of my speech — only two days before the big day.

On said big day, I woke up what felt like a few hours before my alarm went off. It was most likely less of a discrepancy but I was too excited to really care. It was a beautiful, sunny October morning in Toronto, so could I wait around patiently?

After getting ready, I was out the door and on the subway, listening to some instrumental combat music to pump me up (as if I need any extra incentive to be ready). For my favourites in said genre, though, please watch the video of my speech posted below.

I was the first speaker at the conference, and I was given the main auditorium to boot. But, in spite of my notoriety of getting pessimistic, I never thought — not on this morning on in days or weeks prior — what if I screw up or what if something goes wrong? Not once. After all, if I stuttered during my speech, there was no need to explain myself because, while I received a plethora of support from my family, friends and colleagues, this morning was confirmation that I was not alone, that everyone sitting in that auditorium understood my affliction. There were speakers more fluent than I was and there were those who were less fluent than I was. It didn’t matter. I quickly came to know the stuttering community as patient and empathetic, even if members of said community weren’t stutterers themselves.

When I was up on that stage giving my speech, though, it was liberating. Words cannot describe how amazing I felt, especially since I constantly remembered to take my time speaking — an important note for someone who is notorious for speaking so fast that it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. This was one of my biggest goals, though: to make sure everyone in that auditorium and those watching it afterwards to understand every word I had said. While I still had moments of going faster than I should, though, I was satisfied with my pace. I know I can do better but that only makes me determined to improve things for next time.

My boss was there to record my speech (credit for said video goes out to Elliot Ng) and I was off. Remembering to pace myself, remembering to make eye contact with the entire room, remembering to add emphasis to those words and phrases I wanted to have stand out, I was on a mission to make the most of my time on that stage, and I did just that.

Following my speech, I met some wonderful people — some of which approached me to say that my speech was inspiring or that I, myself, was an inspiration. As cocky as I like to act sometimes, though, these compliments humble me. They tug right at the heartstrings, so to speak, and I am always honoured when others feel that way — especially when I don’t necessarily see it myself.

After that speech, I uploaded the video and posted it on my social media accounts, emailed it to former colleagues, teachers and speech therapists whom I knew would appreciate it, regardless if I spoke to them years ago or the previous week.

I also want to give a huge thank you to the Canadian Stuttering Association and those who gave me the opportunity to tell my story. This is just the beginning and it is thanks to you.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!

 

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