"Getting an A+ - for a school SPEAKING presentation?!

by Gina Waggott

I will always remember the day my stutter was the key in getting an A+ for a speaking assignment I had to do at school. Part of the course syllabus was 'speaking and listening'. Needless to say, I'd already got top marks in the listening half of the test!

Being a closet stutterer, and an English student, I was okay at speaking fairly fluently due to avoidance techniques and word substitution I relied heavily on at the time. But - horror of horrors - reading from set text was a nightmare.

We were simply asked to do a 5-minute presentation on the general subject of 'communication'. This is where the amusing irony begins... Because the grades went to our final examination, I realised I'd HAVE to do it. I chose 'The Internet' as my presentation... I went and did my research, but didn't make any written notes, or a speech, because I knew it would drag me down.

Then came the day of the presentation. I was one of the last people to give my presentation... and I watched with growing fear at the people who went before me - all reading from set speeches or papers full of notes. Oops.

Little did I know that the criteria to meet a Grade A+ would be to do the opposite - to converse easily on a chosen subject without relying heavily on notes, or a set speech... spontaneous speech was what they were looking for.... using hand gestures, intonation, facial expression and so on.

Then my turn came... up I went to the front of the class, and gave them all the above - and more! I got so much 'into the swing' of the speech I became more and more confident, answering questions the class had, making all my points - stuttering or not!

I had a great time - a rare chance to concentrate on what I was saying, and not being so self-conscious about my stutter.

I look at my 'Grade A+' certificate now, and it always gives me that boost when I know that I can throw myself into any terrifying speaking situation and come out better for it! :-) "

added March 26, 1999