Below one individual shares two experiences with the organization Toastmasters, an organization which has great value for many people who stutter.

My Toastmaster's Experiences

by Tom Scharstein

Through the urging of many, I finally decided to check out a local Toastmasters club a couple weeks ago! I thought I knew what to expect....!

I had called the local number, and, upon finding out a club was meeting that night, decided to go right away.

My "neighbor" chapter leader told me her club had some impressive speakers, some mediocre, and then those "struggling" with public speaking.... She said "everything's'll fit right in!"

So in I walk, into a room full of about 30......lawyers, doctors, politicians, writers, a news anchorman, a poet, upper management exec's, top realtors in this area, business owners....even the owner of one of our competitors sat at my table! I'm thinking, "Where's that door at?" :-)

At this particular club, everyone speaks every night! And, from what I saw, everyone was an incredibly polished speaker!

I knew, the longer I sat there, looking around at people I read and hear about, that this would be my "Everest climb" in '99! A "CTM," which basically means you accomplish a total of ten speeches, is my goal. I'm not above having feelings of intimidation and nervousness. I found myself drawing upon what I've learned in "Speaking Circles," as I began to speak...."owning" the room! I reflected upon my "Five," as I sat there with a smile. Smiling because I knew, that if I could speak in this room, with no background noise, with the total attention of everyone, educating them about stuttering as I practice speeches; that, if I could speak in this room, I CAN SPEAK ANYWHERE......NO PROBLEM!

The people in attendance? Highly motivated. Extremely professional. Most were extremely outgoing. "Go-getters" that are extremely efficient in use of their time. However, some were actually condensending; caught up in a measure of haughtiness. But I didn't fact, I like the room just how it is! I want to feel pressure....I want them to intimidate me a tad....I want to be nervous! I knew that these "type" of people are the ones that greatly intimidated my in my I'm sitting in a room full of them! And they are listening to me! Somewhat ironic, wouldn't you say? Yet I knew that if I listened attentively to them, they should listen similarly to me. Our time, as PWS, is just as important and fleeting as theirs, right?

This may not be for everyone. In fact, the above may prove my "lunatic" side.:-) But I know, that, at this point in my life, this is what I need to do, have to do. If you decide to check out Toastmasters, there are clubs that will best suit your needs. In fact, that is what the other chapter leader told me. She had "sampled" several clubs before finding the one best suiting her needs. Remember, you don't have to join any of the groups! You don't have to speak! The feelings I get when I walk in the door of that room, are the ones I need! I knew right away this was the club for me! Not that I consider myself a "somebody," but to be in a room with this particular group is very challenging for me.

You can get the "Toastmasters" experience in the chapter meetings as well! The new expanded Speaking Circles Program will enable you to continue experiencing these same feelings! All that I felt during the TM meeting, "owning" the room, inflection in my speech, etc., I've experienced at chapter meetings with the SC program.

Later. . .

A journey has begun in my life. It may prove to be as a ride on a shooting star, against the backdrop of a warm summer night. Even if this "ride" progresses no further, you are here with me.

With me? Yes! For you are the reason I began this pursuit. You have been my listening ear; sharing positive experiences as well as difficulties as they arise. You are with me. Yet when you read this, and think about what course a PWS has taken, don't think in terms of "me" or "Tom." Share this experience with me as it unfolds .... for YOU ARE WITH ME!

"Most Humorous Speech Contest" Those words signify a tremendous amount of challenge for me. I stutter. How can I tell a joke? Yet I know I can be funny. Everyone I met at the convention has a GREAT sense of humor! I remember many a night returning to my room with aching cheeks, from the smiles and laughter! PWS can be incredibly funny!

EVERY speech I've given thus far has been inspirational ... my preference when speaking in front of a group. Should I do this? I KNOW that if I asked my friends here, what they would say. I remember turning the request form in. What will I talk about?

I received word last week I was in the contest. I saw the list of the other names. One of them, not only one on a club level, but was regional champ last year. Another a 40 year member. I might not have a chance, but I will do my best.

What am I trying to prove? Who am I trying to please? The answers to these questions I already know. What I do, is for me. When you spend years ... YEARS ... with a mouth unable to make a sound .... incapable of speech .... when given the opportunity to speak in front of a group of people that HAVE to listen to you, as you have given them your full attention many times, your heart compels you to seize the opportunity!

I stutter throughout the day. I'll stutter in front of them. Yet I know that "it's okay to stutter." I heard that for five days last summer in Atlanta, and six days this summer in Seattle.

An idea begins to formulate for a speech. What if I talk about all the crazy phrases my dad used to tell me growing up? Props begin to formulate in my An idea begins to formulate for a speech. What if I talk about all the crazy phrases my dad used to tell me growing up? Props begin to formulate in my mind. Yes, I can do this.

The night is here. I remember the first time I set foot in this club ... the largest and most unforgiving club in this area ... I felt tremendously intimidated! Circumstances dictated a move to another club, on another night. Now ... I'm back. The area governor is here ... the same one that made the "stammering fool" comment (not about me, of course) during her speech at my second meeting at this club. The compitetion is very real. Nervousness (mostly my own) completely filled the air!

We are called upon ... the contestants. "Please make mine last..!" filled my mind. We drew ... I looked at my card ... an "ace" (signifying first speech) ... my "gulp" surely must have been heard throughout the room. Within minutes, I will begin my speech. As I sat in the "ready" chair, I knew the seconds were winding down. "Was that my name?" I asked myself as I looked at the floor. It must be ... there is total silence....! I look up .... I have just been introduced ... here it goes!

Taking my seat after my speech, I remember thinking, "Now that could have been smoother!" As I listened to the other speakers ... polished, composed, masterfull at joke telling, I knew that just getting up in front of this group was a "win" for me. I knew I would attempt the next competition, in the spring. It was ok for a first experience.

The ballots were collected.

A child whose world hinged upon the support that wasn't there ... doubt and uncertainty about "why" he was different ruled his life. A teen whose would centered upon feelings of inadequacy and inferiority ... whose feelings of acceptance and understanding eluded him ... who truly felt "sub human" ... whose existance on this planet was questioned in his mind many times over... WON!

You are with me.

Both posts originally on Stutt-L
added with permission, March 28, 1999, and September 15, 1999