Extensive rehearsal can help each of us get better at public speaking

I enjoy public speaking. It’s an important part of my work on behalf of the community. It’s an important part of my networking efforts. Standing in front of an audience is a place where I feel at ease.

My next presentation will be a three-minute talk in Edmonton, on the occasion early in March 2012 of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

The talk will be recorded with a Zoom H4n mic equipped with custom windscreen (a unit purchased at Trew Audio in Toronto), and I’ll get the picture track from ISTAR. If all works well, my three-minute talk will be posted on Vimeo. I like Vimeo as a place to post, because it offers a respectful environment for the sharing of videos. Three minutes is a great length for an online video.

In the previous blog post, I’ve shared an early draft of my talk. Below is my most recent draft. It’s going to be further tightened, so that I’m comfortably within the three-minute length.

I like to practise such presentations for short periods each day. It’s what psychologists call distributed practice. Spreading out the practice and rehearsal is a good way to go.

I’m convinced that pretty well anybody can improve their public speaking skills if they work at it as a skill that can be improved with practice. The final performance is like the tip of the iceberg. For many speakers, much work on the text, and rehearsal of the delivery, goes on prior to that event.

Here’s my most recent draft:


Good evening. I began to stutter at the age of 6. In my teens and early twenties, I stuttered severely. Sometimes I could not get out any words at all. Not exactly a great way to get a start in a person’s life.

I had some treatment over the years. But I was not able to do much in the way of public speaking until I attended the ISTAR clinic in July 1987

After the three-week clinic, I practised my new fluency skills every day for over four years. It took a while to adjust to my new way of speaking. Each time I’d be making a fluent presentation to a large audience, a voice inside me would say, “You’re not supposed to be able to do this. You’re supposed to be falling flat on your face.”

That voice really bothered me. At first I thought I should get some psychotherapy. But then I realized that what I needed to do was to compare notes with other people who stutter. As a result, I formed a self-help group for people who stutter in Toronto in 1988. About a year later, a speech therapist, Tony Churchill, told me at a meeting that the inner voice was telling me I needed to adjust to some changes that had occurred in my life. The inner voice never bothered me again.

In the late 1980s, Einer Boberg contacted several self-help groups in Canada, and suggested that we organize a national conference for people who stutter. We organized such a conference in August 1991. That event, the first of its kind in Canada, led to the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association.

Einer Boberg also got me involved in volunteer work at the international level. I became involved with some of the earliest networking among national self-help groups around the world, starting with the International Fluency Association. As well, I was involved in the founding of the Estonian Stuttering Association, in 1993, and of the International Stuttering Association, in 1995.

Einer Boberg, Deborah Kully, Marilyn Langevin, and many others at ISTAR have changed the lives of many people who stutter, You have enabled us to be more productive and to get closer to reaching our full potential.

ISTAR is a strong proponent of evidence-based practice in speech-language pathology. The program is continuously updated from year to year, based on client feedback, clinical experience, and research around the world. That approach inspires me tremendously. I wish you continued success on behalf of people who stutter, and on behalf of their families and the wider society, in the years ahead.


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