If you get nervous when called upon to speak in front of a crowd, you’re not alone! Public speaking (aka glossophobia) is the most common phobia among Americans, ahead of arachnophobia, the fear of death, and the fear of heights.
What’s even scarier than plain old public speaking? Making a speech or presentation when you stutter. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five tips to help teens who stutter!
Address the Elephant In the Room
Most of your friends and classmates already know that you stutter. If you’re asked to speak in front of strangers, it’s a good idea to let the audience know upfront about your speech impediment.
Try using humor: “The first thing that I want to say is that I have a tendency to stutter — so please bear with me. My brilliant insights and bottomless wisdom will come out eventually.”
Choose Your Topic Carefully
There are times when teens who stutter need to do a class presentation on an assigned topic. If you’re given free rein, however, choose a subject that you are knowledgeable and passionate about. Knowing your stuff can help keep anxiety at bay, which in turn may lower the odds of getting tongue-tied.
By “prepared” we mean not only having an outline or cue cards to work from, but also knowing the lay of the land. Will you have to climb steps to a stage? Will there be a microphone? Even things that seems frivolous — like knowing where to park or where the rest rooms are — will make you more comfortable.
If at all possible, do a run-through in the auditorium or meeting room, before the actual presentation.
Use Slides or Other Visual Material
Using Powerpoint or similar software to create visual material for your audience will help you, too. Instead of attempting particularly tricky words, you can simply point to the slide. It’s a win-win. The audience gets the information they’re looking for, while you stay calm as the proverbial cucumber.
Slides can also make it easier to give an extemporaneous presentation or speech. They will keep you on track and allow you to organize your thoughts. Again, any trick that alleviates anxiety is a trick worth using.
Try Relaxation Techniques
You’ve no doubt heard the old chestnut about picturing the audience in their underwear. If that works for you, great! Another suggestion is to ask a family member or friend to sit in the front.
Seeing a friendly face can put you at ease. Not only that, but you’re more likely to deliver your presentation in a conversational manner — instead of stuttering and stumbling through a prepared script.
Another recommendation is to take a few deep breaths before going on stage. Positive visualization might be worth a try, as well. Lastly, smile! It increases endorphin production and makes you appear confident, relaxed, and knowledgeable on the outside — even if you’re a nervous wreck on the inside!
Helping Teens Who Stutter
No doubt about it, public speaking can be scary, and that goes double for teens who stutter. However, you don’t have to let your fear paralyze you. Try these techniques and see which suggestions work best for you.
Do you stutter? Know someone who does? We’d love to hear your stories. Leave us a note in the comment section!