Harry Dhillon introduces his new Toastmasters group for people who stammer.
Martin Luther King once said: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole path, just take the first step."
But that first step can sometimes be too big a challenge. With that in mind a new Toastmasters public speaking club primarily for people who stammer, or who have social anxiety, has been set up in London. 'King's Speakers' held its first meeting in January 2012 and with meetings twice a month, the club is flourishing. Within a short time we've had many people experience a shift in their confidence levels and self-perception. Many who had never visualised themselves speaking in front of a group are now delivering speeches out of choice. The feelings of exhilaration and jubilation that accompany someone's first speech cannot be described in words.
I liken it to escalators. If we simply step onto the escalator we are carried upwards. By attending meetings like these, and pushing ourselves a little further each time, we grow that little bit more. With this growth comes self-belief, and then the fog of fear starts to clear.
At our club no-one is ever forced to speak, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so. We gently encourage people to progress at a pace that suits them. A typical meeting includes prepared speeches, evaluations, impromptu speaking and other speaking roles in between. Typically, new members start by taking on some of the less demanding roles and working their way up. It's a structured personal development path, and the aim is to attain a greater level of self-confidence and personal power through the medium of public speaking. We all have dormant skills and qualities we may not be aware of. Meetings of speakers clubs like Toastmasters allow these skills to be liberated, resulting in personal growth and a greater feeling of fulfilment.
Before Toastmasters I spent most of my life running and hiding, weighed down by negative emotions of inadequacy and helplessness, but the organisation has helped me to emerge from my cave and face the dragons outside (A transforming experience at Toastmasters). When guests come to our meetings for the first time, often unsure and hesitant, they may not be aware but they have already taken that first step.
"It only took one meeting to get me hooked," says Katie. "Everyone is supportive and there is no judgement; everyone knows where you're coming from. I have never felt so confident or been so accepting of my stammer." Khushi says: "I can safely call King's Speakers 'home', where people are empathetic and where I can be nothing but just myself."
From the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 4