Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tom: You have been out-handicapped

As you might know, I am an active member in Toastmasters, and regularly participate in contests. Last Saturday, I participated in the Area contest (after the club contest) but I didn't make it to the first three of eight. All eight were very good speeches. I spoke about The King's Speech. An Indian guy won with a speech on Mr Impossible who tells us not to try, and he had polio as a child leaving him with difficulties in walking. He had a very good theme, and comes across as a very nice guy and relaxed speaker. After the contest, someone came to me and said that he liked my speech, but said that I should move and speak of other topics than stuttering, which I agree with, and he finished off by saying: "Tom, great speech but you have been out-handicapped". ;-)

In any case, everyone liked my speech, so here it is:
You helped me find my voice

In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken as I were able to cross your
threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war.


Fellow Toastmasters, Honoured Guests, Contest Chair,

These are the opening words of King George VI on the eve of World War II.
Despite his stuttering, he overcame his fears to address the British nation.

It's also the final scene in The King's Speech,
the Oscar winning movie directed by Tom Hooper, and starring Colin Firth,
who I am sure most women here know about

I understand what the king went through,
........ because I also stutter.

The king and I,
we know exactly what we want to say, but we just cannot get it out at that moment.
Stuttering is a neurobiological weakness in the brain that leads to temporary jams.
As you can imagine the handicap leads to fear, shame, stress, causing even more stuttering.
Unfortunately no cure exists but good therapy can ease the symptoms.

After many failed attempts, the King visits an eccentric Australian speech therapist: Lionel Logue, who teaches him speech exercises for fluency.
But they also work on overcoming his fears, and building his confidence as a speaker.

Today I want to tell you about one eccentric therapist that has helped me!

Actually, many therapists.

You! All of you at Toastmasters have provided me with a safe learning environment.

Three years ago, I was hesitant to join Toastmasters.
I felt like Mr Bean entering a bodybuilding contest.

But you have helped me improve my public speaking.
By being a good example on how to give a speech.
And, sometimes, by being a good example on how NOT to give a speech.

I have also benefited from your patience to listen to all of my speeches.
And from your constructive feedback.
Which, sometimes, I have to say, was too nice!

I learned from you that speech fluency is just one part of the success of a speech
There is so much more to communication.
Body Language: [Tom moves],
Content: To be or Not to be.
Humour. [ha, ha, ha!],
Confidence (chest out),
Intonation. (deep Oh yes.)
and ........ pauses.

Fluency is not my strong suit
but I discovered other qualities to compensate for that.

I also learned from you that I was not alone in my fear of public speaking.
I always thought that only people who stutter are scared of speaking in public.
Why else would you be scared to speak???
After all, all of you know how to speak.

Of course, some of you have joined TM precisely to overcome their discomfort.
And you have gained confidence and enjoyment in public speaking, too.

In a sense, we’ve been therapists for each other

That brings me to what Toastmasters is all about.

We all have our stories to tell.

But unfortunately we often don't tell them.
We are scared, we are embarrassed, we avoid, we obscure, and,
in my case, sometimes we stutter.

The king had doubts about his up-coming coronation.

Logue provoked him: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
And he angrily exploded: Because I have a voice!
And Logue replied: ...yes, you do.

Fellow toastmasters, honoured guest, contest chair,
We all have a voice. We just have to find it and make it heard

As for me: I have found mine in this speech to you.

Thank you!


Pam said...

Like the guy's comment, you have been out-handicapped. I have been in Toastmasters as well, for 5 years. I am not much of a contest person, only entered one, and did not advance either. But it was more for me to find out that I could do, rather than win.
I agree with talking about other things than stuttering.
I have given about 50 speeches in Toastmasters - 3 were on stuttering. My ice-breaker, one on conquering fear (and I used voluntary stuttering as an example) and one that had to be on using audio-visual stuff, I talked about and showed a video of the Speech Easy device, and reviewed pros and cons. Every other speech was on something else, things I like to do or work related, as talking about stuttering is not necessary in Toastmasters for me anymore, as they already know I stutter. Its obvious when I speak!

Anonymous said...

Hello Tom,

One idea for a speech next year:

Neurology and political opinions:

In between, it would be nice to understand why Colin Firth is now so fond of brain research. Maybe he should hold a chronique in the "Stutterring brain". After all, he has gained some nobility letters in this field.


John E said...

It's very easy to play on the stuttering-victim mentality - especially nowdays after the Kings Speech. The evaluator who told you to speak about other things rather than stuttering was totally right - it may be a big thing for, but it gets pretty boring for the audience to hear the same old record every time. I've just competed at the Division level (and came 3rd), and my speech had nothing to do with stuttering - even though I was having severe blocks delivering it.
All the best Tom.

Tom Weidig said...

I have not really played the victim at all.

I agree it might be boring for the club members, but at Division level no-one knows you any more and the speech will have much more power.

in any case, i will do a new subject next time.

Ora said...

John E: It's very easy to play on the stuttering-victim mentality

I agree with Tom, that his speech did not cast him as a victim. Identifying oneself as handicapped does not in itself mean identifying oneself as a victim. We should avoid talking about ourselves as victims, but we should not have to avoid talking about our stuttering just because some people might consider us victims.

John E said...

Ore, 3 sentences you used to word 'victim' 4 times! I guess one of us is fond of using the word 'victim'.