Ever find yourself stuttering during a presentation? It’s hard to be in front of an audience while you struggle to get the words out, but it happens a lot.
According to many sources, some 70 million people worldwide stutter, so if you’re one of them, you’re certainly not alone. This guide provides some tips so you can learn how not to stutter when presenting.
What Is Stuttering?
Many of us recognize stuttering when we hear it, but what exactly is it?
Stuttering is also known as stammering (a predominantly British term) or disfluent speech, and that last name gives a clue as to what it is. When people stutter, the flow of their speech is broken, and this can happen in different ways.
A common view of stuttering that we often see in films is people repeating sounds like consonants at the start of words without meaning to. But that's not the only hallmark of stuttering.
Sometimes people who stutter repeat whole words. But stuttering also includes:
- blocks (which are interruptions in speech)
- prolongation of some sounds
- extended pauses
Also, physical symptoms may go along with stuttering. Examples of these are:
- blinking rapidly
- trembling while trying to speak
- facial tics
- head movements
- clenching fists
The way stuttering happens can vary from person to person. Many sources suggest that around five percent of kids stutter during childhood for periods of anywhere from weeks to months to years. One percent may stutter long-term.
If you're concerned about how to stop stuttering or how to prevent stuttering during a presentation, there's good news: stuttering doesn't have to prevent you from being a successful presenter. In fact, many famous people, including actors like Nicole Kidman and Bruce Willis, are known to stutter.
Why Do People Stutter?
Before we discuss how not to stutter during a presentation, here's some information on the causes of stuttering.
As we've seen, some stuttering develops in childhood, and not all kids outgrow it. Stuttering can also be brought on by a variety of other factors. Here are some of the types of stuttering you may come across, along with their causes:
1. Developmental Stuttering
Developmental stuttering is the name given to stuttering in young children. This commonly occurs when they're developing their language skills and fluency. It may not last into adulthood and can often be eliminated with treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some scientists suggest that difficulties with speech motor control may help to cause developmental stuttering.
2. Neurogenic Stuttering
Neurogenic stuttering results from damage to the nervous system or certain diseases. This type of stuttering can be caused by:
- head injuries
- traumatic brain injuries
- neurological disorders
3. Psychogenic Stuttering
This type of stuttering is rare but can be seen in adults who have been affected by stress, mental health issues or trauma.
4. Other Causes of Stuttering
There's also a genetic factor to stuttering, as it tends to run in families. Scientists have also identified some of the genes that they believe are responsible for stuttering. Also, external stress and pressure can cause or worsen the symptoms of stuttering.
Pros and Cons of Stuttering
When thinking about how to stop stuttering, people often focus on the disadvantages. It's true that stuttering during a presentation can increase the speaker's nervousness and anxiety. The less able they are to speak fluently, the more likely they are to get upset about it and worsen their stuttering.
Stuttering is often perceived negatively because it can make it a little harder to communicate. This can affect how people who stutter are perceived in the workplace. Though of course, listeners could choose to be empathetic, and simply wait for people to finish speaking.
How Not to Stutter During a Presentation
Presenting in front of an audience can be stressful for some people. If you stutter, it's the kind of situation that's got the potential to bring on your symptoms. To help, here are some tips on how to prevent stuttering during a presentation.
1. Reduce Your Anxiety
Since anxiety makes stuttering worse, it's helpful to try some ways to make yourself less anxious. Some calming techniques to try when thinking about how to stop stuttering include:
- Meditation and mindfulness. Studies suggest that practicing mindfulness meditations can reduce stuttering symptoms and frequency. Mindfulness also helps with focus and creativity, which are great benefits. Get started with these free meditations.
- Positive affirmations. Using affirmations is a self-help technique to shift your mindset via a positive statement. Whether you believe this or not, it can't hurt to avoid negative self-talk about stuttering. Here's a guide from the International Stuttering Awareness Day to using affirmations to address stuttering.
- Drink green tea. According to some studies, drinking green tea can lower stress and increase focus, both of which should help you do a more fluent presentation.
2. Remember to Breathe
Breathing can work as either a form of meditation or a calming technique. Focusing on breathing is known to help people clear their minds and reduce stress and anxiety. This can be as simple as paying attention to your inhales and exhales and how the air moves through your body to and from your abdomen. Spend a few minutes doing this, and you're almost certain to feel calmer.
3. Speak Slowly
When it's presentation time, one way to stop stuttering, or at least reduce it, is to avoid the temptation to rush, and to speak more slowly. This gives you time to get the words out and deliver a fluent presentation. It's a good idea to practice this in advance. In fact, that's a good tip in general…
4. Practice Makes Perfect
One way to make your speech more fluent is to practice in advance. This works for any situation, whether it's a business presentation or a personal conversation.
You can practice on your own, or with a friend. The beauty of practicing in advance is that you'll get more control over what you say, reducing any worry when it's time to present or speak.
5. Join a Self-Help Group
Being in a self-help group with people that are also affected by stuttering can help you feel understood. It can give you a safe and empathetic space where you can be completely at home and can learn and practice the tips and techniques that have worked for others. This can also be a way to reduce anxiety.
6. Find and Avoid Your Trigger Words
If you stutter, you'll know that there are certain words that are harder to get out than others. Having a block on these words can also cause more stuttering. When you know these words, you can avoid them in your speech, for example by using alternatives. The end result will be that you stutter less.
One way to find your stuttering trigger words is to record your speech. This may seem weird and uncomfortable, but it's a good way to hear characteristics of your speech that you don't hear when you're actually speaking.
7. Try Therapy
There are two types of therapy that can help with stuttering:
- Speech therapy combines techniques and can be hugely successful. One famous stutterer who used speech therapy was Britain's King George VI. You can learn more about the techniques used in the movie "The King's Speech".
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is a talk therapy used to help change your thoughts to improve your life. It can help you figure out what makes your stuttering worse and change the way you think about these things to reduce your symptoms. This type of therapy can also help deal with any underlying psychological causes related to stuttering.
8. Use an Electronic Aid
There are now several electronic devices that can help to increase speech fluency and reduce stuttering. These are auditory feedback devices that are fitted in a similar way to hearing aids. Some change the way your voice sounds to you and delay voice playback, enabling you to speak more slowly and avoid stuttering.
Electronic aids don't work in every situation but have been known to help some stutterers. You can also work on this by using a smartphone app like SpeechEasy to help improve your speech fluency.
9. Help Others to Help You
Finally, if you stutter, let other people know the best ways to help reduce your anxiety. For example, you can guide them to:
- Avoid rushing you and let you take your time and speak at the pace that suits you.
- Avoid trying to finish your sentences for you and interrupt you.
- Listen patiently and attentively.
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Stop Stuttering and Do Better Presentations Today!
In this guide we've looked at what stuttering is, why people stutter, and tips on how to prevent stuttering during a presentation. From self-help and meditation, to therapy and apps, there are plenty of techniques you can try to reduce your stuttering today!