Doing the un-thinkable

dhillonAbout the author: Harry Dhillon lives in London, and is a father, a husband, an IT professional, and a real estate investor. He has a stutter but he prefers to call himself a ‘public speaker’ rather than a ‘stutterer’. He has founded, and is the President of, Kings Speakers, an official Toastmasters club for people with a stutter. He now spends more and more energy on doing workshops and speeches and has had the fortune to present in England, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and Holland.Email : mail@kingsspeakers.co.uk
Web-site : www.kingsspeakers.org
Skype : harry_dhillon100

Anais Nin said “The quality of our lives shrinks and expands in direct proportion to our courage”.

For a person who stutters (PWS), having a simple conversation can be an act of courage. Standing on stage and giving a public speech requires courage. Immense courage. And the rewards are equally immense. The beautiful thing is that doing public speaking is one of THE best ways for PWS’s to come to terms with their stutter and to un-leash the enormous potential, which is often lying hidden just beneath the surface.

My own personal and public speaking journey has been documented on ISAD previously (http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad13/papers/dhillon13.html) . My life has been, and continues to be, transformed by Toastmasters. So I wanted to “pay it forward”, and share the benefits with others. With this in mind, I founded Kings Speakers Toastmasters club in London – a public speaking club for people with a stutter. It’s a special place. It’s where first timers
usually walk in hesitant and nervous, unsure if they are doing the right thing. But after attending just a handful of meetings, many have experienced positive changes that surprise them. Within three months, many of them are hooked, and after six, you cannot get some of them off the stage!

There is no magic formula that produces this result. A gardener knows that to create beautiful flowers, you simply have to supply the right soil conditions for the plant, the appropriate amount of sun-shine and feed it regularly. Nature does the rest. Every one of us has the potential to blossom. It’s just a case of creating the right environment – a place where people are supported and understood, where they are helped and mentored, where they can laugh, have fun, and at the same time grow at their own pace and in their own unique way. Human spirit does the rest.

Kings Speakers provides this environment. When people ask me how much work was involved in setting up the club, I respond with the following analogy. Imagine for a second, that you had to open a new store on a high street. This would be difficult enough. Now imagine that your store could only let in 1% of the people who were walking on that high street. A challenge? Definitely. And….. this 1% were the people who did NOT like shopping. Hmmm. Now that really would be a tough project!

Why would someone in their right mind create a public speaking club for people who don’t like speaking at all?! Maybe it was the absurdity of the task which attracted me? Maybe it was the “I’ll prove that it can be done” ego-talk? Maybe I saw the enormous benefit it would have on other PWS’s? In hindsight, I think it was a bit of all three.

The story begins in Feb 2011, when, having seen my BBC interview on the Internet, the PR department of Toastmasters World Head Quarters in California emailed me. They wanted to know how they could help. This is how supportive the organization is. As a result, three months later when the International President, Pat Johnson, was in London, we met up to exchange
ideas. That afternoon, the seeds for Kings Speakers were sown into my psyche.

A few months later, I started the ball rolling. But I knew it wasn’t going to be simple. There would be many problems to overcome. How would I find PWS’s and tell them about the club? How would I get them to attend and do the one thing they are most frightened of? On a regular basis? What venue could we use? Given that the club would have no members initially, how would I fill the agenda with 20 people at every meeting? (Unlike a support group, where a meeting can be held with 3 people or with 30, a Toastmasters meeting has a formal agenda which requires at least 12 people, and preferably about 20, who agree to speak during the evening.) Where would the money for the start-up come from? So many things to address. So many questions.

But, if the passion is strong enough, then problems are replaced by progress. Slowly, and surely, things came together. The British Stammering Association very kindly helped me to promote the idea on their web site and Facebook page. I advertised on Meetup.com. I used every Toastmasters contact I knew to raise awareness. For six months, I used personal money to pay for the venue hire and running costs. I individually answered dozens of emails and phone calls every week. In the first few months, I would spend up to 15 hours a week on this project. It became all-consuming. My stress levels rose noticeably. People around me were telling me “you’re no fun anymore”. I reframed this as a compliment, because it implied that I had been ‘’fun to be with’ previously. At times, I even entertained the thought of giving up. But the darkest hour comes before the dawn, as the saying goes.  After many ups-and-downs we reached a landmark – we achieved ‘chartered’ status – official recognition by Toastmasters International. Yay! All the hard-work had paid off. Setting up the club has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But, as it turns out, also one of the best. I was presented the “Toastmaster of the Year” award in London for my efforts. I felt honoured and had a lump in my throat as I gave an acceptance speech in front of a large crowd. But a far bigger reward for me is our meetings. Seeing the glow on people’s faces as they take to the stage, having seen them come so far in just a few short months, is heart-warming. Watching people laugh, cheer and encourage others as they challenge themselves is rewarding. And seeing that lives are literally being changed, is the biggest reward of all.

But we’re not just about public speaking. There is a strong social aspect to the club too. After each meeting, we head downstairs to a glorious wine bar, for well-deserved drinks. Many friendships have been made at the club, many happy memories created, and many touching moments shared. There is a very strong ‘family’ feel to our group and the sense of camaraderie is obvious.

Kings Speakers is now a well-known club in London. We take part in official speech contests, competing with non-PWS’s from other clubs. And we do pretty well! We invite Toastmaster celebrities as guest speakers. There are workshops where we learn how to speak with greater confidence, how to think on our feet, and how to offer feedback in a diplomatic and supportive manner. These are all essential life skills, which are very beneficial in real-world situations like work meetings, interviews, or in personal relationships. In fact, I always feel touched when a member casually reveals that they speak more in work meetings nowadays, or that they’ve had the courage to ask for a salary increase, or that they’ve become more assertive. I saw a member speak in front of 120 people and afterwards he told me that he would never have dreamt of doing that only 3 months previously. Another member, Usman Choudhry, through communication and leadership training at Kings, raised a staggering amount of £45,000 for our national stuttering association. If ever there was a measurable benefit created by the club, this surely is it!

Our members are pushing themselves in all sorts of ways, and exploring un-chartered territories. Their confidence levels have risen, their self-esteem levels have risen, and their belief systems are changing. They are seeing speaking situations in a new light. And they are seeing their wonderful personalities come to the surface. All this by doing the un-thinkable.

So, what next for Kings? By next summer, we aim to be the best Toastmasters club in our area. This is measured by pre-defined goals which
every club tries to achieve. And we are ahead of the target. But there is a greater goal. A far bigger goal. Someone once said “If you tell people your dreams and they’re not laughing at you, then your dreams are not big enough”. The bigger goal is this: there is no reason why every major city in the world, from London to Los Angeles, from Singapore to Seoul, from New York to Nairobi cannot have a club like Kings Speakers. All it takes is for one local person to make a decision. A decision to step forward and take charge. And Kings Speakers would love to help make this possible. We will act as club mentors, and guide and support others, via email, phone, or Skype. So, if there are any PWS’s reading this, who also happen to be experienced Toastmasters, and if they feel passionate about starting a club like Kings in their city, then……lets’ do it!

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Comments

Doing the un-thinkable — 123 Comments

  1. Congratulations on your success Harminder. How do you think Public Speaking helps people with stammer? Does any improvement found inside the club affect the speakers skills outside in the “real” world?

    • Hi Rhys,

      Thanks for the excellent question. For me personally, public speaking has been THE best form of speech therapy. It’s helped me in many ways :
      – it’s allowed me to be more desensitized to my stutter. This alone takes a lot of pressure off when speaking.
      – it’s changed my sense of self-belief. By doing what I have always feared the most, makes me feel empowered and this in turn has allowed me to take on so many other projects in my personal and professional life.
      – it’s given me a greater sense of self-confidence
      – I’ve become a lot calmer as a person, as the fear of speaking is now so much less
      – generally, I’m enjoying life a lot more!
      Each individual may experience different benefits from public speaking, but those members who are regulars in the club have changed enormously over a few months. The smile on their face when they take to the stage says it all.

      “Does any improvement found inside the club affect the speakers skills outside in the “real” world?”

      Absolutely! I’m teaching a language at my work now at lunch-times to a group of adults – I would never have done this a few years ago. I do workshops and speeches in front of 100+ people and feel excited about them. These are all activities outside of Kings.

      And our committee-member Usman has raised £45,000 for the BSA as a result of the increased confidence and leadership skills he’s learnt at Kings.

      I hope that

      • Hi All

        I too am a member of Kings Speakers and another Toastmasters club. I joined because I wanted a forum to practice and develop my skills and keep pushing put my comfort zones.

        I was personally inspired by the energy and skill of Harminder as a public speaker. He motivated me to put in the effort.

        As stammerers we are all on our personal journeys to become the person hiding frightened within ourselves. Toastmasters gives me the opportunity to be this person, within a safe and supportive environment to do this. Some folks on the forum have asked if this is transferable to the real world. I realized early on the real world is in my mind. As Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage”. And yes, this is transferable to the real world. It does not happen over night but is an ongoing process. I describe my speaking as a muscle that needs to be exercises regularly to keen in fine form.

        Ralph Smedley starting something wonderful when he began Toastmasters over 100 years ago.

  2. I am the parent of a 17-year old who stutters and found your story so inspiring!!I especially love this…”It’s just a case of creating the right environment – a place where people are supported and understood, where they are helped and mentored, where they can laugh, have fun, and at the same time grow at their own pace and in their own unique way. Human spirit does the rest.” Thank you Harry for sharing your story. I hope this results in “Kings Speakers” Toastmaster Meetings popping up all over the world!! Fantastic!
    Dori Lenz Holte

    • Hi Dori,

      Thank you for your positive comments. As humans, we truly crave to have the opportunity to be just ‘us’. To become the kind of people that we were meant to be. And our club Kings Speakers does just that. If ever you are in London on a club night, you must pop over! And I would highly recommend a Toastmasters club for your 17-year old. It’s not an easy to take that step, but the journey will be amazing. Take care. Harry

  3. Harry,
    What a great story. I am glad I’ve learned about how this started up and how far your club has come in a short time.
    I have been involved with Toastmasters since 2006. Like you, it has dramatically changed my life. I have new found courage and confidence and actually look forward to speaking opportunties.
    I’ve always been the only one who stutters in my clubs (I was a member of two for a while)and I always felt I had the same opportunties as any other member of my club. It was a proud moment for me when I received my DTM last August – I felt accomplished as a communicator and leader, and still do. I help mentor people now in my club – both new members and not so new who are taking on leadership roles. I’ve been helping our new club president find hs leadership voice. Thanks again fo sharing this.
    Pam

  4. Hi Pam,
    Thanks for the supportive comments. Yes, I remember you mentioning your Toastmasters experiences. Already, in Kings, we have a PWS who’s making his way to the Division level contests in Table Topics. And that was the first contest of it’s type we’ve ever had in the club. He beat some very tough competition to get there. To highlight how passionate our members are, in our first full year of charter ship, we are aiming at 10 DCP points!!

  5. Hello Harry, I am a speech pathologist from Serbia and I work with adult patients who stutter. I finished my education in America.Your story encouraged me to start something in Belgrade. Here, the topic of stuttering quite closed, there is no association of centers that deal only with the stuttering problems, let alone clubs where people who stutter are socialized and exercised in speaking.
    thank you very much for this article
    kind regards
    Nikoleta Stevovic

    • Hi Nikoleta,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article has ignited a passion in you to start something similar in Belgrade. It is immensely rewarding both for the initiator, and for the members. It is a unique experience for stutterers – sometimes we get first-timers who arrive thinking that the meeting will be like a support group. And they are amazed at what they see. They leave feeling a new sense of what is possible, because a lot of PWS do not believe that it’s possible to a great public speaker with a stutter. I used to be one of them!

      If you need any help or advice pls feel free to email me.

      All the best

      Harry

  6. Hi Harry,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story, it’s so interesting to hear about public speaking and how it’s positively influencing PWS. From my graduate courses I would assume that these type situations would increase someone’s stuttering frequency due to the increased pressure, but maybe it’s that the atmosphere includes many PWS which ultimately decreases the stress level and makes people comfortable with speaking in front of them.

    I have a few questions:

    Did any PWS have better fluency after attending Toastmasters?

    If so, why do you think this is and did this also transfer to other settings?

    How does this differ from speech therapy? Do you think this approach is better? Or do you think there is a certain type of person that this would work better for? (adult vs. child)

    Lastly, I believe family is a very important part of therapy/intervention for PWS, I’m curious of your stance on this and how you think someone’s family fits into this type of “therapy?”

    Thanks so much for sharing this experience. I think it’s great you’ve found an approach that really works for people. Thanks for your time and I hope to hear back from you.

    Caitlyn Suber
    Graduate Student
    Western Carolina University

    • Hi Caitlyn

      Many thanks for your comment. To answer your questions :

      “Did any PWS have better fluency after attending Toastmasters?”

      Absolutely! I am an example. I have seen others speak much more confidently. In fact, almost all the PWS’s I have met over the years who have overcome their stutter have mentioned public speaking as being one of the things which they got involved in. It could be, that the public speaking (amongst other things) helped them become fluent, or that once they were largely fluent they started doing public speaking. I must stress that doing Toastmasters alone will not guarantee fluency, in the same way that no single speech technique will guarantee it. PWS’s shouldn’t come to Toastmasters seeking fluency, but seeking greater confidence and improved communication skills. Greater fluency will probably come as a side effect.

      “If so, why do you think this is and did this also transfer to other settings?”

      For me, every time I do a speech at Toastmasters, the very next day or two my speech is markedly better. In non-Toastmasters situations. It happens almost every time. I guess it is because I am on a ‘high’, feeling good, and because emotional state has a big part to play in my own stutter.

      “How does this differ from speech therapy? Do you think this approach is better? Or do you think there is a certain type of person that this would work better for? (adult vs. child)”

      Speech therapy aim to educate PWS on how to speak more fluently – public speaking isn’t about fluency, but about becoming a confident and engaging speaker. I didn’t used to think it was possible to stutter overtly and be a confident and engaging speaker, but time and time again I have seen overt stutterers win speech contests against fluent speakers because they gave engaged and connected with the audience in a more superior way.
      I think public speaking is beneficial for every type of person – where PWS or not, whether child or adult.

      “Lastly, I believe family is a very important part of therapy/intervention for PWS, I’m curious of your stance on this and how you think someone’s family fits into this type of therapy”

      I agree. Family is important. But that family need not be the biological relatives – it can be a bunch of close friends. We have a ‘Kings family’ – an un-related group of people who truly support and help each other, It’s important to have such a support network.

      If you need any help or advice pls feel free to email me.

      All the best

      Harry

      • Hi Caitlyn

        I think the best way to overcome stammering is to speak more. Toastmasters is a great way to speak more and also acquire more skills. As you get used to speaking in front of a group, you find your voice.

        I personally needed a technique to help me get some control over my speech using costal breathing and the McGuire Technique.

        Once you get some control it open the door to doing the real work, which is walking towards your fears and keep on doing more of them until the fear ultimately is fun or boring, but it looses that state of panic or barely manageable fear.

        I agree with your concept of community support. The journey is tough so the help, encouragement and support of fellow travelers, makes the journey more pleasant and achievable.

        That’s what you get from Toastmaster and other self-supporting groups like the McGuire Programme. But there are some people, I have discovered who have made the journey successfully on their own.

        I like Toastmasters because the challenge there is not only about speaking but also about sharing ideas and inspiring each other. The people I meet at Kings are inspirational, supportive and great fun. It always amazes me that people can be eloquent and witty with a severe stammer.

        Regards
        Andrew

  7. This was a wonderful story. I am currently in an SLP graduate program and this story has brought many different thoughts forward for me. I was wondering if the PWS have better fluency while speaking in front of the large group of fellow PWS or do they just feel more comfortable with and accepting of their disfluency while speaking?

    • Hi Chelsea.

      Many thanks for your comment.

      I personally find that I am more fluent when giving a speech than I am during a spontaneous conversation.
      I think this is because I know that I will not be interrupted by people jumping in (as can happen in normal conversations), so the sense of urgency is less, and also because I am projecting my voice more. In addition, during a prepared speech, the emotions are different.

      I hope that helps. All the best

      Harry

  8. I think this is a wonderful idea! Building confidence and assertiveness with language is something we all could benefit from, whether we have a stutter or not. While reading the paper, I had the same question as a could other commenters. Does fluency increase during or after someone who stutters become comfortable with public speaking? The confidence and courage of public speaking alone has amazing benefits worth the fear but do some people’s dysfluencies change, whether it’s for better or worse? Has your fluency changed since you began this program?

    • Hi Kelli

      Many thanks for your comment.

      Further to the earlier answers, my own fluency has improved generally, but very much more when I am on the stage. Initially, there was a worsening effect – the sheer panic and fear of being on the stage would make me stutter very severely. But strangely enough, the very next day, my speech would be much better than normal. Within a few months of regular public speaking I was becoming more and more comfortable with it. Now, I can speak in front of large groups and feel much more in control. In fact, it’s exhilarating.

      Regards. Harry

  9. Harry,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. I wish I had know about Kings Speakers when I was in London in June. Looks like I could have made it to your July 3rd regular meeting. I would have loved to have seen how one of your meetings work. I just bookmarked your homepage. I hope to be back in London next year. I’ll check your calendar when next I visit, since our friend lives near Kensington Gardens 🙂
    Cheers.
    Kevin Eldridge

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your comments. We’d love to see you at Kings!
      The web site (www.kingsspeakers.org) has all our meeting dates. The next time you are in London, pls pop along. And the
      wine bar where we meet is really very nice.

      Cheers

      Harry

  10. Good Evening Harry Dhillon,
    First and foremost, thank you for your post and your inspiring story. As a graduate level aspiring SLP, I am constantly looking for new ways to help my clients. Although I do not currently have any clients who stutter on my caseload, I am sure I will someday. Are there certain techniques the PWS use during their speeches to help them? If so, what seem to be the most effective techniques used at King Speakers Club? Also, are there any clubs like this located in America? I would love to attend!

    • Hi Rebecca. Thanks for your comments.

      “Are there certain techniques the PWS use during their speeches to help them?”

      Different PWS use different techniques – some use coastal breathing, some a rhythmic singing-type style. Others the air-flow method. For me personally, now days, the main thing is to be in the right emotional state. I use NLP for that and mindfulness meditation.

      “If so, what seem to be the most effective techniques used at King Speakers Club? “

      There is no simple answer to this – different techniques suit different personalities.

      “Also, are there any clubs like this located in America?”
      There are only two clubs like this in the world – Kings Speakers, and I believe there is a similar club in Sydney. In fact, the closing paragraph of the article mentions the need for such clubs all over the globe, and how Kings can help to make that possible.

      Best regards. Harry

  11. Hi Harry,
    Your story of how one person can make a huge difference is very inspiring!

    You mentioned that Toastmasters is unlike a support group in that it has a formal agenda that involves public speaking in front of a group of at least 12 people. How do you encourage a PWS attending a King Speakers Toastmasters meeting for the first-time to actively participate in the agenda? What challenges have you faced in such situations? How do you handle the challenges?

    Anjali

    • Hi Anjali,

      Thanks for your comments. To answer your questiosn :

      “How do you encourage a PWS attending a King Speakers Toastmasters meeting for the first-time to actively participate in the agenda? ”
      “What challenges have you faced in such situations?”

      The biggest challenges were to get people to walk into the room, and then to get them on the stage. For the former, it was a case of constantly spreading the word about the new club, about personally responding to every single email, every single phone call, and re-assuring people that they can attend without having to say a single word – and they certainly wouldn’t have to introduce themselves (as most PWS have a fear of saying their name). Then once they watched a few meetings, then it was the case of gently guiding them, and hand-holding them inot accepting a very simple role like a ‘Time-keeper’ – this is where they come on the stage for a few secodns to report on the timings of other speakers. This is a great role as it takes the focus on them, and puts it on the speakers whose timings they are reporting on. Then we gently get them to take on slighlty more and more challenging roles. It’s like working out in the gym – start gentle, and the increase resistance!

      Hope that helps.

      Harry

      • Hi Harry,
        Your reply was definitely helpful in terms of understanding the “behind the scenes” operation of King Speakers Toastmasters. Thanks once again!

  12. Unfortunately many people who stutter do not have access to such a fantastic organization. What fluency-increasing opportunities do you recommend for these individuals?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Kjirsten,

      Thanks for the comments. I guess my advice would be to
      push out their comfort zones (easier said than done) and speak at every opportunity – at work, with fmaily, friends,
      shops, reastuarants etc.
      “Unfortunately many people who stutter do not have access to such a fantastic organization.”
      Ah….well, that’s the purpose of this article – we can create this opportunity is every corner of the world. Seriously. Sound crazy? Maybe. Possible? Defintely. If there are about 20 people interested in creating a club like Kings, then nothing can stop them. We are here to help and guide.

      Regards

      Harry

  13. Hi Harry,
    Thanks for such an inspirational story! I really loved your contributions to the community and how you decided to make a change with so many factors against you. I am currently a graduate student in Speech Language Pathology in New York and respect the approach you had with dealing with your stutter. I was wondering, once you decided to create Kings Speakers as a form of therapy, how your family and friends supported you with this decision? Thanks
    Komal W

    • Thanks for your comments!

      “…how your family and friends supported you with this decision?”
      My poor partner has, at times, become a ‘Kings widow’, because often I spend sooo much time running the club, or doing the admin work behind the scenes. But’s she’s very understanding. My friends have been very supportive too. Many of them are on the board of their stuttering associations in their European countries, and have been watching the club with an interest every since. Whenever someone is in London, they make a point of coming over to visit. Last Thursday, we had Katherine Preston (author of ‘Out with it’) as a guest speaker.
      Regards

      Harry

  14. Hello Harry,

    What a wonderful way to expand Toastmaster’s opportunities!

    How would a PWS in the States find a Toastmaster opportunity like what you created in London? Do you find your members prefer to improve their fluency by using techniques like easy-onset or do they prefer to modify their fluency by using techniques like cancellation or pull-out? Or do your members engage in therapy at all?

    Thank you for championing such a wonderful opportunity!
    Shannon

    • Hi Shannon,

      Thanks for your comments.
      “How would a PWS in the States find a Toastmaster opportunity like what you created in London?”
      There is no stuttering Toastmasters club in the USA. But there are hundreds of regular ones – just check out http://www.toastmasters.org.

      “Do you find your members prefer to improve their fluency by using techniques like easy-onset or do they prefer to modify their fluency by using techniques like cancellation or pull-out? Or do your members engage in therapy at all?”
      These techniques tend to be uncommon in the UK – most PWS use the ‘coastal breathing’ technique (maybe due to marketing of such courses? not sure).
      For me personally, it’s a case of useing NLP and meditaiton to change my emotional state.

      Hope that helps.

      Harry

  15. What an accomplishment! This is an amazing story, and what makes it even more amazing is the story about your upbringing. The information you provided about Kings Speech made me curious to know more. As a child in a new country, did your stutter make it difficult to learn the English language? Do you believe your responsibility to become self-sufficient at an early age and in a new country helped shape you and provide you with greater confidence to do things such as public speaking and creating and leading Kings Speakers?

    I applaud you for all your hard work and for what you have overcome. You truly are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Thanks Lpalkert for your comments!

      To answer you questions :
      “As a child in a new country, did your stutter make it difficult to learn the English language?”
      Yes, it meant I became even more reclusive, and spoke less in class, so my spoken English was quiote weak. Strangely, it also helped with written English – I started reading a lot more due to my stutter (didn’t have many friends!) and that helped me with the vocabulary.

      “Do you believe your responsibility to become self-sufficient at an early age and in a new country helped shape you and provide you with greater confidence to do things such as public speaking and creating and leading Kings Speakers?”
      Totally. I wouldn’t have been able set up Kings if it hadn’t been for the stuttering experiences. The seeds of passion and energy often grow out of poverty and hardship.
      Hope that helps.

      Harry

  16. Harry, great article man. You are an inspiration, so much so that I am attending my first Toastmasters meeting in Belfast on Thursday 🙂 keeping the good work my friend

      • Hi Pete,

        You will be a natural at Toastmasters friend! And you’ll love it too. The NLP techniques I use are ‘anchoring’ to change my emotional state (from feeling anxious to feeling more empowered). Also, something called ‘future pacing’, where I visualise the end result being very positive.

        Cheers Pete, and enjoy this Thursday.

        Harry

        • Hi Harry,

          Could you explain more about what NLP is? What does it stand for? How could we find out more?

          Cheers,
          Shannon

          • Shannon,

            NLP stand for Neuro-Linguistic-Programming. It’s a mind tool used by life coaches etc to help us achieve more. Pls google it, and you’ll get tons of info.

            Cheers

            Harry

    • Thanks Paul!

      That’s the aim. In fact, I believe you are from the UK right? We’re doing a workhop at the BSA Open Day this Saturday, and we may see you there, if you are coming along.

      Take care.

      Harry

  17. Yes, Harry, if you had told me when I was a confused young person with a debilitating stutter that I would enjoy public speaking later in life, I would have thought you were off your rocker. Now, it’s a true pleasure to get up in front of an audience and tell my story. The bigger the audience, the better. Good for you, my friend across the pond.

    • Hi Vince,

      Yep, exactly. Once a PWS overcome the initial wall of fear, you cannot get them off the stage.
      Glad to hear you are enjoying public speaking. It’s truly liberating.

      Regards

      Harry

  18. Hi Harry,

    The Kings Speakers Toastmasters club sounds like an amazing public speaking club for PWS. It is a great opportunity for PWS to blossom and feel comfortable doing so. Thank goodness you stuck with your dream and carried through with it even though it was difficult. Initially setting up the club seemed like an awful lot of work with a lot of red tape to go through. Your perseverance paid off and gave PWS a place to go where they can be themselves, laugh at themselves, and challenge themselves. I am not a PWS, but your club is a club I’d want to join if I did. What a great atmosphere you have provided! You positively changed many lives. Are there any Kings Speakers Clubs in the U.S.? As a future speech-language pathologist I’d be very interested in attending some meetings.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your story!

    Casey C.

    • Hi Casey,

      Thanks for the very suportive comments.
      It was (and still is) a lot of hard work running the club – I regulary spend about 7-10 every week. But the rewards are amazing. For me, and the others.
      “Are there any Kings Speakers Clubs in the U.S.? ”
      Afraid not – there are hundreds of Toastmasters clubs (pls see http://www.toastmasters.org). But no club for stuterers, to my knowledge. I sincerely hope that someone reading this article in the US will take the bull by the horns and set one up.
      We’re here to help!

      Harry

  19. First, I am inspired by your success, not just because it has helped your own fluency and many others’ fluency and confidence, but to begin with an idea and make it a reality is amazing. Like you said, “when there is enough passion, problems turn to progress”. I am a graduate student at Idaho State University and have been specifically studying fluency disorders this semester. I am thoroughly humbled by what I have learned about the courage it takes to engage in communication if you are a PWS. I love that you paid it forward and commend you with the highest esteem. I have also loved reading the comments and your responses. Wow. You have taken time to respond to every comment, as if you didn’t have enough to do.
    I have learned a lot while reading your comments on how public speaking has effected your fluency, others fluency and especially your quality of life. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers.
    Summer

    • Thanks Summer for your positive comments.

      It’s very been wonderful journey so far with Kings Speakers. It’s helping me to learn things about myself, and to help others do the same. I finally feel ‘free’. I still stutter of course, but it’s no longer a dark cloud hanging over my head anymore. I’ve realised that there’s more to my life than my stutter!

      Take care, and if ever you are in London, you must pay us a visit!

      Harry

  20. Hi Harry,

    My name is Meaghan and I am currently receiving my Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. Congratulations on the success of your club! I really enjoyed reading your post, especially when you mentioned,”Every one of us has the potential to blossom. It’s just a case of creating the right environment”. Your story is very inspirational. As a person who does not stutter, I find public speaking a bit nerve-wracking. Hence, I really do commend your courage! I was wondering how your courage to so openly speak in front of others came to be. Did you yourself have someone to look up to as a role-model, as I’m sure group members look up to you? Thank You! – Meaghan

    • Thanks Meaghan for your positive support.
      “I was wondering how your courage to so openly speak in front of others came to be”. Basically, I got tired of hiding and running all my life. I would avoid work meetings, not partake in social situations, and my stutter was ruling my life. I had had enough! I knew I would have to confront this demon once and for all. I must stress, that I am NOT fluent by any means, even now (and will probably never be), but the stutter has lost most of it’s power. there comes a tipping point for most of us, when we simply decide ‘No more’ – whether it’s in the context of work, or a relationship etc. I hope that helps. Harry

  21. Hi Harry
    I really enjoyed reading your story. Toastmasters is a wonderful organization. I think it is fantastic that you have started one specifically for people who stutter. It’s wonderful that people can come and feel supported by other people who know exactly what they are experiencing. That has to inspire confidence and self-esteem… just meeting other people who stutter. I’ve heard that many people who stutter feel very alone because they may not even know another person who stutters. I think it’s great that you have started this club and you are making a difference in people’s lives.
    Christy
    Graduate Student

    • Thanks Christy.
      Yes, a stutter has often been described as a ‘social disability’, and PWS’s often suffer from loneliness (I know I have), and one of the reasons for this club was to create a social network of like-minded people. And it’s working out very well!

      Regards
      Harry

  22. Hi Harry,

    I am currently a graduate student at Mercy College studying speech therapy. I chose to read this ISAD paper by, I think, its catchy title. I am often amazing and intrigued by people doing the impossible or in your situation the “unthinkable”. I think you have a wonderful organization that is beneficial to many PWS. While tackling work, being a husband, and a father, I think it is remarkable that you have set aside time to develop and run this club. Thanks for sharing this experience.

    Monica

    • Thanks Monica for your positive support.
      Yes, it’s not easy juggling family, work, business, Kings Speakers and at least a couple of my members actually believe that I run Kings Speakers full time – they’ve told me that! From their point of view, it seems as if I do, because every email gets answered, every request gets dicussed. That’s all part of the joy of running something like this.

      Harry

  23. I think this a wonderful avenue for PWS. I especially appreciate this comment:

    “Maybe it was the “I’ll prove that it can be done” ego-talk?”

    This type of ego gumption is what gets things done! You cannot climb the mountian unless you reach out over the edge. Thanks for your words.

    Christine
    (non-traditional SLP grad student who also decided to prove that it can be done)

    • Hello Christine,

      Loved your comment! I couldn’t agree more – the mountain analogy is so apt. And kudos to you for being a non-traditional SLP grad student.

      Regards

      Harry

  24. Hello Harry,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I grew up participating in many speech-contests and debates and can appreciate the anxious and exciting emotions that simultaneously occur during these events. Reading your story and the transition you made to become a public speaker is an inspiration. The question I have for you is, if you had the choice to speak to any group of people, which group would you pick and why? I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best,

    Yoni

  25. Hello Harry,

    Loved your article. I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you’ve taken a situation that most people (not just PWS) would find to be a total nightmare(public speaking) and have turned it into a positive situation for yourself and PWS. My question for you is have you dealt with individuals who believe that because you and the member of your club are PWS, you should not be involved in debates of public speaking? if so how do you respond to them?

    Gabrielly Azcona

    SLP graduate student

    • Hi Gabrielly

      I too am a member of the Kings Speakers.

      Toastmasters is also about pushing out your comfort zones and enjoying the discomfort zone. There are opportunities twice a year for all Toastmaster clubs to compete with each other. These are with other clubs from the general public. The standard is high and recently members at our club won against the “normal people”. The UK Table Topics champion for 4 years is also a person who has a stammer.

      People like David Jones and Harry inspire other folks like me to do the things we would not have imagined just a year ago. The doors open in many different aspects of your life just not the speaking aspects.

      I used to be rubbish at interviews. In my youth an interviewer refused to interview me because he said I was speaking gibberish. I now interview regularly with and disclose I have a stammer. They sometimes ask if I really have a stammer at the end, as they feedback this has been a great interview. This did not happen overnight, I just realized I had to practice and use every chance to interview even if I am not interested. As I learnt to manage my nerves I began to have conversations. Toastmaster helped me tell my story.

      Regards
      Andrew

    • Hi Gabrielly,
      Thanks for your comments.
      “My question for you is have you dealt with individuals who believe that because you and the member of your club are PWS, you should not be involved in debates of public speaking? if so how do you respond to them?”
      If people feel that having a stutter means that they cannot be public speakers, then they do not come to our club! I have been publicly criticized for starting Kings – ironically by PWS’s who attend regular Toastmasters clubs – and I responded by reminding them how frightened they were when they first went to a regular club, and how a club like Kings is merely a stepping-stone for PWS before they launch themselves into the world of public speaking. I hope that helps. Harry

  26. Hi Harry,
    I am a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology and am so inspired by your vision and passion for creating Kings Speakers. The fact that you pursued a public speaking group for people who stutter shows a high commitment to helping others “unleash their potential” as speakers, which is what I hope to do someday in my field as well. I really like the analogy of a gardener that takes the time to create a nurturing environment to promote growth. The perspective that everyone has the potential to blossom and just needs a supportive environment is one that I hope describes my practice someday. Thank you for the inspiring words and story!
    I was curious as to the meaning behind the name “Kings Speakers,” and how many people you typically have at a meeting? Thank you!

    Bethany Bauer
    SLP Graduate Student
    University of Wisconsin

    • Hi Bethany.
      Thanks for your very positive comments.

      “I was curious as to the meaning behind the name “Kings Speakers,” and how many people you typically have at a meeting?”
      The name came from the movie “The Kings Speech”. Also, I thought that long after the movie is forgotten, the name “Kings Speakers” has a certain regal tone to it, representing status and power (as opposed to victimhood).

      Normally we get between 20-25 people at every meeting. I hope that helps!

      Harry

  27. Harry,
    I am a 2nd year graduate student at Idaho State University. After reading your article I was so amazed. I had no idea such a club existed and I am so happy that it is so successful. I wish you luck in your goal to set up a club in all of the major cities.
    Itxaso

    • Hi Itxaso,

      Thanks very much for your comments! I too sincerely hope that the Kings model can be rolled out across the world. It doesn’t require money, it just requires passion to make it happen.

      Best regards.

      Harry

  28. Hi Harry,
    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. It’s truly inspirational what you have done, and Im sure you have affected so many people’s lives in such a positive way. Creating a place for PWS to not only help overcome their fears of public speaking, but to be able to develop relationships and support each other is an amazing accomplishment, and I can’t imagine the amount of time and effort it must have taken to develop this program, but I’m sure everyone is glad you stuck with it and pursued your dream! I am not a PWS, but I can certainly attest to the fear and anxiety that comes along with public speaking! I noticed you mentioned the coastal breathing technique as well as NLP and meditation to help while speaking. Are there certain strategies that you personally find more helpful over others? I was also curious as to the advice you give new participants as far as strategies to overcome both covert and overt features of stuttering while speaking.
    Thank you again for sharing your amazing story and for everything you have done, you have made a strong impact on so many people’s lives.

    Jen C.

    • Hi Jen,

      Thanks for your comments! To answer you questions :

      “Are there certain strategies that you personally find more helpful over others?”
      For me, it’s not so much about the physical techniques (eg coastal breathing, prolongation etc), but more about my emotional state. For this I use NLP, and meditation to help keep me in a more empowered frame of mind.

      “I was also curious as to the advice you give new participants as far as strategies to overcome both covert and overt features of stuttering while speaking.”
      We don’t give any speech techniques at all – in fact, I would counsel against doing that. The aim at our club is NOT about speaking fluently. It’s about becoming a more compelling public speaker – and it’s possible to be that even with a stutter. I seen it done hundreds of times over the years. I myself, have competed in speech contests against very articulate speakers, and won, even though I have stuttered during my speech. Also, removing the pressure to be fluent actually increases fluency. What we DO teach is basic public speaking principles – eye contact, body language, use of stage, vocal variety, speech structure, pre-speech rehearsal etc etc. I hope that helps.

      Harry

  29. Harry,
    I am a first year graduate student at Western Carolina University and am learning more in-depth about fluency disorders this semester. I wanted to congratulate you on a successful endeavor in London and sincerely hope it continues to grow. You are making a positive impact in many people’s lives which is so warming to hear after all the negative things we hear and see in today’s society. I have a question for you though: Do you think the success of the group is due to the positive feeling and inspiration the group gives each other? Do you think the fact that PWS can see that they are not alone may have some impact on the confidence they leave with an this confidences is then shared with the outside world? Is there any particular person who inspired you to start this type of group over continuing traditional therapies?
    Thank you again for sharing.
    Sincerely,

    Stacey Bastin
    Graduate Student
    Western Carolina University

  30. Hi Stacey,

    Thanks for your comments. To answer you questions :

    “Do you think the success of the group is due to the positive feeling and inspiration the group gives each other?”
    Absolutely. The spirit of camaraderie is very obvious in our club – far more than in regular Toastmasters clubs. It’s because we are all in the same boat, and whatever our station in outside life, in the club meetings, we are all equal. There is a distinct absence of ego and pride in our meetings, and there are no big personalities which dominate the evening.

    ” Do you think the fact that PWS can see that they are not alone may have some impact on the confidence they leave with an this confidences is then shared with the outside world?”
    Yep, our members make friends, have drinks after the meeting, and share successes. Hardly anyone ever talks about stuttering – and that’s the best thing about it – why focus on the problem, when you can focus on the solutions?! They all report greater confidence outside of our club, and I’ve seen then do things which a year ago they would never have dreamt of.

    ” Is there any particular person who inspired you to start this type of group over continuing traditional therapies?”
    There is no person who inspired me – I myself felt the need for something like this. I know that if there was a club like this 10-20 years ago, I would have jumped at the chance to become a member and it would have changed my life.
    Regards

    Harry

  31. Hi Harry,

    Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story! I’m currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology, and this only proves to me that just because a person stutters, and their stuttering may keep them from talking, doesn’t mean that they don’t want to talk. I love the idea of giving someone the just the right environment to grow in. This is a group that I will definitely keep in mind for the future.

    Thanks!

    Rachel
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hi Rachael,

      Thanks for your comments! Yep, PWS’s defintely want to talk – in fact, it’s hard to get them off the stage once they overcome the initial fear barrier.

      Regards

      Harry

  32. Hi Harry,
    I am also a graduate student in speech-language pathology and I had never heard of Toastmasters until reading your post. Thank you for sharing such a great story and enlightening me on such a great club! You mentioned that Toastmasters meetings have a formal agenda. Can you expand on that? What would a typical meeting entail? Also what are the differences (if any) between a non-PWS Toastmasters meeting compared to a meeting at Kings Speakers?
    Thank you again for sharing your story,
    Kirstie P.

    • Hi Kirstie,

      Yes, the Toastmasters meeting formula (for our club) is that we have a ‘Master of Ceremonies’, 4 prepared speeches, an impromptu speaking master (who asks questions to the audience), a time-keeper (who reports on everyone speaking times) a Grammarian (who reports on the use of English) and every speaker gets evaluated – so we have 4 evaluators too.
      There are a couple of other roles too.

      “Also what are the differences (if any) between a non-PWS Toastmasters meeting compared to a meeting at Kings Speakers?”
      None at all in terms of operation of the club, or meeting structure – the
      only difference is that we provide a safer environment for people who
      would otherwise be too nervous to attend a regular club.

      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  33. Thank you again, Harry, for sharing your insights. I think your paper sheds light on the unfounded notion that PWS must be more shy and introverted than the rest of the general population and this is why they don’t just speak up more. That being said, do you see any differences in the public speaking abilities of those PWS who are more naturally introverted versus extroverted before and following their participation in the Kings Speakers?

    Also, you generally mentioned mentoring as a strategy you use to create a proficient public speaker. Do you arrange these mentoring relationships or do they spring up more naturally; say for example during your social hours?

    Cheers! Kim

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comments. To answer you questions :

      “That being said, do you see any differences in the public speaking abilities of those PWS who are more naturally introverted versus extroverted before and following their participation in the Kings Speakers? ” Hmmmm…..very interesting question. There is little correlation between a persons shyness level and the quality of their speeches. Indeed, in regular Toastmasters clubs, I have many times witnessed extremely extroverted and chatty individuals avoid the stage even after years of being in the club; whereas other, more
      socially-quieter people have taken up the challenges and delivered fabulous speeches.

      “Do you arrange these mentoring relationships or do they spring up more naturally; say for example during your social hours?”
      Mentoring is done formally in most cases – a new members will, after a few meetings, decide who they ‘connect’ with well and they then ask that person to be their mentor. In addition, to this, they can of course ask other members for guidance on a specific area. In the social hours, there is often feedback exchanged – all in a very supportive and helpful manner, of course.

      Hope that helps.

      Harry

  34. Hi Harry,

    Your dedication to start this club is admirable. As a speech-language pathology graduate student, we have discussed situations that tend to increase and decrease fluency. I never thought to try to increase fluency by speaking repeatedly in a situation, public speaking, that usually decreases fluency. Does the fluency the members achieve with public speaking carryover to situations outside the comfort of the club? Thanks for sharing!

    Lisa Singer
    University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
    Graduate Student

  35. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your response.

    ” Does the fluency the members achieve with public speaking carryover to situations outside the comfort of the club?”

    In my case, absolutely. After each Toastmasters meeting, I find that my
    speech is much more fluent the next day (without any techniques being
    used). I feel so much happier and ‘lighter’ too. This is (I belive) due to
    the boost in self-confidence levels.

    Regards

    Harry

  36. I am truly inspired by your perseverance in taking on the challenge to create The King’s Speakers. You are an eloquent writer to make the task of creating successful opportunities for clubs and support groups for PWS seem less intimidating, and at the same time you haven’t sugar coated the work involved. Yet, you have sparked the desire within me to help create such opportunities here in Orlando, Florida.

    As a graduate student SLP, I am grateful for people like you who are so willing to openly share experiences with us. This will be meaningful in assisting future fluency clients, and I hope to encourage them to look for similar “out of the box” experiences. I am interested to know if you would recommend public speaking opportunities for Children who stutter. Do you believe public speaking, or groups that are similar to King’s speaker’s would be beneficial for a child?Can the methods used in Toastmaster’s meetings be applied to children, or is this strictly adult opportunities? What advice would you give to a child who is interested in conquering his fears about speaking in public, but will not yet attempt to do so?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your great comments and questions! To answer your queries :

      “Do you believe public speaking, or groups that are similar to King’s speaker’s would be beneficial for a child?Can the methods used in Toastmaster’s meetings be applied to children, or is this strictly adult opportunities?”
      I believe these methods would work even better with children, because
      their beliefs, fears, and neurological pathways haven’t become ‘set’ or
      as ‘permanent’ as in adults. I think children have a natural tendency to
      grasp things and run with them. If a stuttering child is caught early
      and given the opportunity to do public speaking (or drama etc), then they
      will gain enormous benefit, because the fear then doesn’t have a chance to
      become engrained.

      “What advice would you give to a child who is interested in conquering his fears about speaking in public, but will not yet attempt to do so?”
      Get them to start in very small groups – maybe 2-3 people, then increase
      the group size. Also, make the exercises fun – eg. get them to talk about
      their favourite food (pizza!) or their favourite toy. With older children,
      a similar topic (favorurite school subject, their best friend etc) can be
      used. The key is to get them emotionally excited when they are talking
      about the topic.

      I hope that helps, and I sincerely hope something like this starts up in Orlando!

      Harry

      • Harry,

        Thank you for sharing your story! I have never considered using public speaking as a tool to empower PWS. I wanted to branch off the idea using public speaking groups with school-aged children. Do you think it would be better to begin in small groups in which all the children are PWS and can therefore relate to one another in that way and provide support?

        Thanks for your time!

  37. Dear Harry:

    Thank you for your paper and for your passionate efforts to advocate for the PWS community worldwide. Your paper, along with several of the others, touches on the idea of a relationship between self-confidence and stammering. What would you suggest is the role of activities/therapies to improve self-confidence as a way to treat stammering? Could a psychological appropriate to stammering management be more effective than traditional speech therapy?

    Best of luck with the continued success of your Toastmasters group.

    Michelle

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for your comments, and insightful questions.

      “What would you suggest is the role of activities/therapies to improve self-confidence as a way to treat stammering?”
      I think self-confidence is vital for anyone, and especially for PWS’s. Year ago, I was told throughout speech therapy to disclose my stutter to people, but most of the time I was never able to do so. Because I felt so embarrased, or ashamed of myself, and because my confidence levels were very low. My drum of self-esteem was running pretty empty! Nowdays I openly tell people I stutter. No shame, no embarrasement, and I feel that this is due to the massive increase in confidence levels and self-belief. Self-confidence won’t ‘cure’ a stutter, but it will reduce it’s impact on a stutterers life.

      Regards. Harry

  38. Hi Harry,

    Thank you for sharing your story, it is truly inspirational. Congratulations on creating such a wonderful supportive organization for PWS. As an SLP graduate student taking a course in fluency it is very interesting to learn about organizations that are available to help and support a PWS. Do you feel that it is important for a PWS to receive speech therapy from a speech and language pathologist in addition to being a member of an organization such as Kings Speakers? Also, I am curious to know what age group are the majority of members that are active in Kings Speakers? Does the club consist of adults only? Thanks again for sharing!

    Casi Reynolds

    • Hi Casi,

      Thanks for your comments!

      “Do you feel that it is important for a PWS to receive speech therapy from a speech and language pathologist in addition to being a member of an organization such as Kings Speakers?”
      It depends on the individual – a lot of our members (including myself)
      do not receive speech therapy. Some do, and for them, Kings provides a
      great opportunity to practice their techniques.

      “Also, I am curious to know what age group are the majority of members
      that are active in Kings Speakers? Does the club consist of adults only?”
      Toastmasters rules state that only over 18’s can join – due to legal
      regulations, child protection etc. So, all over members are adults – some in their 20’s and most in their 30’s or 40’s.

      Regards

      Harry

  39. Hi Harry,
    I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology and this is the first time I heard of such a program. It’s amazing how you developed this program just based on your own experiences. Besides for just speaking publicly, is there anything else done during the session to give the individuals the confidence to face the real world?

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for the postive comments.

      “Besides for just speaking publicly, is there anything else done during the session to give the individuals the confidence to face the real world?”
      Yes, we learn leadership skills too. And after a while, the public
      speaking aspect become a little too easy for some members, and they engage
      more in leadership roles. This includes being a committee member to
      help run the club; organising club events (speech contests etc);
      becoming a judge at other club contests; mentoring newer club members;
      taking part in events outside of our club etc etc.
      So, there are many opportunities for people to grow. For example, two years
      ago, I became an Area Governor, when meant looking after 5 regular
      Toastmasters clubs, and speaking in front of much bigger (and fluent-er)
      audiences.
      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  40. Hi Harry,

    I love the idea of Kings Speakers and how you spoke of courage. There is often courage in numbers, and sometimes that ounce of courage is the start of something big. This small amount of courage that a PWS enters your club with can be ignited into a great deal of courage that helps them to do something as small as communicate with a co-worker, or as big as what you have accomplished.

    I read in a post above that typically you have 20-25 people attending each meeting, and was curious how many of these people are “regulars”? Do the “regulars” get a chance to speak each week if they wish to, or is there a way to make it fair so that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity?

    I was also curious about the topic of the speeches. Does each person who gets up to speak tell a story of their own, or are there topics presented by the “Master” each week?

    Thank you so much for your time and dedication!

    Amanda Doran
    Graduate SLP Student
    Kean University, Union, NJ

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for reading the article.

      “I read in a post above that typically you have 20-25 people attending each meeting, and was curious how many of these people are “regulars”? Do the “regulars” get a chance to speak each week if they wish to, or is there a way to make it fair so that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity?

      A majority (maybe 70%) are regulars. At each meeting about
      20-22 people get a chance to speak, so most people who want
      to, get the opportunity. We make it fair, by using a software where members can book roles and speech slots weeks in advance
      if they want to. And there is also impromptu speaking too, and
      this allows another 8 people (who are not formally booked on the agenda) to speak.

      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  41. Do any of the participants or members participate in therapy concurrently with attending these meetings? If so, do you feel they benefit from both? Thank you for sharing your experience. It is great to know that one person can make a world of difference in the lives of others. Congratulations!

    MaRyan Hulvey and Mollie Carlson
    Fort Hays State University Graduate Students

    • Hi MaRyan Hulvey and Mollie ,

      Thanks for your question :

      “Do any of the participants or members participate in therapy concurrently with attending these meetings? If so, do you feel they benefit from both?”

      Yes, many members are having speech therapy, and they get to
      practice their techniques at the club. This environment gets
      them to push out of their comfort zones that little bit each
      time, and to take on greater speaking challenges as they
      develop.

      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  42. Harry,
    This is a very uplifting story. I am a SLP graduate student and am new to the world of stuttering. You are very inspiring in dedicating your time and money to help so many other people. I was impressed on how the group had so many positive aspects in these people’s lives. I hope to hear many other success stories from people who stutter.

    • Thanks Ashley for your kind comments.
      It’s a pleasure to run Kings Speakers, as the article implies, there are
      greater goals to be achieved.

      All the best.

      Harry

  43. Hello Harry,
    Thank you for your inspiring and fun to read story! You are a wonderful author, have you thought about writing a book about your experiences!? I am currently a first year graduate student in North Carolina and I thoroughly enjoy reading stories written by PWS about their experiences and how they are empowered and “break free” from the chains of disfluency! I am currently working with a young adult who stutters, but his speech sounds wonderful to me. I was curious if you could offer any advice for me to help this young adult realize how wonderfully fluent he is and increase his self confidence? I know that you said that presenting the speeches helped improve confidence, do you think it would work the same presenting to a smaller group of 3-5 people? Also I was wondering if you could elaborate on what the ‘coastal breathing’ technique is that you mentioned in an above comment!

    Thank you again for your wonderful story and I wish you the best of luck and a long successful future with Kings Speakers!

    Stacey Gresock

    • Hi Stacey,

      Thanks for your wonderful words.
      “have you thought about writing a book about your experiences!? ”
      Wow…I’m flattered! Maybe one day. I’ll keep you posted!
      To answer your questions :
      “I was curious if you could offer any advice for me to help this young adult realize how wonderfully fluent he is and increase his self confidence?”
      PWS often under-estimate themselves and belittle their own achievements.
      The main thing about self-confidence (for me) is that it comes when we
      do something we are afraid of. Knowing that whatever happens, we can deal
      with it,and knowing that there WILL be challenges, and there will be times
      when we will ‘fail’, but that we have the internal strength to pick
      ourselves up keep moving forward – these are the hallmarks of confidence.
      So, I would suggest you try and get this young man to confront his fears
      a small step at a time, as a pace which suits him. After a while, he will
      no longer need to be pushed and will become self-motivating and self-inspiring.

      “I know that you said that presenting the speeches helped improve confidence, do you think it would work the same presenting to a smaller group of 3-5 people?”
      Totally. In fact, for many people sarting with 3-5 people is the best. I
      run workshops for overcoming the fear of public speaking, and I always
      start with getting people in groups of 4 each, and within a couple of hours
      they’re doing it in front of the whole group.

      “Also I was wondering if you could elaborate on what the ‘coastal breathing’ technique”.
      Yep, there is an ISAD article written in 2011 about the subject :
      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad15/papers/quesal15.html
      Also, there are youtube videos on this.

      I hope that helps. All the best!

      Harry

  44. Hi, Harry!

    Thank you so much for sharing! There is definitely a need for more such programs globally.

    You mentioned in the comments that you felt your “biggest challenges” were getting people to walk into the room and getting them on the stage. Have you found any “best practice” for getting a PWS to take that initial step towards participating, or is it really based on the each individual? Is there any advice you would give to family/friends/SLPs of a PWS to encourage them to take that first step towards attending a group like the Kings Speakers?

    Again, thank you!
    Johanna

    • Hi Johanna,

      Thanks for the insightful questions.
      “Have you found any “best practice” for getting a PWS to take that initial step towards participating, or is it really based on the each individual?”
      Getting people to take the first step is the biggest challenge. There is no best practice, and really a lot depends on the individual. Some of our
      guests come for the first time, are very afraid, but are committed to
      making a change in their lives, and sign up right away. Within weeks,
      they are flying. Some guests come numerous times to our meetings, and
      something internally keeps them from joining, and they fade away. Maybe
      the time isn’t right for them, and one day, when the fire in their belly
      starts burning at the right level, they will return.
      To give an indication of how much a challenge it can be to run a club like
      this, last Saturday (12th Oct), we did a workshop on Kings Speakers at the
      British Stammering Association Open Day – as well as that I ran the ‘open
      mike’ session and we mentioned Kings Speakers many times. Over a 100 people
      attended, and everyone of them heard about what/where Kings Speakers is.
      And yet at our meeting on Thur 17th Oct, we only had 1 person from the Open
      Day attend our club to find out more. This is not meant to sound negative
      in any way, but is an indication of the hard work the club does to thrive. And an indication of how much effort it often takes to get PWS’s
      to take that first step. On a personal level, what I found helps is a lot
      of empathy, encouragement, support to anyone who enquires about our club –
      this is done when they ring, text or email me. And when people walk through
      our door, someone senior in the club welcomes them, and sits with them
      to help and guide them through the meeting. And there are follow up emails
      to thank them for attending as a guest. So, lots of help, support and
      friendliness is the key!

      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  45. Harry,

    I really appreciate your awesome attitude about getting PWS together and conquering fears. I imagine the end result is so rewarding for the members and you, personally. I was curious if you were always so confident with your speech, or when was it then you really began to gain confidence?

    Megan

    • Hi Megan

      Thanks for your wonderful comments.

      “I was curious if you were always so confident with your speech, or when was it then you really began to gain confidence?”
      Well, I had the most crippling fear of sitting in meetings and social groups. At work, I would take a holiday on days when I knew there would be a big meeting for me to attend. It was a nightmare!
      I first started getting confidence after my number 3 speech at Toastmasters – I stuttered very severely, but won the ‘Best Speaker’ award, and a very senior Toastmaster said to me “Young man, you have to realise how good you are”. I felt very embarrassed, but something changed that day. And from then on, I started to really enjoy public speaking. So, confident speech is something I have only enjoyed in the last 3-4 years.

      I hope that helps.

      Harry

  46. Hi Harry,

    Your story is inspiring! Public speaking is a fear many people can relate to, but for a PWS, I can imagine it would be a nightmare. Helping PWS gain that confidence to speak their words is amazing. I am a graduate student taking a fluency class and my question to you is how do you encourage someone who does not want to talk to open up, especially in front of a large group of people? Also, how would you deal with interruptions during a speech, if there are any? Lastly, have you thought about incorporating other activities such as music and theater into your club?

    Linda Kue

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for your supportive comments!

      To answer your questions :
      “my question to you is how do you encourage someone who does not want to talk to open up, especially in front of a large group of people?”
      Further to earlier answers, it’s mainly by getting them to take baby steps at first….little by little….and wait for the internal change to occur. Once they ‘feel’ for themselves that a simple thing like speaking in front of people can empower them in such an amazing way, then they get hooked.

      “Also, how would you deal with interruptions during a speech, if there are any?”
      There are no interruptions at Toastmasters meetings, because there is a club etiquette that whenever someone is speaking on the stage, the rest of the group are being good listeners. In fact, being a good listener is a fundamental part of Toastmasters, and we learn to be very respectful and attentive to a speaker.
      There was a case at Kings when a certain guest would walk in 40 minutes late and his entrance was disruptive to the meeting, and a polite word
      soon resolved that. At Toastmasters, that we learn leadership skills too!

      “Lastly, have you thought about incorporating other activities such as music and theater into your club?”
      Not really. I know theater and drama are just as powerful a mechanism for building confidence in people, but we use the Toastmasters formula of speaking to empower our members. We may one day organise a debating workshop, or other things like interview-skills, assertiveness training etc.

      Thanks and regards

      Harry

  47. It is amazing to me how much support groups can really make a difference in one’s life! I am wondering what unique thing this group does that assists people who stutter in desiring/feeling empowered to participate in public speaking?

    • Thanks for your comments!

      “I am wondering what unique thing this group does that assists people who stutter in desiring/feeling empowered to participate in public speaking?”

      We are incredibly supportive and helpful. But that alone is not enough.
      The main thing, in my opinion, is that the members experience enormous changes in their confidence levels and self-esteem in a very short space of time. Public speaking is a very powerful medium for personal growth.

      Cheers

      Harry

  48. I think what you are doing is an amazing thing. As a speech-language pathology graduate student, I have had the opportunity to work with school aged clients who stutter. They all have a common fear of public speaking. I would love to provide an environment like this that they could feel comfortable enough to speak in front of an audience. Do you ever have attendees who are not adults? Do you allow family members, or SLPs into these events or is it only for PWS?
    Teresa Young
    ISU SLP graduate student

  49. Hi Teresa,

    Thanks for your comments!

    “Do you ever have attendees who are not adults? ”
    So, far, no, we haven’t had any non-adults contact us. They would be allowed to visit of course, if they came with a parent.

    “Do you allow family members, or SLPs into these events or is it only for PWS?”
    Anyone who is associated with stuttering is welcome. Incidentally, SLP’s often display a greater fear of public speaking than some PWS’s!
    We recently had a SLP from Perth, Australia come to our club – she was in London on vacation, and wanted to pop-in. She heard about Kings at the World Stuttering Congress in Holland in June.

    If you are ever in London, we’d love to welcome you as a guest!

    Harry