As I'm cruising iTunes I'm realizing I'm out of catchy song titles for these blogs...
Back from a snowy weekend home, so I finally got my hands on my sister's digital camera (half of which I technically own). I also figured out the painfully tedious process of publishing photos on Blogger (I had to download 2 entire programs just to get it to work, completely unnecessary). In any case, here is a picture of the "Best Speaker" award I won last week at Toastmasters(and yes those are Christmas lights in the background. It's always Christmas at the Griffin house). I had to return it at today's meeting, but I came home with another, for "Best Table Topic," that looks exactly the same except the title is different. I was unexpectedly called to the podium today to talk about the Olympics and what I thought of when I saw the athletes accept their gold medals. I had no idea what to say, and blurted out some kind of I-wish-I-had-that-opportunity thing. I stuttered through something so completely incoherent with no real ending whatsoever, but I think I'm still at the stage where they think it's great that I'm even up there speaking in the first place, so they voted for me. I was also assigned the job of 'Um' Counter, so I listened to everyone speak and had to tally their "um"s and report at the end of the meeting. Some of these people are incredibly dynamic speakers. This one guy Anthony should have his own talk show or something, he's very good. He is the kind of speaker I wish I could be, and hopefully through enough practice at these meetings I will be in time. He's 40 and been doing this for years while I'm 23 and been to three Toastmasters meetings. I think I've got time.
During my meeting with Dr. Meyer last week, she told me she felt I wasn't able to really convey the message of my presentation because of my stuttering. She said my content and hand-out were good, but in conveying the ideas of my presentation (about hearing loss support groups), the stuttering was distracting. We need 4 out of 5 on our presentations as part of the program requirements, and she gave me a 3. I didn't even think it was that bad, but in hindsight it wasn't that good either. I have been writing about how most of the time I just want to speak and not really worry about stuttering, but situations like presentations and speeches are times where it is important that I am as fluent as possible, so by her reminding me of that, I think I will be forced to be better prepared. Granted, it didn't really help that I started presenting at 7:35 during a 4:30-7:30 class on a Thursday night when everyone was looking at the clock wanting to get the hell out of there, but nonetheless it could have gone better. I know what she meant and I didn't get defensive, but it still hurt a little bit because I'm not used to hearing it. Some times I feel that professors are actually too easy on me in terms of my presentation grades. Even Larrivee gave me a 23.5 out of 25 during our Artic presentations last semester, and there was no way I deserved that. Being patronized is worse than being made fun of, and it gets frustrating because I can't really defend myself. If someone makes fun of me I can at least send a "Fuck Off!" his or her way, but if someone is being extra-nice to me because they think I'm different or slow, it drives me nuts because I'm afraid of overreacting.
[On the superficial level, being patronized has it's advantages because in the short term it makes things easier, but in the end it just makes life harder down the road. When I was at UMass, I would go to the Mullins Center every morning for Dunkin' Donuts coffee (I singlehandedly kept that place in business). One day when I was trying to order I stuttered badly and the counter girl just ignored me and went on to the next person. I stopped taking that personally a long time ago, but it's still pretty damn aggravating. There was an old woman who worked there who saw what happened and yelled at the girl and demanded that she take my order. I felt kind of embarrassed, but I got free coffee for a week that the old woman had ready for me when I walked in. Now, free coffee is a good thing, even though she became a co-dependent for my $3 per day habit, but it still makes me feel like I'm being treated like a lesser person. A few Oh-it's-okay-honey-I'll-take-care-of-it's might seem like I'm being helped, but I'm not a child. I'm a grown-ass man...well, not quite, but I'm getting there.]
If anything, I think Dr. Meyer's comments were a wakeup call to prepare myself for situations where my fluency is just as important as the content of what I am talking about. A few months ago I wrote about how I found it difficult to find motivation to practice speaking because I spend so much time by myself with few important speaking situations. With another presentation for her class on Thursday and with plenty of time and a little added pressure, I'm going to put more effort it and I expect the presentation to go well. She said if I do well on this one she will forget about the 3 on the first one. That should be motivation enough right there.