Stuttering in online meetings: the frustrations and the opportunities

Written by Marc

Online meetings can be challenging for people who stutter. Personally, my top three frustrations with online meetings are being interrupted while having a silent block, missing opportunities to say something because of a stutter and, most of all, making the worst assumptions about what my invisible colleagues are thinking about my stutter. Being in quarantine has given me plenty of opportunity to think about improvements in this situation. Hereby, I’d like to share some ideas. Let us know your ideas!

The most important lesson for me is: In a professional environment, people do not care about stuttering. First of all, people do not think about me; they are usually busy with themselves. Secondly, the content of what I am saying will determine whether people experience me as confident and qualified.

  • Before every meeting, I prepare myself for five minutes with voice exercises. I read out loud and feel the shape of the words, using this website: https://www.randomlists.com/random-words. This warming-up can be beneficial during the meeting. 
  • If I struggle with audio only, I ask my colleagues to change to video calls.
  • I have learned to create a safe and quiet environment. Going outside during the meeting makes it harder for me to focus and to relax.
  • When possible, I keep my contributions short. In online meetings it is more acceptable to keep the message very brief. Online meetings are less suited to explain complicated matters or to do brainstorm sessions.
  • In conference calls where everyone gives a short update or introduction, I try to go first. In this way I avoid building up stress.
  • Online meetings gave me the opportunity to relax during the time that I don’t have to speak. While my microphone is muted, I do breathing and voice exercises. Sometimes I do mindless chores while listening to the meeting. 
  • In case I need to do a lengthy presentation, I try to create breaks by letting colleagues do parts of the presentation.
  • I try to address emotions or frustrations after the meeting by writing down my thoughts or by taking a break before I go on with other tasks. 

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