When his daughter's boyfriend asked Dave for her hand in marriage, he said yes. But he soon realised it would involve having to make a wedding speech. Would a fluency device help him through it? He explains all here, but first a bit of back story...
I stammer. I don't know when it started. My parents told me I copied my best friend Sebastian at primary school, age 7 or so. I lost touch with Sebastian but I couldn't lose the stammer.
Grammar school wasn't too horrible. The other pupils and teachers generally accepted my dysfluency. Talking to girls was a problem — but that was true for most of us. I cycled once a week to see a charming speech therapist but no progress was made.
Similarly, at university I got along okay. I'm naturally a positive sort of character so while awful embarrassing speech problems did occur, it never resulted in me feeling low for long.
I spent some time in Canada, which maybe exacerbated my stammer — competition with naturally confident and loud North American kids probably pushed me the wrong way in terms of speech patterns.
Back to the UK and a job in the newly-started software industry. My speech was now perceived as a problem so I went on a one-week course at the good old City Lit in London, and then a weekly evening group. Some progress here. My social life looked up too — I married a wonderful, understanding and sympathetic woman.
I'm naturally a positive sort of character so while awful embarrassing speech problems did occur, it never resulted in me feeling low for long.
I wasn't particularly ambitious but changed jobs and I enjoyed the technical challenges of the industry. Then I went off to Sweden for four years. I didn’t try very hard to learn the language but I seemed to get by okay.
Then I moved back to the North West of England, bought a house and started a family. Now comes the beginning of the problem: what will our kids think of having a stammering dad?
I started going to weekly group speech therapy and saw some progress. I can't remember why it finished but the therapists were enthusiastic and the group generally worked well. Anyway, the kids survived that ordeal, progressed through their teens and left home.
Now we come to the point of the tale. One fine Winter's day, 18 months ago, our daughter's boyfriend came to ask for her hand in marriage. How old-fashioned, I thought, but then seconds later came the awful realisation: I'd have to make the Father of the bride's speech!
Now, I have done presentations and speeches before, but never to an audience of more than twenty — and rarely to complete strangers. And absolutely never with my beautiful daughter sitting beside me wanting everything to be perfect. I soon found out they also wanted the whole thing videoed!
Our daughter's boyfriend came to ask for her hand in marriage. How old-fashioned, I thought, but then seconds later came the awful realisation: I'd have to make a speech!
I started to sketch out ideas for the speech as the months of planning unfolded. I had tried an old fluency device called an Edinburgh Masker once in the past and it seemed to work in terms of giving better fluency. Would this give me the edge I needed? A look through the BSA's website took me to the fluency aids currently on the market. Of these, only the Voiceamp was in my price range.
After some soul searching I decided I cared enough about this event to invest in one. It didn't disappoint. Whilst at first it seemed over-complicated and I couldn’t see the point of the fine tuning function, the delayed and distorted voice providing the 'choral effect' certainly side-tracked my brain sufficiently to stop it mucking about with my speech. I practised with my new aid making phone calls (always a non-favourite job) and was pleased with the result. I have the suspicion that the dark side of my brain that doesn’t want me to talk would soon cotton on to this new toy, so I have used it sparingly.
The big day
The venue for the reception was chosen. Whilst going to see it before the wedding, I spotted a screen and facility for projecting images. Joy! A further distraction! Much to my daughter's chagrin I started to search through family photos — an illustrated speech is the answer! Funnily enough, all photos of her teenage and university years seem to have disappeared…
Finally, the big day arrived: hired tails, fancy cars, bridesmaids, champagne. In the limousine to the church a sudden thought pops into my head: "Is the Voiceamp battery charged?" I fret through the ceremony and finally sneak away from the photographer to try it out. Relief — it's OK.
I decide to try it out by doing a little welcome speech before the meal, just a few words. OK so far. I don't drink with the meal. Tension is rising. The groom and best man are nervous. I keep quiet; pretend calm. After the meal there’s a break is best — best check that the computer is OK. So far so good.
The big moment arrives. Video camera and mic in place, 140 guests expectant; here we go. A rather bumbling beginning but no stammer! I get going with the slides and a joke or two — good reactions, hey this is fun! And so it went. The audience laughed and cheered in the right places. In some ways I was sad to finish. No one asked why I had an earpiece in. My brother-in-law said, "How come you didn't stammer?" Result.
So that's it. I can recommend the device. But maybe most of all, get the audience thoroughly drunk!
To check out the range of fluency aids on the market, see our Apps & Devices page. Have you had to make a wedding speech? How did it go? Leave a comment below or write an article yourself — see our Share Your Story page to find out how.