Last week, I returned to my previous employer to do some “STEPS” employment training.  The course is aimed atunemployed clients who have a disability and it is quite a basic introduction into employment covering their rights and responsibilities under the Equality Act, preparing to return to work, how to prepare an effective CV and preparing for interviews.

I always start each course by explaining that if anyone has difficulty understanding me because of my speech impediment, I don’t mind repeating myself.  I appreciate that if someone hasn’t met me before, it can initially be a bit of a challenge to “tune in”.  And I really don’t mind repeating myself – I always sense when someone is pretending to understand!

At the end of the course I asked the clients what they thought of the course and if they had any feedback for me.  Although the feedback was very positive about my ability as a trainer, a few of the clients commented that they found it difficult listening to me and it would be better if I worked with another trainer.  Obviously, being self employed that isn’t really an option, at least not at the moment.  As I made my way home, I pondered the issue.  Why hadn’t the clients stopped me and let me know they were having problems understanding me?

“It’s the elephant in the room,” my husband said later, “nobody wants to be the first to say anything.”  I tried putting myself in that situation – would I be brave enough to be the first to raise my hand and say I didn’t understand?  Would I want to potentially embarrass somebody I didn’t know?  Probably not.  My husband had hit the nail on the head – to avoid this happening again, I’d have to draw attention to the elephant myself and perhaps use a little humour to deal with it.

However, although the majority of people don’t have a problem understanding me, I have taken the feedback seriously and as well as dealing with the elephant head on, I am going to look at ways of cutting down my presentation “speak” and using other materials a little more.