We had a fantastic end to our in-person courses for 2022. The beautiful Royal Station Hotel was the venue for this 3-day intensive course with more than 100 members attending the course including nine (9) new students battling hard to take control of their speech and to become eloquent speakers and effective communicators.
Michael Batley and Lisa Nealan took the lead to instruct the course with Luke Birtwistle acting as the course organiser.
The course created an amazing atmosphere with everyone coming together to work really hard on their speech and or refine their speaking techniques.
It was great to see the transformation of all the new students who are now working hard in the real world to break down all their fears relating to stammering/stuttering.
There were 9 new students (2 female and 7 male) who stayed throughout the course. Within the group were three people under 18 who were there with a parent each. Out of nine, three people had mainly covert stutters, the rest exhibiting stutters that were mainly overt in nature. Returning to the course were between 65 and 105 members of the programme per day, many of which attended on Wednesday to observe the first-day videos.
The course began for the members on Wednesday at 2 pm, working solidly until 6 pm. This was an opportunity to recap the basics, introduce themselves and get to know each other a little better, each being honest in describing how they were feeling about their speech and what they wanted to gain from the course. We had weekly support zoom sessions for 4-5 weeks prior to the course which helped create a supportive atmosphere aiming to ease any pre-emptive anxiety about attending the course. Those who had active roles on Wednesday afternoon consisted of refreshers, graduates and coaches, all of whom led by example.
The first-day videos began after 19:00h, the questions being asked by Brad Swainston and Mark Catterall who helped settled the new students in and set the tone for a supportive environment. The unusually high number of returning members for a Wednesday meant that there was a large audience which obviously made the occasion feel more daunting for the new students but they did their best in a challenging situation.
This course was for a lot of people, myself included, the first face-to-face course since before COVID-19 struck however it did not take long for the room to be disciplined and determined, quickly getting to grips with Physical Thursday. The bulk of the day focused around introducing the concepts of ‘war mentality, non-avoidance and the big 4 physical weapons against stuttering.
Mustapha Cham took the floor to give the room a different voice to freshen things up and Paul Paluch led a split session focusing on self-actualisation.
With the first day coming to a close, the new students cancelled their experiences the day before by standing in front of the room and saying their names and addresses with mechanical speech. The vibe was a positive one, as many grads came asking for speaking opportunities which inspired all. One new student wanted to push themself by getting up beforehand due to feeling confident about using the new weapons.
Friday involved introducing the psychological weapons and recapping the physical weapons learnt the day before. The importance of the psychological concepts was drilled home with sessions from the impressive Brad Swainston, Michael Joyes, Mustapha Cham, Jon Hubbard and Ben Browett including insights from Ben Ross and Oliver Weinstein.
As per the normal formula, Friday evening consisted of a telephone session, the new students utilising the ICCL for the first time and the members making telephone contacts and calling family and friends.
To end the day, new students feedback on their experiences of their contact session which went well overall. All new students were encouraged to show more exaggeration however many of them showed a willingness to cancel on their own accord without much prompting.
Saturday began with a split session. New students were put through their paces recapping the physical concepts in a surgery-style session.
The members were well prepared for the Harrison workshops with a great session run by Jamila Damani and Zabaida Bi. Due to the large amounts of members attending on Saturday we had 15 Harrison workshops with 5-6 people in each group. We were blessed with 15 people consisting of refreshers and recent graduates of the programme volunteering to be Harrison Coaches, overseen by the charismatic Maritza Warnick.
With the new students showcasing their newly-found confidence and their personalities coming through, the rest of the room certainly didn’t hold back and the energy and freedom were evident throughout.
Saturday’s contacts session was a success and the new students achieved over a hundred contacts each. Their public speeches were inspiring and emotional which attracted and impressed the friendly people of Newcastle. A memory that will stay with me for a long time was that of a young lad who strolled past with his mates in tow and peered through the crowd suspiciously inspecting the brave soul on the soap box. Upon listening to one new student who articulately gave an example of their struggles up to now, unashamedly broke down in tears in front of his peers and gave rapturous applause. Such was the reaction of many who had formed a considerable crowd around the soapbox on Northumberland Street.
Highlights of the course included a Cameo Appearance from McGuire VIP Alan Rogers, who despite battling physical health issues, attended and gave an inspiring speech to the room before the contact session. It was amazing to see him put his speech and the programme at the top of his priority list despite his situation, as he always does which was inspiring for all who were present. Thanks, Alan for your commitment and the support you have given to me personally as well as to the support you give everyone else on the programme.
Also, a special mention goes to Henry Foster who was awarded the annual Bill Bottle prize for his outstanding achievements since joining the programme. This prestigious award is in memory of the late great Martin Coombs who also showed great passion and dedication to helping others. Henry is a well-deserved recipient who stood up to any challenge being thrown at him and who has always tried to challenge himself and improve. Well done Henry!!
Saturday concluded with a feedback session, a family and friends telephone session and farewell speeches.
New students held their own on the floor, their personalities and characters coming through, holding the audience that consisted of around 40-50 people including family and friends and grads, in the palms of their hands.
Thus concluded the course and then we welcomed 9 new ‘members’ into the McGuire family.
Thanks to all who attended. As this was my first course as an instructor, the bar has been set high making it a course to remember, not just for me and Lisa, but for the 9 New Students and all those who have benefitted. Thanks again, and goodbye for now.