National Stuttering Association

Steve ErnstConference Events Specialist

    Steve Ernst

    Denver, CO
    Conference Events Specialist

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I’m a Conference Events Specialist for FOCUS, a Catholic collegiate outreach organization. My primary role is working on the annual conference planning team. I plan and manage online registration, onsite check-in, volunteers, the info booth, and a few other projects during the conference each year in January which attracts 17,000 attendees. I also help out at a few other events throughout the year, such as managing hotel contracts, catering, and space use for a few FOCUS recruitment weekends.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    Making phone calls is tough for me. If our donor relations team cannot answer a question about the conference, the phone call comes to me. Especially if the caller is upset, I sometimes have trouble speaking clearly and confidently. I disclose that I am a person who stutters though, and the person usually understands; that also helps to soften the person’s demeanor if they’re upset!

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? If so, how did you do it and how do you currently disclose your stuttering to unsuspecting co-workers and or customers?
    Yes. I brought up the challenges that I’ve faced with my stutter and how I’ve worked to overcome them or can work with the difficulty. If I’m on a phone or video call with someone new, I’ll usually mention that I’m a person who stutters and that they may hear some pauses or repetitions.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    To be honest, I’m not sure that stuttering makes me more valued in the office. I’m very extroverted and I’m at a point where stuttering doesn’t affect my emotional state too much, so I don’t think stuttering makes me more or less valuable at work.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    In 2018, one of my first projects was to design conference check-in process for our 2019 conference. FOCUS had been doing check-ins the same way for years, but I designed a completely new way of organizing the room and moving the thousands upon thousands of attendees through it. I ran my idea past many people, made back-up plans in case it didn’t work, and tried to make my managers confident. When day one of the conference started, my check-in plan worked AMAZING. My plan cut down our average check-in time from about 7 minutes to less than 30 seconds, and we never really had a line of people waiting, even though our attendance was 17,000 people.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I majored in Engineering, but have found that I have a passion for event planning. I think the fields cross over a lot, especially with critical thinking and application of knowledge and theory. I currently work for a non-profit, and I eventually hope to work for a larger event planning company and also get my Certified Meeting Professional certification.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    Be bold! Aim to grow! Seek a challenge! You may not know exactly what you’re doing, but as you dig in and work hard to get the task done, you’ll learn and be better after it’s over.