An occasional um or ah is no big deal, but too much “filler speech” becomes a major distraction; it can send the message that you don’t know what you’re talking about or that you lack confidence. It undermines a speaker’s credibility and overall professionalism. “Speech disfluency,” as it’s called, includes sounds, words (like, so, totally) and empty phrases (ya know, sort of, what I’m saying is).
You obviously want your organization’s expert thought leaders to sound crisp and articulate so it’s smart to empower them up front and nix filler words. Our media training programs incorporate practice interviews and play backs that put speakers at ease with effective messages, bridging techniques, quotable soundbites. These methods and others build individuals’ confidence to answer the tough questions and also help them identify and jettison filler words.
So, like how do you stop saying um and uh, ya know?
Kicking the habit:
- Be aware. People often have no clue they’ve fallen into this speech pattern. Simply being conscious of the behavior can often be a fix. Early on I had a teacher in a public speaking class who clicked a little cricket every time we used a filler word. It was obnoxious but it worked.
- The LikeSo app created by Audrey Mann Cronin offers ways to test and improve your speech by selecting specific words you want the app to “listen for” and help you eliminate.
- Seven other apps to improve your speaking are described in a quick read from Fast Company.
- Understand why we do it. Experts say we use filler “to give our brain a chance to catch up to our mouth.” It’s a verbal pause while we search for a word or thought. You can combat this by talking more slowly and giving you brain a chance to think.
- Embrace the pause. Take the plunge and just pause. Silence will feel awkward at first, but take a breath instead of saying um.
- Make eye contact and you won’t use as much filler. This is harder to do on the phone but focus on someone/something in the room.
- Be better prepared. If you organize your thoughts and key points in advance, you’re less likely to ramble and pull words out of the sky compared to relying on preparation and memory.
But everyone does it so what’s the big deal?
It’s in the bad habit category and can disempower you and turn off your audience. We become lazy speakers using crutches.
Since we are all “spokespersons” in various capacities (and trainers), record yourself or ask someone to give you an honest answer to determine if you’re a filler junkie. If it’s yes, why not conquer this as a personal challenge? Think of it as part of the growing minimalist trend to unclutter and live more simply. So, (whoops, it’s easy to slide back), experiment and share your best tip with us for tossing out the fluff to achieve smooth, refreshing speech.