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Eliminating Um’s and Ah’s in Public Speaking

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Karen OsgoodWe are doing our best to get the words out of our mouth as we speak to an audience. The fillers like “um, uh, like, whatever, you know, okay” are also flowing out of our mouth. What is the best way towards eliminating um’s and ah’s in public speaking? How can we avoid these and other filler words with every other sentence when we are in front of people or in meetings? Not only does it sound unprofessional, it also sounds like we are just piecing the words together as they stream from our unconsciousness. That is right, I said unconsciousness!

We need to take control of our minds and start consciously focusing on what needs to be said. These fillers have got to stop if we want to be taken seriously and seen as a credible and intelligent source on whatever subject we are discussing. So what can you do to stop the um’s from streaming from our mouths?

First off start being aware of when and where you say them in your everyday interactions. When does “um, ah, like, you know, whatever, okay” fill in? Who are you talking to, what are you discussing? How are you feeling? Are you nervous or uncomfortable? Start paying attention to your speech and what you sound like when you open your mouth. Begin to observe yourself as others see you.

Start noticing how other people speak and become aware of who is saying what at what time. How does it sound to have to listen to all those “um’s” and other filler words in someone else’s speech? What happens to your level of trust and confidence in their abilities? Start being aware of what happens when you hear this in others so you know how others are reacting to you.

Next focus on eliminating these words from your vocabulary. Be focused in the moment and stop yourself from saying these dreaded words.

Think about pausing and saying nothing instead of the “um” fillers. Practice pausing and not speaking while you collect your next thought. You would be surprised to know that this only takes a nanosecond and no one will notice. Stop, think and collect your next thought.

You can even enlist your best friends and co-workers to help you notice when you are saying these words. Ask them to point out when you say these things in a kind way. It won’t be easy to be focused on your every word, but the rewards will be huge when you eliminate these nasty robbers from your vocabulary.

You want to begin with your everyday interactions and focus on erasing these words from your speech. This will help when you need to do a presentation or speak up in meetings, as when anxiety spikes we tend to revert back to these dreaded words and forget we are even saying them. If you can begin with your daily speech then you can expand your focus to meetings and your presentations. Believe me it can be done, it just takes powerful focus and determination… step at a time! Your words permeate your world!