A Blog on Communication
Have you heard a speech where the speaker used a lot of “ehs” and “umms” as they spoke? You may have also heard speakers repeatedly use one word or phrase all through their speech. I am sure all of us would remember at least one incident back in school or college where we stopped listening to the lecture and started counting the number of times that the Professor used a certain word or phrase! For all you know, you may be using fillers in your speech without even realizing it. In this post, let’s learn about fillers, the reason we use them and how to reduce them when we deliver a speech.
What are fillers?
In linguistics, a filler is a sound or word that is spoken in conversation by one participant to signal to others a pause to think without giving the impression of having finished speaking. (Source: Wikipedia).
Fillers are any sounds like “eh” or “umm”. They could be words such as actually, basically, so, and, like, okay, well, right etc. Fillers can also be phrases like “I mean”, “You know”, etc. They are never part of any speech script. But, they creep into our speech at times when we are thinking of what to say next. That is why they are also known as crutch words or phrases as they are used as a crutch every time the speaker does not know what to say.
Most of us would have some filler sound, word or phrase that is our favourite and hence we keep using it repeatedly. We may not even know that we use fillers in our speech till someone tells us! When someone does tell us, we may look at them disdainfully and shake our head in disbelief! These sounds, words or phrases do not add any meaning to our speech or presentation. While a few fillers are good to use in a conversation or speech, too many of them will cause our message to be lost and as a result our speech would be ineffective.
Steps to reduce fillers
Let’s see what we can do to reduce fillers.
Step 1: Record your speech and analyze it.
Record your speech and count how many times you use filler sounds, words or phrases. If in a one minute speech, you use a filler less than 5 times, you need not worry. But, if you use it more number of times, you need to understand why you use fillers. In my experience, I find that we use a filler in one of the situations given here:
- We are trying to think of what to say next. This can happen on account of nervousness or due to a lack of preparation or due to a poor speech structure. Majority of the time, this is the reason we use fillers as we are trying to buy time.
- We are trying to find the right word. This could be on account of poor vocabulary. This is one of the reasons why many of my students use fillers. If this is the reason, improving your vocabulary will help. But, sometimes I notice that this happens due to a vast vocabulary and being particular about finding that one perfect word to use!! If so, please stop yourself from being so perfect!
Which one of the above is your reason?
Step 2: Plan and Prepare a good speech
Once we’ve analysed our speech, we understand that most of the time, the reason we use fillers is because we are not well prepared. For every speech, planning and preparation is very essential. This includes reading, researching and writing a good script.
Make sure that you have a well structured speech. This will allow you to make a smooth transition from one point to another. This will also ensure that you are certain of what you are going to say next. You may find the contents of three earlier posts, one on planning, the other on writing an outline and another on fleshing it out, useful. The better prepared we are, the lesser the fillers.
Step 3: Rehearse your speech
When you rehearse your speech, ask a friend to check for the use of fillers. If you are well prepared, you will notice an automatic reduction in fillers. Learn to introduce pauses for effect. This also allows you time to think of what to say next.
With the right amount of practice, you are bound to get it right. Check your progress periodically. Do try to use the steps shared earlier. It would be great to hear how you fare. Is there any other technique that you’ve used? Please let me know.
Here are some more resources on this topic that you may find useful.
Whether you’re out to cut bulk from a too-long manuscript or simply hoping to strengthen your prose, the tips below will have you writing clearer, better fiction in no time.
Crutch Words 101
How do you find them?
A good way to start identifying your crutch words is to count them. No by yourself, of course. You can use a word cloud generator (pictured above) or a word frequency counter . Paste your entire document into these generators, and check the count.
Either of these methods will include words you can ignore (the, he, she, your main character’s name), though you can also remove these words on the word cloud generator if you find those distracting.
Scan your results, and you may be surprised. In the example above (used with permission from author Alyssa Hollingsworth), we can spot some of the common crutch words like “just”, “know/knew”, and “see”. But it’s easy to tell this manuscript has its own unique overused words, like “hand”, “eyes”, or “back”.
By eliminating some of these repetitive words, the prose overall will be made stronger.
Though your personal crutch words will vary depending on your own style and your project, there are some that almost everyone has in common. Check the list below and see if you recognise any!
- Seem/Seems/Seemed to
- Appear/Appeared to
- Beginning to
- A bit
- A lot
Skeptical that these little words could make such a big difference in your prose? Check out the examples below!
It seemed like the prince was about to kneel, and then he did. He held the glass slipper gently, almost tenderly, in one hand. He tilted his head back slightly, apparently to look at her. “May I?”
The prince knelt, glass slipper held gently in one hand. He glanced up. “May I?”
In the edited example, the prose is much tighter and cleaner. We get straight to the point without losing nice details, like the way he holds the slipper. With less time spend on “seemed” and “almost”, we have more time to get straight to the next exciting part of the scene.”,”tablet”:””>>,”slug”:”et_pb_text”>” data-et-multi-view-load-tablet-hidden=”true”>In the first example, the wordiness threatens to stall the action. Every verb is modified, so that we end up with a muddy text.
In the edited example, the prose is much tighter and cleaner. We get straight to the point without losing nice details, like the way he holds the slipper. With less time spend on “seemed” and “almost”, we have more time to get straight to the next exciting part of the scene.
My fingers nearly tremble, but this time it’s not really a lot of hunger or sadness that seems to gnaw my insides. It’s an almost painful warmth. Hope.
My fingers tremble, but for once it’s not the hunger or the sadness that’s gnawing my insides. It’s a painful warmth. Hope.
I think I might have realized what’s really going on: A supervillain appears to live on my street. And I feel like that’s basically the headline news that I’m looking for.
Here’s the scoop: A supervillain lives on my street. And it’s just the sort of headline news I’m looking for.
Eliminating these words not only tidies the prose and strengthens the emotion, it can help you emphasize your character’s unique voice.”,”tablet”:””>>,”slug”:”et_pb_text”>” data-et-multi-view-load-tablet-hidden=”true”>In this example, we not only get tidier prose—we get a huge change in the style of narration. While the “before” narrator is vague, undecided, and wordy, the second is snappy, quick, and energetic. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out this is the narration of a kid reporter.
Eliminating these words not only tidies the prose and strengthens the emotion, it can help you emphasize your character’s unique voice.
Delete! Delete! Delete!
Once you have a list of the crutch words in your manuscript, you’re ready to start revising. There are a couple of different ways to do this:
1. Print it out. When your writing is on paper, the flaws are revealed in ways that just don’t come across on the screen. To mix it up, try changing the line spacing or margins—this will force you to look at the text in an even newer way. Keep your list handy and read with an eye for the crutch words.
2. Use your word processor’s “replace” function. Put the crutch word into both Find and Replace, but change the formatting preferences in the replace bar to “highlight”. This will light your pages up like a Christmas tree and make it impossible to miss those words.
3. Listen to your manuscript. Read it out loud yourself, or have a friend or program read it to you. Again, keep that list handy and mark down changes when your trouble words pop.
With these tools in your pocket, you’re ready to embark on the next level of revision—and your manuscript will thank you for it.
Read our Latest Articles for Writers
8 NaNoWriMo Tips To Help You Succeed
NaNoWriMo — or National Novel Writing Month — is almost upon us! We’ve got some great Nanowrimo tips coming up. Nanowrimo kicks off November 1st and if you take part you commit to writing 50k words in the month of November. There’s a great community and lots of.
How I Got My Publisher – Journey To Publication Part 2
Publication can look many different ways, but in this two-part series we’re talking to Emily Lowrey and Alyssa Hollingsworth about their journeys. You can check out the first entry here, where Emily outlines her journey to signing with a literary agent. Below you’ll.
How I Got My Agent – Journey To Publication Part 1
There are many paths to publication, all of which are valid and a very individual choice for the writer. The following blog post is written by Emily Lowrey, as she documents her own journey to publication. Part one will follow Emily on how she signed with her agent.
Updated on: November 9, 2007 / 12:01 PM / MoneyWatch
A few days ago we gave you the scoop on overcoming your fear of public speaking. Now that you’ve mastered that, it’s time to polish your speaking skills by cutting out all those “crutch words”: ah, um, uh, and so on. Lifehack.org offers a batch of helpful tips, including these:
- Practice, practice, practice!– You should know your presentation backwards and forwards before giving it. If you spend all your time thinking of what to say next, you can’t put emphasis on avoiding crutch words. Once you eliminate crutch words you can deliver unprepared speeches more effectively, but it is hard to cut the um’s if you aren’t prepared.
- Breathe In, Not Out – When you feel the temptation to ummm your way through a point, breathe in. This may add a pause to your presentation, but it will be far better than an ugly crutch word which blurs sentences together.
- Avoid them in Conversation – You speak all the time. Watch your crutch words when chatting with friends and family. If it helps on stage it will help in a conversation. Plus you’ll get far more practice.
I confess: I end a lot of sentences with “um” when I give presentations; it’s a terrible habit, and I know it makes me sound less professional. So you can bet I’ll be taking this advice to heart. What about you? Have you, ah, overcome those dreaded crutch words? If so, tell us how in the, er, Comments!
First published on November 9, 2007 / 12:00 PM
© 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET’s The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET’s iPhone Atlas.
Lets Talk-Saki Naka
How to Avoid Crutch Words in Your Speech
Crutch words or fillers like umm. you know. and like. make their way into a speech unknowingly. These words do not add meaning to the sentence, and often just make a person look like a blabbering fool.
Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.
How many times have we. um. like..you know..used fillers in our speech. Crutch words or fillers, like the ones used in the sentence above, are unnecessary words that are used to fill up dead spaces while speaking. Some of the common crutch words include um, for the record, actually and honestly. These words pad the sentence without adding any meaning to it, and often makes the speaker appear nervous or uncomfortable.
Too many crutch words while conversing is like a bad habit that we do not even know of, until someone specifically points it out to us. While most people tend to disregard it in everyday conversation, in a formal speech or an interview, usage of too many crutch words can make even the best presentation look bad.
For example, when making a presentation a person tends to use crutch words instead of appropriate pauses, making the speech look like a long jumble of words. One of the best way to eliminate the usage of too many crutch words is by knowing about them and gradually eliminating it from everyday conversation. This will take you one day closer to winning over the audience.
Commonly Used Crutch Words
There are hundreds and thousands of crutch words. If you listen to everyday conversation you would feel as if there is a crutch word epidemic that is plaguing the world. We use them when we are unsure of what we need to say, or are hesitant about something. Sometimes people do not even realize they are using crutch words. Some of the common crutch words include:
Um (Example: I um . use crutch words . um . like there is no tomorrow.)
Like (Example: Sir like I have like this problem that I just can’t like stop using crutch words.)
You know (Example: Crutch words are like . you know. easy ways to fill a sentence.)
Ok (Example: I know this..ok. Or Yes, I will see you later..ok.)
Fantastic (Note: Literally means coming from fantasy or imagination. Unless speaking about vampires and werewolves avoid the word.)
The thing is (Example: The thing is everyone’s used this crutch word once.)
Ways to Avoid Crutch Words
When in Doubt, Stop
Crutch words are used more often when a person is unsure about the sentence to use next. The mind is so busy trying to figure out what to say that there is a strong urge to throw in a few crutch words like um. or you know. in between. If you are lost or in doubt over what to say next, just stop speaking, take a long pause, breathe in, figure out what to say and start off again.
Slow and Articulate
Speak consciously and slowly to avoid using fillers in your speech. If the speech is too long and you blabber continuously without thinking, then you might also be pushing in a few crutch words in between. Structure the speech well to include as much information as is needed. It is best to memorize the tricky parts of the speech, like the introduction and conclusion which is where a majority of the crutch words are used.
Silence is Golden
We all know about this but how many actually use this. It is important to be comfortable in a little silence especially when giving a speech. The pauses help in emphasizing and getting the point across to the audience as well.
Practice It When you Can
Preparing and rehearsing for the speech is very important when trying to eliminate crutch words. Make it a point to pause when there is a comma or give two pauses at the end of the sentence. If certain words in the speech need to be emphasized then underline them and practice them as they need to be said. While rehearsing if the filler inadvertently crops up, then go back and repeat the sentence without the filler. This form of spot training is extremely effective for removing crutch words. It also helps to read aloud for ten minutes everyday. This not only improves vocabulary but also helps in reinforcing the correct speech pattern.
Avoid Crutch Words in Conversations
We use fillers in our daily conversations and the best way to cut back on them are by watching your words when conversing with friends or family. Get a friend or your partner to help you out when rehearsing a conversation. Anytime you use a crutch word, the friend can point it out. Although it can be an unpleasant and often embarrassing process, but in the long run it helps in cutting down on crutch words.
Usage of crutch words tend to increase when a person is under stress or uncomfortable. Fillers make you look silly, nervous, less capable and untrustworthy. With constant practice and a conscious effort to remove crutch words, you can soon learn to give a flawless and confident speech.
Many of us occasionally drop the word “like” into work conversations without even thinking about it.
“I think we sent out like 1,500 invitations.”
“I asked him for the report, and he was like, ‘It’s not going to happen today.’”
“She’s, like, pretty frustrated with her new boss.”
And while you can use it here and there without any repercussions, it’s easy to unwittingly cross over to saying “like” frequently, which detracts from your message and overall professionalism.
Take it from me: I was blissfully unaware of my own overuse until a, let’s say, straightforward colleague pointed it out to me—and I’ve since been on a mission to eradicate the word from my vocabulary.
In the same boat? Join me on my journey, and try out the strategies below.
1. Slow Down
I’m known as a mega fast-talker (really—talking too fast was my original go-to answer for “What’s your biggest weakness?”). So, I know slowing down can feel like a nuisance. However, if you’re speaking at a million miles a minute, you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to correct for form. You hear one “like,” and you’ve already said a second before you can regroup and remind yourself to say “approximately” instead.
Along with thinking through the substance of what you’re going to say, listen for the words coming out of your mouth. Speaking at a slower pace will allow you to catch when you’re about to pause or transition, so that you can be intentional about the word that comes next.
2. Try New Filler Words
“Like” isn’t altogether useless. It can be used for anything from pausing without dead air to purposefully lightening a statement. “Like 500 attendees,” for example, feels like a softer expectation than “500 attendees.”
Thankfully, there are plenty of filler words you can use without the stigma. In place of “like,” try, “for example,” “say,” “nearly,” or “about.” Eventually, you may want to correct for additional words altogether, but for now, use these words as a crutch to stop using “like.”
3. Focus on “Said”
Perhaps the most common—and the most unprofessional—usage of “like” is when recounting a conversation. Think: “I was like, ‘Want to go grab lunch?’ and he was like, ‘No, I’m way too busy.’” What does that even mean?
So, really focus on your word choice when describing dialogue. If he said something and she responded, use those verbs. If someone thought or referenced or suggested something, say that. If you only follow one rule from this article, make it this one.
4. Work on it Outside the Workplace
“Like” is pervasive—and it’s hard to turn on and off. So, even if you focus on avoiding it all day, if you “like” up a storm after hours, it’ll be hard to switch back come morning.
Instead, reinforce your good habits by forcing yourself to sidestep “like” 24/7. It’ll be dozens more times that you catch yourself and notice when you tend to say it (and practice saying “perhaps” or “maybe,” instead).
5. Forgive Yourself When it Slips In
I won’t lie: Eradicating “like” has thrown me off my game a little bit. Sometimes it feels as though I have a stutter, because I’ll start to say it, then change to another word after starting “l—.” While that half a consonant may be unnoticeable to others, it distracts me, because I spend the next beat thinking, “Shoot! Don’t say that word.”
While in many situations it’s okay to lose focus for a moment or two, sometimes it’s not. If you’re really fired up about the point you’re trying to communicate, it may be more important to focus 100% on your meaning rather than the details of your speech patterns. And I’m here to say, that’s okay. Give yourself a pass, and you can go back to unlearning your bad habit tomorrow.
Saying “like” may not be the most worst professional habit ever, but it’s certainly not the best. So, why not work on polishing up your speech a bit? Even if overuse isn’t a problem yet, by taking these steps now, you can ensure it never will be.
Dr Pat Aitcheson
Sep 7, 2018 · 2 min read
When editing your work you’ll find words that crop up over and over, but add no value to the prose. These are crutch words and removing them will strengthen your prose.
When speaking, crutch words give us time to think. They’re used as filler or emphasis.
Filler words in speech
In writing we tend to use the same w o rds and phrases repeatedly. They slow down or dilute what we’re trying to say. When writing dialogue, a few of these words give a natural feel. They should still be used sparingly, because written dialogue is natural speech, but polished.
A word frequency counter like this one identifies which words appear most often in your writing. Try it with a piece of your writing from one or two years ago.
You can use the ‘find’ function in a word processor, or use a printout and red pen, editor-style. Sometimes the word can be removed. Other times the sentence will need re-writing.
Like all editing rules, this is a guideline. You don’t need to remove every one of the words on the list. Look at each instance critically and make a conscious decision to keep, change or cut. Some are adverbs, which as we know must be used with care.
- a bit
- as though
- began to
- started to
Don’t forget two little words that can often be cut without losing the meaning of the sentence.
You will find that taking out a proportion of the crutch words/phrases allows your writing to speak more directly. And that is the aim of every writer.
On being asked how he created his magnificent sculpture of David, Michelangelo is reputed to have said, “Simple. I cut away everything that wasn’t David.”
Learn how to reduce your use of crutch words or filler words like “um,” “er,” “well,” and “so.” Public speaking coach Laura Bergells provides you with awareness techniques that can help you reduce your use of crutch or filler words.
- Course Overview
- View Offline
- Exercise Files
– Crutch words, some call them filler words.…So, like, okay, well, um, er, uh,…they’re distracting, am I right?…Well, yes and no, crutch words or filler words…can be annoying for your audience,…but only if you overuse them.…Rather than focusing completely…on eliminating your verbal tics from your speech,…I’d like you to reflect on whether you might instead…need to change your relationship with filler words.…
A few ums and ahs, they aren’t…going to ruin your presentation.…Almost everyone uses some kind of verbal filler every day.…They’re present in every language on the face of the Earth.…It’s even likely your particular verbal filler…will go entirely unnoticed.…It’s only when you persistently overuse a filler word…or a sound that they can become annoying.…Do you think you might have a problem with filler words?…To find out, start with a simple awareness exercise.…
As you go about your day, listen for common verbal fillers…like um, ah, er, like, and so.…Listen for them as you speak,…but also listen for them in other people.…
Time to limit your reliance on verbal crutches once and for all.
So, like, uh, yeah, um, well, verbal crutches can be, like, super distracting, you know? They may be harmless every once in a while, but these sneaky verbal tics can really affect how people perceive you and react to what you say. These types of filler words, also referred to as disfluencies, distract from what you’re trying to express by both literally delaying your delivery and by annoying and grating your audience.
“It’s important to eliminate the overuse of verbal clutches because it distracts listeners from the actual message,” says Ramona J. Smith, Toastmasters’ 2018 World Champion of Public Speaking. “Using filler words is a sign of nervousness and lack of preparation. Audiences are connected to confident speakers, and crutch words may detract from an otherwise excellent speech.”
That’s the bad news, but the good news is twofold. Everyday social speech is naturally disfluent, so using filler words every now and then is perfectly fine. There’s no need to eliminate their use completely; your goal can be simply to reduce it. Second, it’s entirely possible to lower the number of times you say “like,” “um,” “ah,” and other verbal crutches—it just takes some self-scrutiny, patience, and practice. Whatever your verbal Achilles heel, try using these tricks to cut it (mostly) out of your life.
1. Become aware of your biggest offenders.
Awareness is the very first step to overcoming filler word overuse. Don’t judge yourself or try to fix things right away. Simply start to take notice of which ones you say most and when. “In order to start the process of elimination, you must become aware of your favorite filler words,” Smith says. “Personally, my go-to word was ‘so.’ Once I became aware of that, I realized my pattern of usage. Moving forward, during presentations I would mentally catch myself about to say ‘so’ and pause to avoid verbalizing it.”
Forcing yourself to notice other people’s less-than-eloquent speech patterns, too, can make you conscious of how often you slip “like” into daily conversations, say “um” before answering questions at cocktail parties, or lead sentences with an unnecessary “so” during work presentations.
2. Pinpoint when it’s worse.
Now, figure out what triggers it. You may nail a presentation thanks to prep and practice, but fall into disfluent speech patterns as soon as the spontaneous Q&A portion starts. There’s no way to prep your answers for them, so you spew disfluencies to compensate for lapses in knowledge or pauses in thought; in other words, you try to fill the silence while you grapple for the right words.
Maybe you notice fillers bubble to the surface when you feel pressure to impress: appealing to work superiors, talking to strangers at social gatherings, or even chatting while on a date. It’s also possible it gets worse during low-stress moments, like at dinner with friends or family, because in these moments you’re completely relaxed and with people who love you unconditionally. Translation: You get lazy.
While you can’t really prep canned answers for life’s impromptu conversations, knowing which situations exacerbate your verbal crutch dependency is a good place to start. This way, for example, you can head into that cocktail party or pitch meeting with some foresight, ready to catch yourself before “so” and “um” sneak out too often.
3. Record yourself.
Take it a step further and catch yourself on tape. It’s hard to hear how you sound until you actually hear how you sound. “Record yourself on the computer or cell phone and listen for commonly used crutch words,” Smith recommends. “Practice impromptu speaking during your free time. Choose a random topic or object and speak off the cuff about it for at least one minute, challenging yourself to refrain from using crutch words.”
4. Have someone count your fillers.
Ask a person you trust to get involved and hold you accountable. “Have someone keep track of how many times you use filler words after every speech or presentation you give.” Use this trick outside the office, too. Next time you grab coffee with a friend, or you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table, ask a trusted loved one to monitor of your “likes,” “you knows,” “ums,” and “whatevers.”
“I once had a friend who asked me to tally his use of ‘um’ on a piece of paper. He said it 25 times in a three-minute speech,” Smith says. “Seeing how often you use crutch words will raise your awareness of how much you are actually saying them.”
5. Slow down.
This is one of those easier-said-than-done tips, because many people naturally tend to speed up when they’re nervous or excited. But if you can slow the speed of your delivery—whether it’s in the boardroom, during a wedding toast, or telling a story to a friend—you’ll be able to catch and prevent yourself from leaning on go-to verbal crutches much more easily.
6. Stick to short sentences.
“Research has shown that when you reduce your mental processing load, you’re more likely to increase your fluency,” writes communications expert Lisa B Marshall, the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation, in a Toastmaster magazine article on filler words. “If you’re a person who likes to write out what you plan to say, be sure to eliminate compound sentences, never start with a prepositional phrase, put most of your sentences in subject/predicate order and eliminate any vocabulary that you have difficulty saying without hesitating. The basic idea is to write for the ear, not the eye!”
April 29, 2017 – Sophie Thompson
Um, like, so, er. they’re all words that have slipped into everyday vocabulary and they’re known as hesitation or filler words.
There may be a number of reasons we use them – to fill a silence, out of habit, or we think it has meaning for what we are saying.
I’m a huge ‘like’ user – I just like think like I don’t even hear myself saying it anymore. My dad has often pointed it out to me and when I try to explain why I use it, I say it even more.
Here are some techniques I’m using to try and stop using ‘like’ and the same steps can be taken to overcome any words or phrases you use that don’t add meaning to your message.
Step 1 – Film yourself
If you’re anything like me, you have no idea how much you use filler words – it’s as if our minds don’t even register them as words. See, our minds know they add no real value to our speech, we just need to train our mouths to agree.
Begin filming yourself when you’re talking to family or friends so that you can hear what you sound like in everyday conversations. This is the best way to become aware of filler words you use.
List of some of the most common filler words and phrases:
- Um / Ummm
- Ah/ Uh/ Er
- Do you know what I mean?
- You know?
Note: When referring to ‘like’ as a filler word, this does not include using the word ‘like’ as a simile, such as ‘this cupcake tastes like heaven.’
Once you’ve identified your filler words, you know to listen out for them. You can also think about why you use them.
- Try our Virtual Presenting course, which records you as you practice presenting.
Step 2 – Break the habit
Like any habit you want to quit, you need to commit yourself to it. Start off small and try and eliminate, or significantly decrease, your use of hesitation words in everyday conversation.
When you hear yourself say one, backtrack and replace it with the word you actually mean to say, or repeat the last couple of words without the filler word. The more you do this, the quicker you’ll train your mind away from them.
It’s important to try and understand why you use filler words. You might just need to slow down. When we speak too fast, we are more likely to take a moment to process our thoughts and use words such as ‘um’ or ‘like’ while our minds catches up with itself.
If you’re losing your trail of thought, don’t be afraid to have a moment of silence. You might think this is awkward mid-conversation but silence is always longer in our heads than it is in reality. In fact, pausing can strengthen the message of what you’re saying, especially in formal situations.
Step 3 – Practice in a formal setting
Once you’ve become more aware of filler words in conversations, it’s time to test your use of them in formal situations, where you’re more likely to use them. A perfect example is presenting at a conference – something that 74% of people fear.
The best way of minimising your ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ is to know your speech well. You want to know when to talk about certain points and what you want to include in your message without memorising a script.
Using a script can be detrimental to your speech for a number of reasons, with one of the main reasons being that you’re more likely to use hesitation words not less likely.
You might feel safer memorizing a script but if you lose your place, you won’t know what’s coming next because you’ve learnt the script in a certain order. When you don’t know what to say, that’s when you’ll start um, like getting er mixed up, you know?
VirtualSpeech tracks the filler words you use in your speech, both for video based and in-person speeches.
The best way I’m practicing for this situation is using VirtualSpeech, where you can practice your speech and receive instant feedback on your use of filler words, both for video and in-person presentations.
Practicing in these simulations is more realistic than imagining yourself in front of an audience because the simulation makes you feel like you’re actually speaking to an audience who is staring at you.
Remember that everyone uses hesitation words so it’s not the end of the world if you still say the occasional one here and there. The important thing is that you kick the habit of saying them in every conversation.
They dilute the power of what you’re saying and, let’s be honest, they can be annoying and distracting for the person you’re talking to as well. Do you have any tips on avoiding hesitation words?