Um… have you ever been in a meeting… um, ah… or listened to someone give a presentation… um… where the presenter constantly punctuates their sentences with those annoying and… um… dreaded fillers?
It’s a curse that has fallen on many of us, one that distracts, annoys and sometimes painfully amuses (at our expense) our audiences whenever we try to string a couple of sentences together.
The current record we’ve witnessed, in our decades coaching people to influence and present effectively, stands at 64 ums in a 5-minute presentation. Yes, people actually count them when they are prevalent. The good news is that it can be quickly resolved – TACTICIAN was able to coach this presenter to use only three on their second attempt.
In addition to annoying the hell out of people, fillers progressively erode your credibility – one at a time. They cloud your thinking and remove any punctuation which results in monotonous delivery and lost audiences. Not a great outcome for anyone hoping to get a point across!
So why do we use filler words such as ummm and ahhh?
Sometimes, it is an audible announcement that you’re thinking (we probably don’t need you to tell us!). However most often, it’s an unconscious habit and a result of nerves.
People will use filler words instead of a very effective pause when speaking, as pausing can be very uncomfortable for a nervous presenter. Perhaps, you just want to get it over with ASAP.
Choosing to pause, rather than fill, allows the audience to mull over the content and gives the speaker a millisecond to choose the best next word.
Your Insider Tactics to get in control of our ums?
- Own up to fact that you do it. Or become aware of it. Awareness is half of the cure (like most bad habits)! Ask a colleague to count them when you’re in a meeting, on the phone, or giving a presentation. Or, record yourself and count them for yourself.
- Engage a fierce friend who can remind you, in the moment. Ask them to simply repeat the um immediately following yours. Trust us, you’ll get so annoyed and quickly become very conscious of them.
- Replace the filler with a pause. You can encourage pausing by incorporating conscious movement when speaking (ie, use deliberate hand gestures or turn your body to face a different audience member when you’re making a new point) . This will slow you down, give you greater control over your body which in turn will give you greater control of what comes out of your mouth . The key point here is conscious Perpetual unconscious movement can be counter productive. Once you lose control over your body, you’ll lose control over your mouth.
- Practice presenting at half the speed of your typical delivery. This will accentuate the pause at the punctuations and allow you to get more comfortable with using them.
The tactics are simple, but they’ll only lead to change if you own up to them and have constant reminders from your ‘friends’.
Own up, suck up the discomfort and pause. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when your audience starts listening to your words, rather than counting the fillers in between.
If you don’t have the awareness, or the discipline to work on your fillers, call TACTICIAN. And um, we might just be able to cure you!