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  • Common Reasons People Use Ums and Ahs in Public Speaking – And How to Avoid Them (the Ums and Ahs, Not the People) – Part 3

Common Reasons People Use Ums and Ahs in Public Speaking – And How to Avoid Them (the Ums and Ahs, Not the People) – Part 3


Being Oblivious to Bad Speaking HabitsAs I mentioned a couple of posts ago, early on in Toastmasters, I was the Queen of Ums and Ahs.  I have gotten a lot better.  But even now, when the grammarian does his or her report, I still hold my breath when he/she calls my name.

The worst part about the number of ums and ahs I commonly said was that I was totally oblivious to just how many ums and ahs I was saying.  And you can bet that I had just as many ahs and ums in conversation and when speaking to groups outside of Toastmasters.

Which leads us to the final common reason…


Common Causes of Ums and Ahs – and How to Avoid Them in Public Speaking

Common Cause #3 – Bad Habits

It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of using verbal fillers.  It’s extremely common.  But unfortunately, especially in public speaking, the ums and ahs can distract your audience from your message and undermine your credibility.

Here are ways that you can break yourself of the habit.

Solutions to Bad Habits

Join a Toastmasters Club

Find a good Toastmasters club near you and find out for yourself what the grammarians taught me.  When someone is actually counting the number of times you said “you know,” you become much more aware and start hearing yourself saying the verbal fillers too.  Once you start noticing you can stop yourself and replace the verbal filler with silence.

Have a Colleague Help You Practice with a Noise Maker

If you’re practicing for a presentation, ask a friend or colleague to bring some sort of noise maker (a bell, a plastic tub of screws, a bicycle horn) and ask them to make noise every time you um, ah or use a filler phrase.  This is an extremely helpful way to train yourself to listen for and stop using the verbal fillers.

Record Yourself and Really Listen

Record a presentation.   Record a practice session.  Then listen carefully to see how many times you use filler sounds or crutch phrases.

It can be really shocking when you actually pay close attention to what you say.  But it is one way to measure and see if you’re getting better.

Have Your Presentation or Practice Session Transcribed to Include All the Ums and Ahs

Just like the recording, seeing a transcript of your spoken word can be eye-opening.  If you really want to shock yourself, do a word search to see how often you’re repeated a verbal phrase or filler sound.  The word count won’t lie.


It’s a Noble Thing You Do

Speaking in public, sharing your knowledge, helping others is a noble thing.  Working to eliminate the ahs and ums so that listening to you is more enjoyable, well that’s a noble thing too!

Best wishes!


What Else?

What have you tried that has helped you get rid of your verbal ticks?  Share them in the comment section below!