How to limit ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ in your presentation

Verbal pauses are common among intelligent speakers—they signal that your brain and mouth are in a high-speed race—but the audience often perceives them as uncertainty. Curb those fillers with these tips.

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Like verbal hiccups, fillers such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” “mm” and “oh” pepper our speech and dilute the impact of our key messages in important presentations.

Fillers can include modifiers we use unnecessarily such as “basically,” “actually,” “literally” and “really.” Even accomplished speakers fall into the trap of using filler phrases such as “you know,” “what I’m trying to say is,” and “I think that…”

Nobody is immune, and if we are nervous, we take this verbal tic to the extreme, undermining what we are trying to say.

Filler words are killer words

Rather than enhancing your presentation, filler words weaken your effectiveness, your credibility and your authority. They also suggest that you don’t know your subject matter as well as you should.

Everyone uses fillers occasionally, but few of us realize the degree to which they creep into our speech patterns.

To check, recruit a friend with a manual counter to listen to your speech and click each time you use a filler. If you can’t arrange that, record yourself and do your own counting.

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