Public speaking is a powerful way for a solo professional or small business owner to market your business. So is presenting teleseminars. But what happens when you get stuck saying too many ums and ahs? Should you quit speaking in favor of other marketing methods? Here is an actual panicked message I received from a client followed by my response:
“Help! I just listened to myself speak on a recording and I had to stop it within a minute. The Ummmss and Ahhhss were horrendous — 4 or 5 within that time frame! I plan to conduct many teleseminars and do public speaking and this just has to stop now.”
Here are the top 5 most effective ways to get past the ums so your message comes through loud and clear:
1.Practice Out Loud
If you have a tendency to um and uh, the reason is often because you have an idea of what you want to say next, but you’re not totally certain. So you insert a verbal filler to fill the space while you figure out the next word. Practicing out loud will get you to the point where you are completely comfortable with what you’re saying, and therefore not have the need to um or uh (or at least greatly reduce it). If you plan on delivering the same material multiple times, you’ll have to practice much less often as you gain more experience. If you can, record yourself while practicing so you can hear where you tend to um and uh the most.
2. Work From Detailed Notes and Not a Script
You’d think a word-for-word script would make it easier to stop the ums… and it can. But only if you have experience making a script sound natural. Otherwise you’ll sound like you’re reading. That’s the opposite extreme of um and uh and sounds just as bad.
3. Be Aware
This is important. Many people have no idea they rely on verbal pauses or disfluencies until they hear themselves on a recording. The first step in overcoming from any addiction is to recognize and acknowledge you have one. And truly, people who say um and uh too much are addicted to their crutch words. Simply knowing you make this mistake will get you that much closer to stopping it.
4. Pay Attention
Listen to yourself as you present your speech or teleseminar. Do not think about anything else other than what you are saying, how you are saying it and your audience: IN THAT MOMENT. People will um and uh when they are distracted from their planned comments. For example, while on a teleseminar, shut down your email and other instant message features so you won’t be visually interrupted (sometimes just the sound of those things can distract you enough to trigger an um.) Don’t try to multi-task while leading a call or doing any type of presentation.
5. Connect with Your Audience
Here’s a fun test to do the next time you’re practicing with a friend: try to say um while making direct eye contact. It’s nearly impossible. Why? Because you’re having a conversation and um isn’t a word. Um doesn’t fit and doesn’t make sense. While you’re having a 1:1 conversation, you would likely avoid um and uh. Make your presentations much more conversational and your um and uh will disappear.
Is it crucial to get rid of all the ums and uhs? Experts disagree, but in my decades of experience as a speaker, audience member, and instructor, I haven’t thought less of a speaker who had outstanding content with an occasional um or uh. You don’t have to eliminate every um and uh when the rest of your message is solid. The time to get concerned is when your audience is listening for your next um instead of paying attention to your message. So fix what you can, give yourself a break, and um, keep on public speaking.