Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 42

How to Eliminate Filler Words in Public Speaking

Presenters should avoid using filler words—such as "um, "uh" and "literally"—to make their speeches more powerful, says a communications specialist.

Ben Decker, chief executive of a communications consulting firm, recently shared with Ragan tips for getting rid of these verbal crutches. They include:

  • Leave yourself a voicemail. "When replaying it, note the words you default to when you're not focused," he says.
  • Try to overdo a pause. "The power of the pause has amazing impact," Decker says. "Just pause. Challenge yourself to only resume when the next thing out of your mouth is not a filler word, but it is your next idea. It might feel like you are waiting for an eternity, but it won't seem long to your listeners. Over time, your pause length will shorten."
  • Project your voice. "That energy, pitch and projection eliminate the tendency to add an ‘uh,' and it makes it more engaging for other people who are listening," he says.
  • Don't get down on yourself. "If you focus on the negative—saying too many ‘ums,' ‘likes' and ‘honestlys'—it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of filler word overload," Decker says. "Instead, focus on the positive."

This article is from the April 28, 2014 issue.

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