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Um, Er, Uh, Basically, Like…Sound Familiar?

Learn how to speak WITHOUT these utterances and speak powerfully instead.

by Pam Terry in Blog, Mastering Public Speaking
February 5, 2017 0 comments


We’ve all said it, some of us more than others, when we give a presentation, the dreaded um, uh, or er. You may be guilty, as I am, of incessantly repeating words, such as, “like “or “basically,” or the phrase, “you know what I mean?” These aren’t bad utterances, words, or phrases, except when they are used repeatedly in a talk. You could call them “bad habits” because, really, they are just habits.

They definitely don’t add to your presentation. On the contrary, they usually detract from it and, sometimes, they annoy your audience. However, removing them from your presentation is simple – just quit saying them.

The solution is profound, logical, simple, but doesn’t explain how to stop saying them. Yet, how to stop saying them is exactly what you have to do to remove them.

There are 4 steps to eliminate these incessant, repetitive “filler” sounds, words and phrases:

  1. First and foremost, you must have a desire to stop saying them.
  2. Secondly, you have to make a focused effort, a conscious effort, if you will, to notice when you are about to utter “um” or “uh” or “basically” or “so” or “you know what I mean.”
  3. Next, you literally stop yourself. The cool thing about consciously stopping yourself is that it works. It works better then you can imagine. Why? It works so beautifully because you will have the power of the pause! When you are about to say one of these sounds, words, or phrases, and you stop yourself mid-sentence, you will have a deliberate pause which can be very powerful! Pausing abruptly can engage your audience. You’re speaking and, then, all of a sudden, you stop, and the audience notices something has changed so they lean in to see what’s going to happen next.
  4. At this point, you have to (quickly) collect your thoughts and think about what you’re going to say next without saying those repetitive words and phrases and it works beautifully. You will feel alive in the process!

As you practice this technique, you will artfully accomplish your goal. You will be able to give your presentation with very little use to none of these repetitive, useless, possibly annoying, filler words and phrases.

You will become so skilled in delivering your content that your presentation will become better and better!

Think of yourself as developing great orator skills, someone who captures the attention of the audience and keeps them spellbound with the flowing of continual valuable information, peppered with powerful pausing, and helping to transform the audience in some way with your information.

If you are being interviewed on the radio or a podcast or presenting a webinar, and you repeatedly say “uh,” “um,” “basically,” “like,” or other words and phrases, it is even more noticeable and detracts from your message. Imagine your utterances becoming so annoying, that the listeners can’t focus on what you are trying to convey.

For example, I was listening to the former president of probably the top Ivy League university in the U.S. while he was being interviewed on a PBS radio show. The man could clearly benefit from this training. He had a very deep voice and every “uh” that he said (way too often by the way) was resonating throughout the message where I could not concentrate on what he was saying. He had such a deep voice and so much potential, but his “uhs” were so deep sounding and too distracting!!

Don’t let “uh,” “um,” “er,” basically,” “so,” “like,” and other repetitive nonsense detract from your presentations. You can become the skilled orator you know you can be by employing the power of the pause and stopping these nonsense, filler words, sounds, and phrases in their tracks. The more you practice this technique, the better you will get and the faster you’ll achieve your goal to eliminate these meaningless and genius-sapping sounds.

In summary, simply desire to eliminate them, notice when you are about to say them, stop your utterance, pausing, quickly collect your thoughts and then speak. If you say a nonsensical sound, word, or phrase every now and then, don’t worry – but do practice and soon you will be eloquently and engagingly delivering your next presentation.

For a free copy of my eBook, “How to Easily Develop an Award Winning Presentation,” click here.

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Pam Terry
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