Um, the Downfall of Public Speaking

May 12, 2013 · Posted by Michael Fleischner in Must Read Content
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It doesn’t take long to spot an un-experienced public speaker.  Usually within the first 25 words of their presentation you might hear the all too familiar “Umm” or “Uh”.  What causes this?  Why is it prevalent among most inexperienced speakers?  And, most importantly, how to you get rid of it?

Searching for meaning

If you’re anxious, unprepared, or simply uncomfortable when speaking to others, there’s a natural tendency to search for words that can fill the gap.  No one likes uncomfortable silence or pauses – and we naturally try to alleviate it any way we can.  That’s why we, as human beings, tend to use words, sounds, or motions to incite change and lessen our anxiety.

Some people choose to remediate this discomfort with what anything they can, even if it isn’t comprised of a whole word… enter the “Umm”.  This is commonly referred to as filler, which can be the downfall of any presenter. Just like artificial sugar, it doesn’t have much substance and can undermine your credibility with your potential audience.  Regardless of the phrase you depend on to fill the divide between meaningful content and your presentation, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid discomfort.

Apply these presentation steps

Getting past the discomfort of ineffective speaking is easy to do if you know how.  Professional speakers have overcome many obstacles prior to establishing themselves as individuals others want to listen to.  Many have even been challenged to overcome unnecessary pauses, catchphrases or other presentation blunders.  Follow these steps to eliminate unwanted words from your speech.

The first step is to address your speech habit, of using the work “umm”, “like”, etc. head on.  To do this, look into a mirror each morning and evening and say the word out loud 25 times.  Practice this for a week.  Within just a few days, you’ll start to realize yourself about to use the phrase and consciously choose a different word or phrase.  This is because most people have made a habit out of using these catch phrases and are often unaware they are using them.  Saying the word out loud brings it to the forefront of your mind so you can take corrective action.

The second step is directly related to how your write your presentation.  When individuals use filler phrases, it’s because they are stuck, don’t know what to cover next, or are unsure of what to say.  You can avoid this by creating a logical flow and order to your presentation. Start with an outline and work to smooth out all of the transitions between each main point.  With a simple, yet effective outline for your presentation, you eliminate uncertainly and get comfortable with primary and secondary speaking points.

The third step is to mental and physically rehearse your presentation.  Through repetition, you’ll improve your confidence and overcomer your fear.  These are two dimensions you want to address head on if you wish to eliminate your use of “um’s”, “likes”, and “ah’s”.  Practicing out loud is strongly recommended so you can repeat lines until you are fully able to avoid using the word you’re trying to eliminate from your speech.

Getting rid of unwanted speech habits is more than possible, it’s probable.  Simple address your targeted concerns, make the effort to write a clear outline for your presentation and rehearse.  Very quickly you’ll discover old habits being replaced with new, empowering habits that take your presentations to a whole new level.  You can dramatically improve your effectiveness by simply elimination unwanted phrases from your vocabulary.

 

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