How do we stop saying, you know uh, filler words?

“Gavelier Chandula had 9 uhs 3 uhms and used the filler word ‘and’ repetitively.”

That was my Ah Counter report on my first ever table topic. My speech was 1 min and 30 seconds long with 12 filler sounds and repetitive words. That’s one “UM” every 10 seconds and who knows how many ANDs in between! I was disappointed. Up until that point, I hadn’t even realized that I used so many filler words.

Is this a relatable story?

If it is, well “Congratulations!”. You’ve achieved Step 1 of weeding out filler words in your garden of Public Speech. By realizing that you use these filler words, you are already a step ahead. Now you are aware. From now on you will be more conscious of those ahs, uhms and, ers of half-formed thoughts escaping from your lips, during your speech.

Now when I realized that, I wanted to find out why we used filler words? So, I dug into linguistic research and this was what I found out.

  1. On average people use 2-3 filler words every minute in day-to-day speech.
  2. Filler words are found in all languages including sign language.
  3. There are even advantages of filler words in conversations. Where for example, a pause or a silent moment may be a cue for another person to begin speaking, but a filler word indicates that you aren’t done talking yet.

But that’s in a conversation. It doesn’t serve a purpose in presentations or delivering a speech. Worse, it conveys that you are hesitating, reluctant to speak, uncomfortable, and, hence seems unreliable to the same audience that you are trying to convince or impress.  

Through my little study of trying to weed out these filler words, I narrowed it down to three practically feasible tips to get rid of these uhs, uhms, like, well, you know – filler words.

Tip no. 1“Getting comfortable with silence”.

When we are doing a speech instead of pausing we fill the gap with some noise because we think that if we stop speaking then our audience will think that we lost track of what we were talking about, but actually the reverse happens. A pause between your messages gives people time to reflect and accept your message.

We have an advantage because a lot of people don’t realize they use filler words but in Gavel, we have an amazing role player called the “Ah counter” who counts our uhs and uhms for us so that we can,

  • Realize that we use filler words,
  • Realize how often we use filler words.

This brings me to:

Tip no.2; “Replace old habits with new habits”. 

When you practice speeches and you want to make a pause, at a certain place, say the word PAUSE out loud. For example, say “I am here today to talk about how to not use filler words PAUSE”.

Now speak the sentence out loud but say the word PAUSE in your head like, “I am here today to talk about how not to use filler words. *PAUSE*”

You even sound more confident. While you also give your audience a moment to grasp what you just said.

The final tip,

Tip no. 3; “Take a breath”. 

In between a message take a deep breath. Again, you are taking a pause but this time you are also giving yourself a chance to relax. Meanwhile, to the audience, you come off as more composed.

Now we come to step 2 – the final step of weeding out filler words. It is simple and underrated, “Practice makes Perfect”. You can practice during Gavel meetings, practice with a friend or even practice by yourself!

Filler sounds can distract your audience and make you seem unprofessional and awkward. However, it is just another obstacle, you can overcome, to make that perfect speech delivery.

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