How many times do you say “um, “ah”, “you know,” in the normal course of conversation? We all use “fillers” to bridge the gap while we’re thinking of a word, switching topics, gathering our thoughts. Unless they’re excessive and break the flow of speech, speakers and listeners in conversation generally don’t generally take note of fillers. But if you’re presenting in front of a group, these fillers can become distracting and detract from your message.
How to reduce the “um’s” and “ah’s”? Probably the best secret lies in preparation. In my last two Blog posts I’ve written about the importance of good preparation and how to achieve it. When you’ve carefully thought about what you want to present and written some speaking points or prepared PowerPoint slides, you’ll have less difficulty formulating your speech. Keep the logical flow of ideas going. And practice out loud. Good preparation and practice reduces hesitations.
The next critical tip is what I call “The Two P’s”: phrasing and pausing. Language formulation generally occurs in phrases, not word by word. Use the natural phrasing that’s part of our speech. But remember to pause at the end of phrases — to take a breath, for emphasis, to switch topics, and very importantly, allow listeners to process the flow of information you’ve presented. Filling pauses with “um” and “ah” becomes a habit. Give yourself and the listener a break. Take a breath. A second or two of silence can be more valuable than you think.
I will be covering “The Two P’s” and other tips on how to make a great presentation at my workshop this Thursday, April 25th, 7-9 PM at Watercooler, a coworking space on Main Street in Tarrytown.
Check back next week for more thoughts on topics in communications and speech…