Avoid Filler Words and Verbal Tics

WRITTEN May 13, 2016 Author: Rich Atkins

When speaking in front of an audience, it can be very easy to fall back on filler words and verbal tics.  You probably don’t even know that you are doing it!

It’s distracting when a speaker continuously says “um” or “ah” during a presentation.  It can even make the speaker sound like s/he’s not sure of what to say.  When people are distracted from what you’re saying, they lose out on what’s really important—your message.  Sometimes, audience members will count the number of times the speaker uses “verbal tics,” instead of truly listening to the speech.

Another distracting speech tic is overuse of the expression “you know” and the word “like.”  They can ruin a speaker’s credibility.  Thankfully, these habits can be broken.

How To Avoid Verbal Tics
Make eye contact with your audience.  When you’re looking at your audience directly, it’s more difficult to say “um” or “ah.”  Most people use these filler words when they’re looking away, almost as though they’re “searching” for the next thing to say.

Like, How To Reduce “Filler Words,” You Know

  1. Record yourself speaking for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Determine the words that need to be changed or dropped.
  3. Go slowly and focus on your speech.
  4. Rather than use a filler word, be silent at that point instead.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Remember, your speech is a habit that is as old as you are.  Breaking a habit is a great challenge.  The more you work on it, the easier it will be.

This information is from the Improving Communications Public Speaking class. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.
Photo Credit Copyright: re:publica/Gregor Fischer

Other Resources

Why Filler Words Like “Um” and “Ah” Are Actually Useful

To Cut or Not to Cut: Filler Words in Your Speech & Writing

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