Losing The Umms and Errs

“Umms” and “errrs” are habitual conversation fillers that can really get in the way of an otherwise good speech, chat, or presentation. It seems to be human nature to fill gaps and spaces in conversation, and we develop our own favourites to do so.

Popular habitual conversation fillers include “basically”, “effectively”, “innit”, “at the end of the day” and sometimes repetition of the previous sentence or thought.

The best way to deal with habitual conversation fillers is to pause. Pausing encourages well timed speech and helps to form more complete thoughts – before they come out as words. In short, pausing is the most effective tool for eradicating habitual conversation fillers.

But knowing about pausing is one thing – incorporating it into your speech, communication and presentations is another.

The most effective solution we have found in our training is three-fold:

1. CHUNKS!

Ensure presenters communicate in smaller, bite sized pieces of information. With complete, well made points in a presentation it is easier to resist the temptation to fill gaps. This is achieved in our workshops by introducing a structured communication tool that helps participants communicate in “bite sized chunks” and drive towards making a strong point.

2. BENEFITS

We add value to the concept of pausing by brainstorming the benefits of doing it. At the group workshops we usually come up with about 10 benefits to pausing. Then everyone can understand the value of occasional speech-breaks, such as not coming across like a fast talking salesman, allowing you time to gather your own thoughts and (probably most importantly) giving your audience a chance to digest what has just been said.

3. PRACTICE

We then practice pausing. As silly as this might sound, it works really well. We give trainees something to read aloud, and ensure they are able to pause between segments of their presentation for 4 seconds to get comfortable with silence. It usually takes a few tries. The pause then replaces the pesky little habit of filling silence.

So pausing is a great technique to get over the umms and errs.

And most importantly it can successfully enhance your natural style rather than detracting from it, which is always the priority.

If you think that ummms and errrs get in the way of your presentations, then please do give me a call – I can certainly help!

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