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Public Speaking Lessons:
How to Get Rid of Filler Words


Speaking Tips     Overcoming Fear     Speech Writing     Wedding Speeches
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. - Collosians 4:6

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Here's a Public Speaking Lessons Example: "I think it depends... you know... on whether a customer has a real need... ummm... or if... you know... it's more of a courtesy call, in which case.... I think... I'd probably prefer... you know... to... uummm..."

Excessive use of filler words means that:

(1) we're very new to public speaking and this might likely be our very first speech, or

(2) we don't know our material very well.

The other day I was recording a product review for one of my other websites, and after listening to it again, was appalled at the high ratio of fillers in my sentences.  For the specific exercise, I wasn't working from any type of script, but was just speaking off the bat, as thoughts and ideas came into my head. 

This is the ideal breeding ground for these irritating filler words.  When your mouth is running out of words, as the end of a sentence approaches it signals the brain for more content.

Mouth: "We're running out of stuff here, gimme some more?"
Brain: "I'm still processing, hang on a minute."
Mouth: "What? Process faster!  This sentence is almost finished!"
Brain: "Hey it's not like I've got a piece of paper to read from, I have to concoct this stuff out of thin air!"
Mouth: "Uumm, well you know... I ah... Uuumm"

So when your brain can't keep up, that's when these fillers come in.  The best way to avoid this is to know your material by heart and thereby prevent reaching that place where you have to use meaningless phrases to fill the gap, while you're thinking on new stuff.

However, when speaking without preparation in an impromptu situation, this is obviously not possible.  Great speakers have learned to avoid using fillers even in these circumstances.

Public Speaking Lessons - Banishing the Um's and Ah's

In his book on Steve Jobs' presentations, Carmine Gallo offers the following horribly irritating and superbly effective advice for getting rid of filler words:

He calls it "Tap the Glass" and the idea is simply that you practice your speech in the presence of someone who agrees to tap a glass (or do something distracting and annoying) every time you utter a "uum", "aah" or "you know".

This means you need someone with you when you rehearse, but itÂ’s a great way to get rid of filler words.  Usually after the first few mistakes the fillers will automatically start disappearing as you attempt to avoid the glass tapps.

Another way to eliminate fillers from your delivery is to tape yourself giving your speech and then listen to the recording afterwards.  Most first-time public speakers are usually floored and shocked to hear the high amount of filler content in their presentations.

But this kind of thing you don't pick up when you're in the thick of things, i.e. during your speech.  So make a point of recording and listening to yourself (even better if you can listen with somebody who can pick up fillers that you might miss).

A final, public speaking lessons note on fillers:  The point is not really to eliminate these completely, that might even end up sounding unnatural.  The audience won't mind (or even notice) the occasional "Uum" or "You know", but using it continuously, as new public speakers often do, is distracting.
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Filler words are quite simply the unnecessary little phrases or syllables we use between sentences when we don't quite know what to say next.
The video to the left is a five minute excerpt from a 30 minute interview that Caroline Kennedy gave on a Manhattan News Channel.

I usually don't like actually emphasizing the mistakes of public personalities or speakers - but this video might serve as a good example of excessive filler usage and why it should be avoided.

So I'm posting it on the site for that reason.