3 Ways to Reduce Your “Ahs,” “Ums,” and “You Knows”
“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.” – Ken Haemer
You’re stuttering, every other word out of your mouth is “ah” or “um” or “you know.” What should you as a speaker to do?
“Ahs,” “ums,” and “you knows” are verbal fillers and are quite distracting to your audience. You say them because sometimes your mouth is not in sync with your brain. Don’t worry. You are not alone. It happens to most speakers from time to time.
Although it is very hard to completely eliminate verbal fillers, below are three tips to greatly reduce them in your presentations.
Have Someone in the Audience Use a New Year’s Eve Party Clicker
Remember the last time you were embarrassed by a situation. Maybe you accused someone of something unfairly or someone pointed out you have a piece of bathroom tissue stuck to the bottom of your shoe or your 4-year-old said something to your friend that you preferred he keep to himself.
Did you take action to never again be embarrassed by that particular situation again? Of course, you did. I bet the situation never happened again.
Well, you can use embarrassment for positive purposes when you are trying to reduce your “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers. Buy a New Year’s Eve Party clicker. These are the ones that you make a click with at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Try this method out with a safe crowd. Give the clicker to a trusted person in the audience and ask them to click the clicker every time you say “ah,” “um,” “you know” or any other verbal filler. I am not willing to bet my house, but I will bet my car that after the second click, you will not have any verbal fillers in your speech. As an old commercial says, “Try it, you’ll like it.
So, a New Year’s Eve party clicker is a great way to reduce your “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers. There is another way to reduce your verbal fillers. Are you comfortable with silence?
“Silence” Allows You to Gather Your Thoughts
Are you comfortable with silence? If you aren’t, you need to be. I talked above about verbal fillers being caused by your mouth not being in sync with your brain. What if you gave your brain time to catch up to your mouth. To do this you would have to be silent at times for short periods during your presentations for your brain to catch up with your mind.
Most people are deathly afraid to have 1 second of silence during a conversation with a friend or in one of their presentations. You may feel the same way. Are you embarrassed by being silent during a conversation or your presentation?
Your silence allows you to gather your thoughts. Try this out. The next time you have lost your way in your presentation, just stop talking, literally. Then gather your thoughts and move on with your presentation. Sure, this may seem embarrassing at first, but I can guarantee you that your presentations will appreciate you not having verbal fillers.
Silence also before answering a question works wonders in your presentations and in your interviews. It tells your audience and the person interviewing you that you just don’t say what comes to mind in the split second after the question is asked. It shows you understand your interviewer and are giving serious thought to your answer. After giving hundreds of presentations, being interviewed, and interviewing employees in my career, I can attest first hand that it puts the speaker and prospective employee in a “better light.”
So, you have seen how a cheap New Year’s Eve Party clicker can just about eliminate your verbal fillers in your presentation. You have also seen how embracing short periods of silence in your presentations can get you “back on track” in giving a great presentation amongst other benefits (e.g., showing question understanding and giving serious thought to your response to interview questions).
Finally, using your powers of visualization can greatly help you reduce your “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers.
Use Visualization to “Give” Your Presentation Before Your Presentation
You have heard others say, “In my mind’s eye, I can still see the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Roman Coliseum or the statue of The David.” Well, did you know your mind’s eye works in living color video also. Think of the dreams you have are so realistic. Your mind thinks in audio and color video.
You can use the same power of your mind’s eye to visualize yourself giving your presentation without “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers. Self-development expert, Brian Tracy, says, “If you want to do something you have never done, you have to become someone you have never been.”
The something you have maybe never done is giving a presentation without “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers. The someone you have maybe never been is a commanding speaker owning the room using the cornucopia of rhetorical devices without saying any “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers.
Try this. Close your eyes. Imagine you are talking to 2,500 people as the keynote speaker at the National Speakers Association Influence 2020 Convention. You hear the emcee read your great introduction you have written for the occasion. You confidently walk to the lectern, shake the hand of the emcee, “drink in” the audience’s applause, take a deep breath, survey the audience and then start your presentation.
You are confident, energized by your presentation, and give the audience a tour de force on your topic. At the end of your presentation, you are wowed by a standing ovation. You acknowledge the audience’s reaction and then step confidently backstage.
This visualization will become a reality if you believe it. Earl Nightingale in his 1956 million selling audio album “The Strangest Secret” said, “We become what we think about most of the time.” Every doctor thinks (visualization) about becoming a doctor before stepping foot in medical school. Every musician thinks (visualization) about playing Carnegie Hall before stepping foot in music college. Every world-class speaker thinks (visualization) about receiving a standing ovation by 2,500 people before ever stepping onto the stage.
Visualization is a marvelous tool you are endowed with to imagine what you can become. It is part of the wonder of the human being that separates us from the animals. Use it and realize your dreams.
So, now you know a New Year’s Eve clicker, silence and visualization are great ways to reduce your “ahs,” “ums,” “you knows” and other verbal fillers.
However, these techniques will only be words on a page unless you make them real. Remember, everything is hard before it becomes easier!
“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White
DiBartolomeo Consulting International’s (DCI) mission is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence.
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