Well ‘uhm …’ it looks like ‘ah …’

By Kendall Martin

As someone with a fear of public speaking, I can easily relate to speakers who slip up and use filler words such as “ah” or “uhm” when searching for their next sentence. And unless you are an experienced public speaker or a graduate of Toastmasters, you have likely encountered that very situation.

Follow these tips to minimize your use of crutch words:

  • Focus on your breath. When you reach a point in the presentation where you are unsure of your next sentence, take a deep breath. You will avoid using a crutch word and gain time to recall the next sentence.
  • Use the silence. Natural pauses after a sentence will keep you from rushing through your presentation. Your audience will have time to digest the information you have given them while you regain time and avoid a stumble.
  • Focus on key points. Resist the urge to cram too much information in your speech. Feeling pressed for time or rushed can lead to the use of “uhm” or “ah.”
  • Practice, practice, practice. Nothing ensures a confident, well-spoken speech like practice. You will be acquainted with the natural pauses in your speech and be better prepared for the parts that could potentially trip you up.

What strategies have helped you avoid crutch words in your own presentations?

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