Dear ladies and gentlemen, have you ever been bothered by filler words like”em”,”um”,”ah”,etc..? In fact, when you are nervous or distracted, you would tend to lean on these fillers to collect your thoughts. And there are also cases when people use these words just because they are used to them. But once you start to overuse them, they become crutch words. Then, do you know how to eliminate these crutch words to make your speech clearer and easier to follow?

The impact of filler words

Indeed, proper use of fillers (one filler/per minute on average)give both you and your audience time to digest, and in some cases they may be useful indicators that the audience should pay special attention to what comes next.

But they can also negatively influence your audience the way how they perceive the message. And your nervousness is infectious: people rarely trust a nervous speaker.

How to avoid excessive use of fillers

In our public speaking class, we have 5 “p”: Power (alternate strong and weak voice), Pitch (alternate high and low voice), Pace (fast and slow), Pause (have breaks of 3 seconds and more at the sentence’s end), Passion (communicate emotions). To avoid the excessive use of fillers, we should pay special attention to the “Pause”.

John Moschitta
World’s fastest speaker, 586 words/per minute

According to a research, we think at 400 words per minute, but we speak at a rate of 140-160 words per minute(240 syllables/per minute in Chinese) on average. This discrepancy will distort our perception of time: what feels like an eternity in your mind is actually a few short seconds for your audience. So please do not be afraid of making pauses when you speak, and here is our advice:
1. Pause for 5 seconds before you start. It’s for you to calm down.
2. Pause for 2 seconds between each sentence to think about what you are going to say next.
3. Pause at least 3 seconds if you want to attract your audience and emphasis your next points.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement: watch between 1’55”- 3’23”,pay attention to her pause

Practice & Exercise

How to find your filler words: choose a topic and prepare yourself a 3 minutes speech. Record your speech and find the fillers you rely on. And then you could:
1. Think about replacements. If you always start your speech with ”and then”, you could find other conjunctive words with similar meanings such as “ next”, “later on”,”besides”, etc. And use these replacements consciously and alternatively.
2. When you feel the urge to use fillers, please force yourself to be silent (like force yourself to pause), and at same time slow down the pace of your speech.

3. Listen to the news broadcaster and repeat after, stick to this practice every day and it will increase the fluency of your speech and enhance your logicality when you think and talk.

Dear all, I hope this article gives you some inspirations. And in our next public speaking article, we will help you read body languages, just keep following us!