Banish Your "Uh-Words" The secret: breathe and pause
by Quentin Steele
innocent-sounding word, a tiny word devoid of consonants has incredible power to dilute
your speaking ability. Excessive use of "Uh-words" makes you sound unprepared
and unsure of yourself. It annoys your audience and distracts them from your message.
Ridding yourself of uh-words could easily be the biggest improvement in your speaking
The first step to getting rid of uh-words is to identify when,
where, and why you say them. Because we often say uh-words unconsciously, its
easiest to record yourself on audiotape or videotape, or ask a friend to listen to your
speech. Do you say uh-words:
- in the middle of sentences as a filler word?
- between sentences?
- in the transition between paragraphs?
- when you give impromptu speeches?
Some people use the uh-word as a think word. For others its just a nervous
filler. Uh-words are most common during a speechs introduction, while you are first
warming up to your audience, and during the conclusion, which is often afterthought and
unplanned. Carefully planning and rehearsing your intro and conclusion will make you feel
much better prepared and will help minimize uh-words in those parts of the speech.
Once youve analyzed when you say "uh", be on the lookout for
those "high-risk" moments. Then, you can eliminate your uh-words with one simple
tip: Each time you feel the urge to say "uh", pause and breathe. This might seem
overly simple, but its a very effective technique. When we speak before a group, we
have a human tendency to want to fill every moment with sound. Were afraid the
audience will think less of us if we dont keep talking non-stop. On the contrary,
the best speakers punctuate their speech with lots of pauses, to add emphasis, create
suspense, or give the audience time to digest the message. The "breathe and
pause" technique forces you to slow down, think, and keep control. This will add
credibility to your speaking, because youll sound less nervous and more confident.
So try this on your next speech. Be on the lookout for "uh-words" and
replace them with breaths and pauses. The result will be a more polished, more poised