An attendee at one of my workshops on Public Speaking for Introverts asked for tips on how to avoid “um-ing” and “ah-ing”.

It is very easy to fall into the habit, or to use other distracting fillers, especially if you are delivering material that you are less familiar with, or answering an unexpected question, or winging it!

What I find works best is to be conscious of the tendency and, most importantly, not be afraid to replace the urge to “um” or “ah”, or your other filler of choice, with silence. Many speakers, especially those new to public speaking, are afraid of the pause. That is probably because a pause seems longer to the speaker than it does to the audience. (Of course, an extended pause can be a powerful tool for emphasis, suspense-building or re-engagement, but that’s another topic for another day.)

Of course, it is best to be just a little conscious of the tendency to um and ah, but try not to be pre-occupied so that you are distracted from the main game, the delivery of your message.

I’m researching a more detailed article on this topic. If you have strategies that you find are helpful to avoid ums and ahs or other distracting fillers, I would love to hear from you.