As a public speaker and broadcaster, I experienced disfluencies in my speech a lot of times during the initial stages of my training. In time, with lots of determination, I was able to overcome this problem.
I’m pretty sure you would like to eradicate your disfluencies too; am I right? Your reasons could be: you’d like to communicate better, and to present yourself as a true professional; someone who has important messages to share, and has the ability to express themselves clearly.
Not like the supervisor-technician who introduced himself during a broadcasting seminar I attended recently. He spoke this way:
“I’m Oscar [not his real name] and, aah, I’ma, um,areatechnical director of XYZ Broadcasting Network, right. And I supervise, like, 25 technicians from, aah, different cities.I, um, oversee, theday to day operations of these, ahh, stationsand make monthly reports of our, mmm,broadcasting operations”.
I was appalled! He is an area director of a huge broadcasting network and he sounded more like a teenager than a professional with a respectable position. While he was talking I began to doubt whether or not he was telling the truth. His ‘ums’, ‘aahs’, ‘likes’, and other filler words made me question his credibility and what he was saying.
Moving on, in these times, when communication skills are a part of the basis of measuring an individual’s credibility, it’s imperative that you invest time to improve your speaking abilities, or at least, develop a stronger ability to express your thoughts. This might be for everyday conversations, meetings, negotiations, or for occasions when you have to address a bigger audience.
To help you out, you can use some of the simple tricks below to, finally, eliminate speech disfluencies:
1. Find out why you experience disfluencies
Disfluencies in speech are breaks or interruptions in speech that negatively affect the communication flow. These disruptions minimize the clarity of your message, and they steal some of your credibility. Nope, actually, to be blunt about it- they steal most of your credibility. But, why do disfluencies appear in your conversations and in your talks?
They show up most commonly when you stand before a crowd. There are several reasons: when you stand in front of a crowd, there’s a big probability that you’ll be stressed, nervous, or too excited. The worst reason is when you’re petrified your talk will be a mess. Because of these reasons, you’ll often lose the ability to express your thoughts well. Being aware of why you experience disfluencies can help you to address the problem.
2. Find out what errors you frequently make
One of the best ways to check the type of disfluencies you often commit is to record yourself while talking. Based on my many years in broadcasting, I’m biased towards this method to check what kind of disfluencies you experience. By recording yourself while you speak, you can listen to yourself talking and do so over and over again. This way, you can check for repeated mistakes. For example, if it’s the case that you utter “aah” most of the time when you are not sure what to say next, be aware of it and next time you speak, instead of saying “aah”, just stop talking, and stay quiet.
Having a momentary silence is better that saying “aah”. Listen to yourself in a recording, and soon you’ll learn your negative speech tendencies. With the invaluable knowledge that you now possess you can start to learn how to eliminate these fillers. That’s the key to solving this problem: total awareness. There are several ways to do this which will be explained more thoroughly in point 4 and point 5.
Talking about recording yourself, are you comfortable with technology? Yes? I suggest you enlist free audio editing software (GarageBand for Mac users and Audacity for PC users). Utilizing this software will let you see your words in audio format (I know, it’s not easy to believe, but it’s true). For tech-challenged people like me, a simple tool you can use is Utterz.com—all you need to do is dial a number and, presto, your voice will be recorded.
3. Practice pausing when you’re about to commit a disfluency
After going through point 2, and becoming aware of your disfluencies, you can begin to correct them. When you practice talking, upon getting to the point where you are about to utter a filler sound or a filler word, stay quiet. Pick up from there, then say the next words you want to express. Repeat the procedure every time you get to the point where you’re about to commit a disfluency. It’s actually that easy, but it’s easier said than done. The trick is consistent practice.
The next time you are invited to speak (even at simple gatherings, mind you) practice every little part of your speech. That way, you can start eliminating the specific filler sounds or filler words you often use. Every time you are about to say your favorite filler word, take a pause and keep quiet. Right after that, continue with your speech.
4. Develop your speech rhythm
You use unstudied speech when you fail to plan for a talk. When you fail to do this crucial step, you also fail to organize your talk properly. Hence, if you organize your speech well- meaning you organize your thoughts and points before delivering your speech- you will surely speak better.
Presentation and speech improvement specialist and trainer, Ritchelle Blanco Dejolde, strongly suggests chunking your sentences prior to uttering them, then (this is the important part) pause for a second or two. Dejolde reiterates, “Chunking your sentences will help you create a rhythm in your communication flow: spoken words/then break/spoken words/another break. Keep on with that rhythm and your “aahs” and “umm’s” will evaporate like gas in the air”.
5. Use pre-planned transitional phrases
Another favorite tactic I use is saying pre-planned transition phrases whenever I have the urge to use one of the filler words I usually say. One such word is “um”. One of its uses is to make your audience be aware that you’re not through with what you’re saying yet, and need to collect your thoughts. A better alternative is to have some ready transitional phrases to use in any presentation or meeting, such as “Let’s move on to…”, “Another important point is…”, or even “Let’s transition to talking about…” At first, doing this will make you feel like a fraud or like you’re being too technical. However, when you regularly practice using these go-to transitional phrases you will start to feel more natural and you will ultimately minimize your tendency to say, “Um,” or any other filler words.
6. Establish and maintain eye contact
Remember when you went on the first dates with your girlfriend? You may not have noticed that you were engaged in a lot of eye contact, but you were. You were unaware that you were establishing such a superb rapport with her through the use of your engaging eye contact. You were like an expert (or actually an expert in that particular moment) in eye contact, since you were experiencing intense emotions. Let’s apply that principle to public speaking. Here, you’ll have to force yourself to make eye contact ’cause you are not in love with the people in front of you. When you are successful with this, you will minimize experiencing disfluencies.
But, why? Simply, it’s awkward to say “aah” when you indulge in sincere eye contact with other people. Try experimenting in your next conversation or talk; stand in a position where you can directly gaze into the crowd you’re addressing and give them the most engaging attention you can give. For another example, during a conference call, do not linger looking at the window or the wall, absently. Do not pace the room while being unmindful of what you’re doing, either. Rather, check your notes, or better yet, your actual script. Basically, when faced with a live audience, an online crowd, or an on-the-phone audience, your fillers will come out lesser if you strive to make eye contact.
In less time than expected, through the effective tactics mentioned here, and with regular practice, I have minimized using filler words. Apply these strategies when preparing your speeches too and sooner rather than later, you’ll eliminate the credibility-stealers you aimed to kick out of your vocabulary.
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