Advertising

6 Tricks To Eliminate Disfluencies From Your Speech

Advertising
6 Tricks To Eliminate Disfluencies From Your Speech

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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”.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

Featured photo credit: Public Speaking/Photo Credit: tedxuniversidadedebraslia via Compfight cc via compfight.com

More by this author

Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

10 Ways to Lace Up Your Shoes Creatively How to Organize Notes and Stop Feeling Scattered Left Brain Vs. Right Brain: The Eye Opening Insights Drink Water At The Correct Time To Stay Healthy The Art of Tucking in Shirts every Gentleman Needs to Practice

Trending in Communication

1 10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It) 2 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 3 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 4 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 5 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Advertising
How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

Advertising

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Advertising

Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

Advertising

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Advertising

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

Advertising

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

Read Next