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How to Cut Crutch Words When Giving a Speech

How to Cut Crutch Words When Giving a Speech
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    “…um…” “…you know…” “…like…” “…ah…”

    You’ve all seen it before. What would otherwise be a great presentation becomes one interrupted jumble of syllables. Instead of taking those key pauses to let the audience digest, every moment of hesitation is filled with a crutch word. Maybe it happens to you.

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    Eliminating crutch words is one of the fastest ways to improve yourself as a speaker. Not only does it display confidence to your audience, but you become easier to understand as your message gets across. It isn’t easy to do, but if you can nuke those um’s and ah’s you are one step closer to winning over the crowd.

    Don’t Fear the Silence

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    Um’s and ah’s come because as a speaker you naturally want to avoid silence. You’ve been conditioned for two-way conversations. When you pause, you get feedback from the other person and the conversation continues. On the stage, it is only you talking and the silence can be terrifying.

    The first way to combat crutch words is to realize silence is a good thing. Few speakers talk too slowly with too many pauses. Pauses help emphasize points and give listeners time to understand what you are talking about. Remember, although you may be an international expert and have a memorized speech, the audience needs more time to interpret what you plan to say.

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    How to Combat the Crutch

    Here are some suggestions for becoming a pause artist and eliminating crutch words from your presentations:

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    1. Practice, practice, practice! – You should know your presentation backwards and forwards before giving it. If you spend all your time thinking of what to say next, you can’t put emphasis on avoiding crutch words. Once you eliminate crutch words you can deliver unprepared speeches more effectively, but it is hard to cut the um’s if you aren’t prepared.
    2. Breathe In, Not Out – When you feel the temptation to ummm your way through a point, breathe in. This may add a pause to your presentation, but it will be far better than an ugly crutch word which blurs sentences together.
    3. Avoid them in Conversation – You speak all the time. Watch your crutch words when chatting with friends and family. If it helps on stage it will help in a conversation. Plus you`ll get far more practice.
    4. Get a Counter – If your giving an important speech, get a friend to count the amount of times you utter an um or ah. Keeping numbers makes you highly aware of when your using these speech-killers.
    5. Comma = 1 pause – Make a note whenever you are doing a presentation that every comma you encounter should have a pause attached. You might want to run through a list of ten items as if they were one thought. But force yourself to give a short count in between each item. Your audience will thank you for the added emphasis and clarity.
    6. Period = 2 pauses – The end of a sentence requires twice as much pause. There is a time-delay between hearing your words and registering their meaning. Don`t cut over this step by blurring together your sentences.
    7. Double Underline – Underline key words and phrases and double underline especially important ones. This is a technique I learned from a former radio broadcaster. It helps you understand where to slow down and emphasize an individual word. When you slow down to emphasize words, this reduces the temptation to inject crutch words in between.
    8. If Your Lost, Don`t Panic! – Um`s come in when you don`t have your next sentence ready. Your mind is still constructing what you want to say next, so you feel throwing a few um`s will fill the space until your ready. Don`t do this! Instead take a quick pause before moving on. The audience won`t notice and it will make your presentation smooth.
    9. Enthusiasm Cuts Crunch – Imagine the presentation you have to give was the most critical information the audience needed to hear. When you engage emotionally with your speech topic, it becomes easier to emphasize points and avoid crutch words. If you aren`t engaged, you might feel the urge to preface statements with crutch words to downplay their importance.
    10. Plan Tricky Parts – Know your conclusions and introductions word for word. Also plan out any tricky parts of a presentation you might have difficulty explaining. If you are preparing a business proposal and want to cover a sticky issue delicately, know that section word for word.
    11. Quality over Quantity – Speaking is a fairly inefficient medium for delivering large volumes of information. Emphasize only a few points in a speech, but emphasize them well and with repetition. A good way to have a presentation filled with um`s and ah`s is to cram a five minute speech with twenty minutes of information.

    Bonus Tip – Join Toastmasters

    I strongly suggest joining Toastmasters to anyone wanting to improve their speaking and get rid of nasty crutch words. I was able to go from a fountain of um`s and ah`s to near elimination with just a few months of weekly meetings.

    Toastmasters can also do more than just cut crutch words. They can also work with you on the finer points of presenting, such as gestures, tone of voice, body language and content. By working on these points you can master your craft and have the confidence to speak in front of any audience.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on October 9, 2018

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

    If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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    A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

    So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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    For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

    Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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    To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

    1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
    2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
    3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
    4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
    5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

    If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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    Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

    Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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