How often does this happen to you? You’re talking to other people, and then something happens. You lose your train of thought, or you’re not sure of what to say next...and then this come out of your mouth:
"Uh….ummmmmm….. well you know, …..like, yeah….so....uhhh.."
The dreaded filler words!
Don’t worry - it happens to all of us! And a few filler words are OK - they help you to sound more relatable to your audience. But a lot of my accent and professional voice clients have been asking me for help with this very thing. They want to know: How do I stop saying um, uh, and like when I’m speaking to other people?
The good news is there is a solution, and with practice, you can get better at it - you can learn how to stop saying um, uh, like, and other filler words. And in this video, I’m going to give you four tips that will help you to stop using filler words and make your speech much more fluent and effective.
Tip #1: Embrace the pause
The first thing to do is to embrace the pause. When you’re speaking, try to deliver your message in smaller chunks or thought groups. When you’re done with that chunk of information or thought group, instead of trying to fill up the gap with a filler word, like, “ummmm” as you’re thinking of the next thing to say, you should pause for 1-3 seconds, breathe, and then continue with your message.
One to three seconds sounds fairly short, but in the moment, it will feel like an eternity. But it’s not - that’s just your mind playing a trick on you. Pausing in those moments when you would normally want to use a filler word, has many benefits, both for you and the listener.
Pausing can stop you from using a filler word. It also gives you the time to take a breath and gather your thoughts while you transition to your next point. Pausing also allows your listeners the time to comprehend and process what you just said, and then they’ll be ready for your next chunk of information.
Pausing can also be used to add emphasis to a key point in your message, or if you pause for a few more seconds, it can build suspense and add dramatic effect.
So the number one thing you can do to stop saying filler words is to embrace the pause - just let it happen, one to three seconds, breathe, think of what you want to say next, and then move on to your next point.
Tip #2: Record and build awareness
In order to become good at using pauses, you need to practice. So the second thing you can do to stop using filler words is to record yourself as you talk, and at first you should choose something that’s easy - maybe what you did that day or what you ate for dinner the night before - and then listen to the recording and count the number of times you used a filler word. Becoming aware of your speech habits will help you to know how often you use a filler word, what type of filler word you usually use, and in what context you use them.
Tip #3: Record with pauses
After you have become aware of your filler word habit, the third thing you can do is record yourself again. But this time, focus on chunking your message into smaller thought groups, and pause at the end of each chunk of information. And pause whenever you feel like a filler word is going to come out. Then listen to the recording and take notes on how you did.
Tip #4: Practice
And lastly, and most importantly, you need to practice. Practice, practice, practice - I can’t stress this enough. The more prepared you are for your speech or presentation, the less likely you are to speak too quickly, stumble over your words, or forget what you want to say next. At the very least, you should practice your entire presentation three times before you actually need to say it in front of an audience.
I hope this video helps you to polish up your speaking skills and stop overusing filler words. Thanks for watching! And I'd love to hear from you - contact me to learn how we can work together to perfect your American English pronunciation!