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Avoid Filler Words in Your Speech

Technical Support Specialist Cezary Chrostowski and Director of Agency Relations Erica Lamb contributed to this post.

umjar4As communicators, it’s important we have strong written and oral communication skills that project professionalism and confidence.

After listening to a recording of myself speaking about social media best practices, I was shocked at how many times I said ‘um’ and knew I had to take action to cut it from my vocabulary. It was so engrained in my speech, I didn’t realize I was saying it.

I then started an ‘Um’ Jar – every time I used the filler, I had to pay 25 cents. The first day, I owed a whopping $4.75. After that, it slowly became easier. The biggest trick is being aware and realizing it’s OK to pause in speech.

The ‘Um’ Jar generated conversations within our company and online. Here are some tips I learned from my own experience and others’:

– Everyone has a different ‘filler’ word. For some it’s ‘um,’ and others may use ‘so,’ ‘like,’ ‘OK’ or ‘alright.’

– In natural conversation, we generally use filler words to denote that we have something else to say, telling the person, ‘don’t start talking yet – I have one more thing to add!’ It becomes a problem when we use it as a crutch and to fill silence.

– Force yourself to take natural pauses in conversation – whether you’re talking with one person, on a conference call or in a meeting. Slowing down and being more conscious of speech – and sometimes just pausing and taking a small breath – can just as easily become a habit when it’s practiced.

– It’s best done with the help of others. Ask your co-workers to participate and make yourself accountable; it will be easier for them to catch you saying a filler word than catching yourself, and you can develop better skills as a team.

– Learn from others who are skilled in public speaking. A great example is Jay Baer – in his presentation at Cision, he didn’t use a filler word once.

– Don’t beat yourself up over it, just try to use one less filler word each day and before you know it, they’ll be gone from your vocabulary!

What are your tips for avoiding filler words?

About Lisa Denten

Lisa Denten is the Social Media Manager of Cision U.S., where she leads social strategy, coordinates the blog editorial calendar and manages public relations campaigns. She regularly hosts Cision webinars, was chosen as a #FollowFriday guest on industry blog Spin Sucks, and has spoken on panels for Inbound Marketing Summit and Publicity Club of Chicago. She worked in the newspaper industry before joining Cision in 2008. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter at @lisaml15.

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