How To Stop Saying Umm In A Speech – Talking in Public

How To Stop Saying Umm In A Speech

In the last 3 weeks I have been editing some podcast episodes for another of my ventures “Inside Exec”. It’s a conversational podcast with a long time colleague of mine (over 35 years!) about our experience as senior executives.

These most recent episodes have reminded me that we constantly need to listen to how we speak in any environment, not just when we are making a presentation.

There are “connector” words we use when we are thinking about what to say next, choosing the right words to convey our thoughts or just lose our place in a presentation.

What are these words?

Most commonly –
You know
Do you know what I mean

I am guilty of “so”. I wasn’t aware of it until I listened to a recording voice over I was preparing to for a video. Although I was using pauses to effect and to give me time to think of the next part of the presentation, the “so” word had crept into actual vocalisation without me being aware of it.

Almost every other sentence seemed to start with “so”. I was using it as a connector between the parts of my presentation that were separated by either a pause or some action in the video.


Back to the podcast. From time to time we have guests on the podcast to speak about their specific area of expertise. Before the episodes are aired, I listen to each recording and edit any sections that are not part of the actual message (or have us laughing too loudly….they are generally a fun time!).

Although I noticed at the time of recording that our guest was using some connector words, it wasn’t until I started the edits that I realised just how often and how entrenched in her speech pattern these were. She was not aware of it at all.

So (there’s that word again – but in context I claim!) how do we address this?

Firstly you need to record yourself and listen critically for the connector words. Don’t listen to the content of what you are saying, just listen to, count and list the connector words you use.

It’s easy to train yourself to be aware of these words once you have identified them. Your brain will work for you once it knows you are looking for these words. Where you need to focus is when you are speaking in a more casual or impromptu way. This is when they will creep in as you are thinking on your feet rather than presenting a prepared speech, as was the case for the podcast I have talked about here.

If you are not already using pauses to effect in your presentations, then now is a good time to introduce this to take the place of the connector words.

If you are using pauses, then have a strong start to each section after your pause is planned. In this way you will not be trying to “connect” your thoughts and your audience to the previous part of your presentation.

By recording yourself and identifying the connector words that are part of your speaking pattern, you give your brain an opportunity to let you know when you are using these words. Its much the same as any identified “danger” or warning you would train yourself to know, for example – keeping your fingers clear of a closing door.

Our brains are marvelous tools – we should use them to our advantage all the time!