Eliminate "Uhhs" and "Umms" (Part Two)

Editor’s Note: Last year, we published a two-part series to help you eliminate the “uhhhs” and “ummms” that poison communications. For some technical reason, this article disappeared from the blog, so I’m re-publishing it today. Click here to see part one of the series.

I began my media career as a small-town radio DJ.

My program director was concerned that I uttered too many “uhhhs” and “umms” on the air. (He was less concerned with his playlist, which included soft rock staples Debbie Boone and The Captain and Tennille, but that’s a story for another day.)

He taught me a technique that helped me find a smooth radio delivery, and it’s a strategy that works for media spokespersons who use a few too many “uhhhs” and “umms” during their interviews.

Here’s how it works. Look around the room and find an object. Don’t think about it. Just find an object and shout it out (e.g. “printer!”).

Now begin speaking about that object for 30 seconds. Time it. You’re not allowed to use “uhhhs” or “ummms,” but you are allowed to briefly pause between sentences. Don’t worry too much about the words you choose – just let the words flow. My 30 second drill about the printer looked like this:

“I like my printer. I’ve had it for about two years, and it’s been pretty maintenance-free, which I really appreciate as someone who runs his own business. It sits on the corner of my desk in my office in New York City. The best part of my office is the view of the Chrysler Building. It’s pretty cool to sit, especially in the winter, and see a Manhattan icon out my office window.”

You can practice this anywhere – in your car (“ashtray!”), in your shower (“dandruff shampoo!”), and your office (“burnt popcorn smell!”). The key is to surprise yourself with the object, speak aloud for 30 seconds, and replace articulated pauses with silent ones.

Our clients typically think they’ve gotten through the drill with no verbal filler – but the audio replay shows they had two “likes” and a “ya know.” So use a tape recorder or your iPhone’s “Voice Memos” feature to record yourself and ensure the verbal filler is really gone.

You may not master this skill right away – it takes time, practice, and patience. But I promise you – if you stay with it, your delivery will be as smooth as mine was when introducing Lionel Richie ballads back in the day.

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Related: Eliminate “Uhhhs” and “Uhhhs” (Part One)