All killer, no filler: How to stop the “ums” and “ahs”

2 minutes read

Belinda Seeney

Content Director

As all journalists can attest, there’s nothing more cringe than the sound of your own voice. But listening to the audio playback of interviews really hones in on how many times we employ filler words when talking.

The use of words such as “like”, “you know”, “umm” and “ah” are like really common, OK? Researchers posit around 20 percent of everyday conversations include these so-called disfluencies. We employ these words to fill pauses, especially when we’re nervous, such as in a media interview or public speaking situation.

Even the smartest minds who know their subject matter inside out can fall into this mouth trap. But repeated use of “ums” and “ahs” in your speech will diminish your credibility and distract your audience from your important points.

So, how do we rid these disfluencies from our flow? Here’s some tips to nix these tics.

  1. Practice makes perfect
    Know your key messages inside and out. Practice your key messages often so you can deliver them naturally. For an interview, it’s a good idea to print your key messages on a single sheet of paper for easy and discreet reference if required.
  2. Slow your flow
    Don’t rush – be ready at least five minutes before an interview to centre yourself, re-read your key messages and take a few deep breaths. You may feel nervous but on the surface you’ll be serving cool, calm and collected and speaking clearly and succinctly.
  3. Use the pause
    Before you answer a question, take a moment to gather your thoughts. Incorporate the question at the start of your answer to frame your message and stay on track. Pause briefly between sentences and aim to answer succinctly to avoid rambling and going off-topic.

Want to ace your next public speaking engagement or nail a live media interview?

Aruga offers customised media training and presentation skills workshops with our team of qualified journalists who will take you through A to Zoom interview scenarios. We’ve got all the tips and tools to help you speak confidently so you never stutter in front of the shutter. #nailedit

Belinda Seeney

Content Director

Belinda Seeney is Aruga’s Director of Content and a Walkley Award-winning print and digital journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in community, regional and metropolitan newspapers, magazines and websites.