Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

The Number One Thing to Do to Improve Your Speaking

Added on by Sam Davidson.

Cut out the "ums." Seriously. By cutting out what comes out of your mouth when you pause or move on to a new point, you'll sound infinitely more polished, professional, and engaging.

Cutting out the "ums" comes with time and experience, however. You have to resist the urge to say something like, "The point, then, um, is to embrace each day, um, because each day has unlimited potential to be the best one ever."

That's sloppy speaking.

Other phrases in the "um" category:

  • You know
  • Right
  • Uh
  • So
  • Yeah
  • Well
  • Get it?
  • And...

You will not eliminate these nervous pauses by practicing in front of a mirror. You need to record yourself or speak in front of people (friends) who will count your "ums". Only then will you notice you're doing it.

When I was 16, I spoke to my first large group - about 750 other teenagers and church leaders. The day before, I practiced in front of 15 of my friends. Their biggest feedback wasn't on my content; it was that I said "you know?" a total of 21 times in 14 minutes.

The next night (I still have the recording - on casette tape) when I did it live, I didn't say "you know?" once. But I said "indeed" eight times, for whatever reason. It takes some work to get rid of the "ums" and their pause-related cousins.

Next time you're preparing a talk, skip the mirror session and listen to yourself or ask someone to count. Get rid of the "ums" and take your speaking to the next level.

The only exception may be if you need an "um" to make a point or to let the audience laugh or applaud as you move on. Silence is better than "um." Keep at it. You'll get it after a few years. Watch:

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