Yes, you can stop saying um in your videos. Or at least a lot less…

stop saying um in your videos

When we find ourselves rattled while speaking — whether we’re nervous, distracted, or at a loss for what comes next — it’s easy to lean on filler words. These may give us a moment to collect our thoughts before we press on, and in some cases, they may be useful indicators that the audience should pay special attention to what comes next. But when we start to overuse them, they become crutches — academics call them disfluencies — that diminish our credibility and distract from our message. So, how can you stop saying um in your videos?

Some tactics you can use to stop saying um in your videos

So why isn’t our speech fluent? Studies suggest that we verbalize hesitations because we’ve been conditioned to fill the void even when we don’t have something to say. For example, we use “um” and “ah” to hold onto the “conversational floor” as we are planning what we are going to say next, with “ah” signaling a short delay and “um” signaling a longer delay.

To Eliminate Crutch Words, Embrace the Pause

The good news is that you can turn this weakness into a strength by replacing fillers with pauses.

Three Steps to Silencing Crutch Words

The first step in changing any habit — whether it’s biting your nails or peppering every sentence with “you know” — is awareness. To identify your crutch words, videotape or review a transcript of your most recent talk, and determine what vocal fillers you rely on most. Once you’re aware of them, you’ll likely start to hear these words in your day-to-day communication. Pair your crutch words with small actions. Every time you catch yourself saying “like,” for example, tap your leg. Or have a family member or close friend monitor your filler words and bring your attention to them with a clap or snap.  My wife has done a lot of training during her career and she uses the clapping technique a lot when training people and it seems to work brilliantly.

Next, once you’ve become cognizant of your filler words as they try to escape your lips, begin forcing yourself to be silent. To practice, set up a video to record, and talk about what you did from the beginning to the end of the day. Practice using pauses instead of filler words as you recall the events. This will help to stop saying um in your videos.

Finally, I can’t stress the importance of preparation enough. Nerves are one of the biggest reasons people overuse vocal fillers. The less prepared you are, the more nervous you’ll be, which will likely cause you to speak too quickly, trip over your words, and forget what’s next. So practice. On average, the optimal ratio of preparation to performance is one hour of practice for every minute of presentation, but at the very least, Dr. Trey Guinn, a communication experts, recommends speakers get in at least three full runs before stepping in front of an audience.



With thanks to  HBR and Noah Zandan