By Susan Tomai

I hear too many “uhmms and uhhhs” in presentations and speeches. Not good. They usually come at the beginning of sentences, as the speaker is trying to remember what to say next. It’s a bad habit – it looks unprofessional – and one that most people don’t realize they have until they watch a video of their presentation.

So how to fix it? Prepare. Practice out loud. The better you know your material, and the more you repeat it in rehearsals before your real presentation, the fewer ummms and uhhhhs there will be. Why? Because you’ll know where you’re going. You won’t be searching for the next word and filling the silence with an ummm or an uhhhh until the word comes to you.

Having said that, the umms and uhhhs might still occasionally show up, even if you’re well-prepared. If that happens, don’t be afraid of silence. Rather than rushing into an ummm or an uhhhh, simply be comfortable with a purposeful pause before you begin speaking again. This actually looks good to the audience – you appear to be in control and taking your time – no hurry. And that’s a sign of real leadership.

So the next time you’re preparing for a presentation or speech, video yourself – your smart phone will do the job fine. This way, you can see how guilty you are of ummmming and uhhhhhing – and you can fix the problem the next time.




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