Um…Improve Your…Ah…Speaking Skills…


For many of us, having to speak in front of a group or in an interview can cause nervousness and stress.  Sometimes, we get these same feelings when meeting someone new or even in simple conversation.  Perhaps you have noticed that within yourself or others around you.  By learning to avoid filler words in your speech, your audience will be less distracted and more involved in what you are actually saying. 

While using filler words in simple conversation may not be as critical, it can be detrimental if you attempting to tell an interviewer why you are a good match for the job or if you are presenting an idea to a group of people.  Filler words such as “um”, “uh”, “like”, and “you know” take away the impact a conversation or speech has on the audience.  Improving your public speaking skills is important if you want others to know you are articulate.     

The use of filler words are often a way for the speaker to avoid silence, which can be uncomfortable.  Yet, exceptional speakers use periods of silence as a way to make an impact, to allow the audience to absorb what was just said, and to promote thought.  Even for those of us who are not required to speak to groups on a regular basis can benefit from improving speaking skills.  Your ideas and thoughts will be more clear and viewed as well thought out. 

Here are some ways to improve your speaking skills:

  • Record yourself.  You will be able to evaluate just how often filler words are used when speaking.
  • Practice often.  Once you are aware of the kinds of filler words you use and how often, learn to avoid those words through practice.
  • Ask friends to help.  You may be more comfortable practicing in front of your friends.  They can offer constructive feedback.
  •  Don’t forget about body language.  Your body language can make you appear nervous or unsure.  Learn to avoid negative body signs such as shifting from one leg to the other, crossing your arms, and holding onto the podium or notes.
  • Join Toastmasters or other local speaker’s group.  Learning how to develop your public speaking skills with others can be fun!

What techniques have you used to improve your speaking skills?   

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