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Improve Public Speaking

Matt was just promoted to manager of his department and wanted
his first team meeting to be successful. He asked me to listen to his
presentation during a practice session. His opening went something
like this: "Ah, good morning. Um, it's a pleasure to be with you
today. Ah, what I'd like to cover this morning are, um..." And you
can imagine the rest.

When Matt was finished, he had said, "um," "ah," or some other filler
word nearly 42 times! If Matt had delivered his presentation in this
manner to his team, they would have been counting, too. They would
have been distracted from the important message Matt was hoping
to deliver. You may be surprised to learn that Matt didn't know he
uttered any of those words until we reviewed the video.

If you or someone you know tends to speak like Matt, here are six
proven ways to get rid of those annoying "filler" words:

1. Practice your presentations out loud.
    The more familiar you are with the thoughts you wish to express,
    the less likely you will need to search for the "right" words when
    you're up before a group.

2. Record your practice and real presentations.

    Many people are unaware how often they use these annoying
    fillers. You may be surprised.

3. Pause.
    Try to catch the start of "um" and "ah" (you can feel it
    formulating in your vocal cords), then replace it with a pause.
    Count silently "one, two" while saying nothing to your audience.
    This takes practice, but will be much appreciated by listeners.

4. Drink.
    Keep a glass of water handy so you can sip it in between key
    ideas. This will force you to pause and not utter a filler word.

5. Increase your eye contact.
    Most "ums" and "ahs" come when we are looking away from
    people. Practice looking into people's eyes more directly and
    you'll find it difficult to utter those filler word.

6. Get a buddy.
    Ask a "presentation buddy" to observed your presentations
    and provide you an agreed upon silent signal if you start using
    the fillers. For example, she could raise a couple fingers near
    her mouth to remind you to monitor your word choice.

After consciously applying the tips above for a few presentations,
you will break yourself of this annoying habit and increase your
the impact of your message.