Australians are champions when it comes to peppering their speech with uums and aahhs. Younger Aussies, particularly girls have replaced uum with “like”. Others have a tendency to overuse a favourite phrase: “‘to be honest”, ‘like I said before’, ”actually” and ”ectetera” just to name a few.
Old habits die hard and a few uums and aahs in my book don’t really matter – but when a presenter or spokesman uses them in every sentence it’s a habit that can really distract from the message.
While I’m yet to find a magic pill to cure this verbal afflication I really encourage my clients to slow down and before answering a question to take a breath. Rather than uttering an um, try pausing. Give your brain a chance to catch up and forumulate an answer. As well as buying some much needed thinking time, a deliberate pause will provide punctuation in your delivery. A pause can help to emphasise a word or a point, it can also provide some much needed light and shade in your speech pattern.
The second exercise you can try (and I’ve shamlessly stolen this idea from Mr Media Training, Brad Phillips) is to practice delivering a 30 second speel about anything without an uum, aahh or verbal stumble. Any inanimate item will do as a topic: your phone, handbag, a landmark – record yourself and listen to it back. Remember to pause whenver you are tempted to throw in an uum! With a little practice and some self awareness there is no doubt anyone can reduce what I call verbal garbage.