One of the lessons I learned early on was to remove all the speech fillers from my presentations. You know: those “ums” and “uhs” that pop up as we work to recall that perfect word.
We may need to rethink that standard. Here’s a study that suggests that – ah – such pauses can improve listener recall.
“This is speculation, but if the speaker doesn’t know what they’re saying very well, you pay attention more because you think you need to work harder to get it. One thing that disfluencies do is buy speakers more time. They are a signal to the person listening that I need more time.” – Duane Watson, Cognitive Science group
I wanted to give this a test, see how it sounds.
- Soundbite 1 – (That sounds good!)
- Soundbite 2 – (OK, I can see how that could help focus the listener’s attention.)
- Soundbite 3 – (Too much! Lack of credibility.)
So if you’re worried about your public speaking skills, this is good news. It’s permission to relax a bit. Yes, you’ll need to rehearse your presentations multiple times before you deliver them – your confidence in your knowledge of the subject matter builds needed credibility. But once you’re in front of your listeners, don’t focus on every word you’re saying. Don’t get flustered when you do insert a speech filler here or there. Allow yourself to speak naturally, to let the “ums” fall where they may.