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Communication Tip: Controlling Ah’s and Um’s

Ah’s and um’s are, well, ah, distracting. They make a speaker seem less polished and professional. If you find that your speech is punctuated by ah’s, um’s, pregnant pauses, and other verbal stumbles, here are some tips for controlling them.

  • Practice. With practice, you’ll become more comfortable with your speech and more polished in your presentation.
  • Slow down. Ah’s, um’s, and other miscues happen when we rush through a speech. Our mouth speaks so fast that the mind loses its place. By speaking at a comfortable pace, you’ll be able to keep ideas flowing smoothly from your brain to your mouth.
  • Use pauses. We typically use ah’s and um’s as placeholders while we think of the next thing to say. Instead, just use a silent pause. Not only does a pause sound more polished, it gives the audience a chance to reflect.

Controlling ah’s and um’s mostly comes through time, experience, and practice. Keep giving speeches, and the am’s and um’s will gradually disappear from your speech, or at least become less frequent.