Your “um” might be an “ah” or some other equally unattractive form of verbal pausing. Try replacing the awkward verbal pause with silence.
Review video of yourself speaking. After watching a video of myself presenting I noticed way too many “ums.” I asked a friend what I should replace the “ums” with. Her answer was so simple it was scary.
Silence. A pregnant pause is in fact silence. Silence that gives you a chance to figure out what to say next. Of course sometimes, and more appropriately so, a pregnant pause is a dramatic tool used to create anticipation of what you will say next.
Successful speakers seldom utter the dreaded um. Since trying to kick my “um habit” I have been listening more closely to the way successful people speak. For example, the most highly rated talk radio host in my town never says um and he frequently has long moments of silence. For me, two things happen during the silence, I think about what he has just said and begin anticipating what he will say next. I become an engaged listener.
Slow down and breathe. Instead of rushing through the presentation try slowing down. Plan pregnant pauses in your presentation by noting where you would like the audience to stop and think. Or, perhaps right before an important point, a moment of silence will grab back any attention that has wandered.
The pregnant pause is your friend. Once you begin to use the pregnant pause you will find yourself speaking more slowly and precisely. When you keep your mouth moving slower your brain has a better chance of keeping up, thus not needing verbal “ums” to give it time to think.
This is a new technique for me and has already reduced my “ums” by at least fifty percent. Do you have any other tips and tricks to help public speakers with verbal garbage like the “um?”