Eliminate “Uhhs” and “Umms” (Part Two)

Written by Brad Phillips on July 25, 2011 – 6:32 am

Editor’s Note: Last year, we published a two-part series to help you eliminate the “uhhhs” and “ummms” that poison communications. For some technical reason, this article disappeared from the blog, so I’m re-publishing it today. Click here to see part one of the series.  

I began my media career as a small-town radio DJ.

My program director was concerned that I uttered too many “uhhhs” and “umms” on the air. (Oddly, he was unconcerned with his playlist, which included Michael Bolton, Debbie Boone, and The Captain and Tennille.)

But he taught me a technique that helped me find a smooth radio delivery, and it’s a strategy that works for media spokespersons who use a few too many “uhhhs” and “umms” during their interviews.

Here’s how it works. Look around the room and find an object. Don’t think about it. Just find an object and shout it out (e.g. “printer!”).

Now begin speaking about that object for 30 seconds. Time it. You’re not allowed to use “uhhhs” or “ummms,” but you are allowed to briefly pause between sentences. Don’t worry too much about the words you choose – just let the words flow. My 30 second drill about the printer looked like this:

“I like my printer. I’ve had it for about two years, and it’s been pretty maintenance-free, which I really appreciate as someone who runs his own business. It sits on the corner of my desk in my office in New York City. The best part of my office is the view of the Chrysler Building. It’s pretty cool to sit, especially in the winter, and see a Manhattan icon out my office window.”

 You can practice this anywhere – in your car (“ashtray!”), in your shower (“dandruff shampoo!”), and your office (“burnt popcorn smell!”). The key is to surprise yourself with the object, speak aloud for 30 seconds, and replace articulated pauses with silent ones.

Our clients typically think they’ve gotten through the drill with no verbal filler – but the audio replay shows they had two “likes” and a “ya know.” So use a tape recorder or your iPhone’s “Voice Memos” feature to record yourself and ensure the verbal filler is really gone.

You may not master this skill right away – it takes time, practice, and patience. But I promise you – if you stay with it, your delivery will be as smooth as mine was when introducing Lionel Richie ballads back in the day.

Like These Tips? Follow Us on Twitter at @MrMediaTraining.

Related: Eliminate “Uhhhs” and “Uhhhs” (Part One)


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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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