It's important to appear in control and confident when public speaking, but if you find yourself using a lot of filler words during your talk, you may struggle to convey this to your audience.
Having words like 'um' or 'er' scattered throughout your sentences can make you look unprofessional, unconfident, and unprepared for your performance. But it's a common habit for many people, with few even realizing they do it until it's pointed out to them.
So how can you stop yourself from using these filler words when you're in front of a crowd?
1. Take a breath
Whenever you feel yourself pausing in between words, instead of trying to force yourself to speak, just take a deep breath and compose yourself. This will make it appear as though you are in control of the situation, rather than struggling to articulate yourself, but will give you the few seconds you need to think about what you're going to say and how you want to say it.
2. Make a plan
Unless you've given the same presentation hundreds of times, you need to have a plan for what you're going to say. This may be something as simple as a few bullet points outlining the key topics you need to cover or a more detailed outline of what you want to talk about, but it's important that you have something to refer back to so you can stay on track.
3. Focus on manageable points
If this is the first or second time you're given the presentation or meeting, you should make more detailed notes on what you want to get across during the talk. You should also consider how you're going to transition from one topic to the next, reducing the number of opportunities to use filler words.
4. Keep eye contact
It becomes much more difficult to say 'um' and 'ah' if you're maintaining eye contact with your audience. This will help keep you on track and talking more naturally, rather than stumbling over your key points. By keeping your torso and eyes facing the people you're speaking to, they're more likely to be engaged in what you're saying and respond positively.
5. Maintain a calm stance
Putting your hands in your pockets or folding your arms can give off the wrong impression and make you feel more restricted. Instead take a relaxed stance, with your arms in front of you. This allows you to use your hands to express yourself, which will naturally help you feel more relaxed.
6. Prepare, prepare, prepare
If you find you're using a lot of filler words then chances are you need to be better prepared for your presentations. Before your next one, go back to the start and note down the key points you want to make during your talk. This will help you identify the major items you want to cover and allow you to feel more prepared going into the meeting.