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How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation: A Speaking Survival Guide for the Rest of Us by T. J. Walker

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Chapter 19. Uh ... Um ...

How Do I Reduce or Eliminate Nervous Tics Like "Uh" and "Um" in My Speaking?

Everyone says the occasional "um" and "uh," so don't beat yourself up if you do. Bill O'Reilly and Martha Stewart both say "um" and "uh" all the time, and they both make tens of millions of dollars a year just by speaking. So, let's put your problem in perspective. Bill and Martha are still successful because they have messages that audiences find interesting. Your biggest problem is always making sure you have something interesting to say, not whether you have too many ums and uhs.

However, all things considered, the fewer ums and uhs you have cluttering your speech, the better. The first thing you have to do is actually determine if you have the problem. In my experience, executives and salespeople who think they have a problem with too many ums and uhs rarely do; and those who think they don't have a problem are the ones who often do.

There is only one way to find out. That's right, let's go to the videotape (or audiotape). Record yourself and then note how often you say "um," "uh," "like," or any other annoying filler words. The video will not lie to you. Keep a tally as you watch it.

Although the occasional verbal tic isn't the end of the world, you do want to pay especially close attention to how many come out of your mouth in the first 30 seconds of your presentation because this is when you are making your first impression. Sadly, the audience will interpret your ums and uhs ...

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