Posts Tagged ‘Crutch Words’

eliminating-crutch-words

Uh…Goodbye. Eliminating Crutch Words.


Tips to eliminate ums, ahs, and other empty words to give your speech more power and impact and make you sound like a more confident speaker

eliminating-crutch-words

You’ve all heard it before. What would otherwise be a great presentation becomes one interrupted jumble of ums, ahs, like, and you knows. Empty and meaningless words filling a gap by a speaker. Just as crutches support our body following an injury, Crutch Words often support our verbiage when we’re not sure what to say. Here’s an overview of crutch words and some tips we can use to eliminate them from our vocabulary.

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Eliminate Crutch Words to be a Powerful Speaker

Eliminating crutch words is one of the fastest ways to improve yourself as a speaker.  Not only does it display confidence to your audience, but you become easier to understand as your message gets across. It isn’t easy to do, but if you can nuke those um’s and ah’s you are one step closer to winning over the crowd.

dont-fear-the-silence

Don’t Fear the Silence

Um’s and ah’s come because as a speaker you naturally want to avoid silence.  You’ve been conditioned for two-way conversations. Not talking and the silence can be terrifying.  When you pause, you get feedback from the other person and the conversation continues. On the stage, it is only you.

The first way to combat crutch words is to realize silence is a good thing. Few speakers talk too slowly with too many pauses.  Pauses help emphasize points and give listeners time to understand and absorb what you are talking about.  Remember, although you may be an international expert and have a memorized speech, the audience needs more time to interpret what you plan to say.

how-to-combat-the-crutch

How to Combat the Crutch

Here are some suggestions for becoming a pause artist and eliminating crutch words from your presentations:

practice-speaking

Practice, practice, practice! 

You should know your presentation backwards and forwards before giving it. If you spend all your time thinking of what to say next, you can’t put emphasis on avoiding crutch words. Once you eliminate crutch words you can deliver unprepared speeches more effectively, but it is hard to cut the um’s if you aren’t prepared.

breathe-in-not-out

Breathe In, Not Out 

When you feel the temptation to ummm your way through a point, breathe in. This may add a pause to your presentation, but it will be far better than an ugly crutch word which blurs sentences together.

avoid-crutch-words-in-conversation

Avoid them in Conversation

You speak all the time. Watch your crutch words when chatting with friends and family. If it helps on stage it will help in a conversation. Plus you`ll get far more practice.

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Get a Counter 

If your giving an important speech, get a friend to count the amount of times you utter an um or ah. Keeping numbers makes you highly aware of when your using these speech-killers.

comma-1-pause

Comma = 1 pause

Make a note whenever you are doing a presentation that every comma you encounter should have a pause attached. You might want to run through a list of ten items as if they were one thought. But force yourself to give a short count in between each item. Your audience will thank you for the added emphasis and clarity.

period-2-pauses

Period = 2 pauses

The end of a sentence requires twice as much pause. There is a time-delay between hearing your words and registering their meaning. Don`t cut over this step by blurring together your sentences.

double-underline

Double Underline for Emphasis and Impact

Underline key words and phrases and double underline especially important ones. This is a technique I learned from a former radio broadcaster. It helps you understand where to slow down and emphasize an individual word. When you slow down to emphasize words, this reduces the temptation to inject crutch words in between.

if-lost-dont-panic

If You’re Lost, Don’t Panic!

Um`s come in when you don`t have your next sentence ready. Your mind is still constructing what you want to say next, so you feel throwing a few um`s will fill the space until your ready. Don`t do this! Instead take a quick pause before moving on. The audience won`t notice and it will make your presentation smooth.

enthusiasm-cuts-crutch

Enthusiasm Cuts Crunch

Imagine the presentation you have to give was the most critical information the audience needed to hear. When you engage emotionally with your speech topic, it becomes easier to emphasize points and avoid crutch words. If you aren`t engaged, you might feel the urge to preface statements with crutch words to downplay their importance.

plan-tricky-parts

Plan Tricky Parts

Know your conclusions and introductions word for word.  Also plan out any tricky parts of a presentation you might have difficulty explaining.  If you are preparing a business proposal and want to cover a sticky issue delicately, know that section word for word.

quality-over-quantity

Quality over Quantity

Speaking is a fairly inefficient medium for delivering large volumes of information.  Emphasize only a few points in a speech, but emphasize them well and with repetition.  A good way to have a presentation filled with um`s and ah`s is to cram a five minute speech with twenty minutes of information.

Thanks to Scott Young @ howtochangeahabit@gmail.com for some text content and research.

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UMM UMM ERR ERR – Eliminating Crutch Words Fast

Do you, uh, say, errr, you-know, uhhhh…..all the time when you speak?  Researchers say “umming” your way through a speech, a presentation, an interview, or even everyday conversation makes the listener think:

  • You are less intelligent than you really are.
  • You don’t know what you are talking about.
  • You are not prepared.

You don’t want any of those misperceptions out there. Try this simple technique for fixing your um’s, ah’s, and crutch words FAST! Complete with a practice plan.

Pause-Symbol

Pause Power: Making your speeches sound more professional


The science and strategy of using pauses in speech and speaking to add drama, impact and power to delivery.

Discover how these small segments of silence can translate to large admiration and appreciation of audiences.

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
Mark Twain

Pause-Symbol

The Pause is a verbal tool like no other. Suspense. Drama. Intrigue. Power. All promoted by the Pause.

Throughout history, the world’s great orators have known of and applied the power of the pause:

President Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev…Tear Down this Wall!”

Clint Eastwood in the movie Sudden Impact: “Go ahead; make my day”

Oprah Winfrey: “My constant prayer for myself is to be used…in service…for the greater good.”

Or President Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman… Monica Lewinsky”

By definition, the pause is “a hesitation or a temporary suspension of an action.”

Here are four potent points for pausing:

Slow our Speaking Rates

1. A Pause can slow our speaking rate.

Many speakers try to say too much in too short a time. Consequently they speak quickly, trying to fit everything into the allotted time. If you find yourself speaking too quickly, pause at the end of a sentence and take a breath. If you feel in need of a breath, your listeners or audience probably do too. Pause Power.

Like punctuation marks in writing, pausing punctuates our messages. When we pause we’re telling the audience that what we’ve just said is important. The pause doesn’t have to be long. Even two seconds can be a powerful way of emphasizing your message.

And yet the Pause is so under-used in today’s rapid-fire immediate feedback society. Fearful that our audience will become bored or disengaged if there’s a lull in conversation, people speak with a continuous output of oratory. Relentless ramble. Paragraph after paragraph. But put a pause in place…and there’s peace.

Give Us Time to Think

2. A Pause gives us time to think.

Sometimes the inevitable happens – you forget what you were going to say next. Rather than panic, pause and collect your thoughts. When you’re not sure what you were going to say next, pausing enables you to quickly retrace your previous words in your mind and figure out what the next logical step will be.

Don’t worry that your audience may think you’ve forgotten what you were going to say. If your speech has been going well so far, they’ll be happy to wait while you collect your thoughts. The chances are they may not even notice. Once you’ve started speaking again, the original statement often returns to your mind.

More Powerful than Um and Ah

3. A pause is more powerful than um and ah

Often we listen to a speaker with an interesting message, only to be distracted by constant ums and ahs. Sometimes it’s a sign of nervousness, sometimes it’s a sign of laziness. Often the speaker isn’t aware they’re doing it. Fillers such as um and ah can become a bad habit. As Toastmasters, we are groomed to listen for these fillers…and eliminate them in dialogue. But they’re everywhere! Celebrities, politicians, friends and family…kinda, you know, uhh..add these ah filers when they don’t know what to say. Silence is a stronger filler than those two silly words. So we’re at a loss for words, stay silent.

Adds Drama and Depth

4: A Pause can add Depth, Drama and Dimension to a talk.

Say it slowly…and with a pause….and the audience will listen with greater intrigue and interest. Let the message sink-in. Engage eye-contact during the delay. These are the subtle effects of a pause. A speech that’s short on time, can likely be amplified and extended by a well-placed powerful pause.

Notice that term “Well-placed.” I recently delivered a speech about Achieving Greatness through Quotations.” The talk was generally well-received …except for one critical listener who noted that my pauses were “unsubstantial.” “Kevin,” he said, “you were simply pausing to gather your thoughts.” Pauses…he went on to say, should be perfectly placed…and terrifically timed.

Placement, Impact, Implications

Indeed, as communicators, we should pay extra attention to the placement, impact, and implications of the Pause. Not only as we write our words and assemble our oratories…but in everyday conversation and interaction. Those small segments of silence can translate to large admiration and appreciation of audiences…who- whether they’re aware of it or not- might hear an otherwise ordinary talk as extraordinary. And that is true Pause Power.

Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.

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