Flying Solo Banner

Monday, 03 April 2017 01:58

What are some tips and tricks for removing the word “um,” when speaking publicly?

Written by

Eliminate Filler WordsSome of the previous answers elude to Toastmasters being a good source of skill-building techniques to remove ums from your public speaking.

At my club, Kelowna Flying Solo Toastmasters, we start every member off by assigning them the role of Ah Counter. While speaking is an important skill to learn, listening is equally important. Here is the description of the Ah Counter from our form:

Helping members off their crutches

The purpose of the Ah-Counter is to note any word or sound used as a crutch by anyone who speaks during the meeting. Words may be inappropriate interjections, such as and, well, but, so and you know. Sounds may be ah, um or er. You should also note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase such as “I, I” or “This means, this means.” These words and sounds can be annoying to listeners. The Ah-Counter role is an excellent opportunity to practice your listening skills.


After you have taken the role on a few times, it becomes difficult to listen to television & radio announcers without counting every ah, er or um that they utter. Many public speeches we hear on television from our politicians may seem flawless. The teleprompter may be at play here as when they are speaking impromptly, they have lots of filler words.

Once you become more attuned to listening for them in other speakers, you readily become aware of them in your own speaking. I often see people chuckling when they catch themselves doing it when they are delivering a report at the club. This is one of the first steps in reducing your own verbal fillers.

I find that many people use ahs and other filler words when they are speaking extemporaneously. As mentioned previously, this is likely due to a person’s mouth speaking faster than their mind. If you examine that concept closely, it is likely that isn’t really possible. Your mouth is attached to your mind, not the other way round. The speaker is just speaking too fast for their level. Its like the concept of driving faster than your headlights at nighttime.

While filler words tend to annoy me, there seems to be a trend where stand-up comics seem to be actually using filler words to add to their content. Sometimes it works. Sometimes you have to wonder what they were thinking when they made a decision to communicate in that matter. I find it more annoying than entertaining.

In summation, most Toastmasters clubs will help you eliminate filler words from your speeches as well as help you hone valuable other communication skills.

Thank you for your question.

Originally answered on

Pin it
Rae Stonehouse

Author Bio:

Rae A. Stonehouse is a Canadian born author & speaker. His professional career as a Registered Nurse working predominantly in psychiatry/mental health, has spanned four decades.

Rae has embraced the principal of CANEI (Constant and Never-ending Improvement) as promoted by thought leaders such as Tony Robbins and brings that philosophy to each of his publications and presentations.

Rae has dedicated the latter segment of his journey through life to overcoming his personal inhibitions. As a 20+ year member of Toastmasters International he has systematically built his self-confidence and communicating ability. He is passionate about sharing his lessons with his readers and listeners. His publications thus far are of the self-help, self-improvement genre and systematically offer valuable sage advice on a specific topic. He is a long-time member of Kelowna Flying Solo Toastmasters and is the driving force behind its long-term success. 

His writing style can be described as being conversational. As an author Rae strives to have a one-to-one conversation with each of his readers, very much like having your own personal self-development coach. Rae is known for having a wry sense of humour that features in his publications.

Author of Self-Help Downloadable E-Books:

Power Networking for Shy PeoplePower Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly!

PROtect Yourself!PROtect Yourself! Empowering Tips & Techniques for Personal Safety: A Practical Violence Prevention Manual for Healthcare Workers.

E=Emcee SquaredE=Emcee SquaredTips & Techniques to Becoming a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies.

Power of PromotionPower of Promotion: On-line Marketing for Toastmasters Club Growth


Phone Rae 250-451-6564 or

Rae’s social … are you?


Linkedin? Rae is

Copyright 2015 & 2016 Rae Stonehouse. The above document may be freely copied and distributed as long as the author’s name and contact info remain attached.

To learn more about Rae A. Stonehouse, visit the Wonderful World of Rae Stonehouse at http://raestonehouse.com

From our friends & sponsors.
Click on an ad for more details.