Tuesday, 30 August 2016 21:15

Can Toastmasters help me remove filler utterances from my speeches and conversation?

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Fillers like: um, uh, y’know, like, so, etc. If not, what’s some advice for accomplishing this?


Toastmasters International Sample MeetingThe short answer is ‘yes’, it can help do that. However, it doesn’t follow that just by joining Toastmasters you will become proficient at not using fillers. Like any other skill, you have to practice, you have to receive constructive feedback and you have to act upon the feedback.

In my club, Kelowna Flying Solo Toastmasters, I assign all new members the role of Ah Counter as their first official meeting role. I believe that to extinguish fillers in your oral presentation, you first have to be aware of them. After a new member has taken on the role a few times, they start to become aware of them in their own speaking.

To facilitate the ah counting we provide the Ah Counter of the evening a form to keep track of what they hear and make it easy to deliver a report. The following info is mentioned on the 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. It is unnecessary to report someone with no ums, ers, etc.>>

After taking on the role a few times, it becomes difficult to listen to newscasters on radio or TV, without going 1, 2, 3, in counting their uhms, ahs, etc.

Whenever you speak and you are not serving as the Ah Counter you will likely receive feedback from the person who is serving in the role. You may also receive feedback from your speech evaluator if it has impact on your presentation.

While being given a number of ahs etc., that you uttered in a meeting can be helpful, actually knowing when and where you uttered them is even more beneficial. There is value in recording your vocal presentations and listening to it after the meeting. New speakers seem to have problems with dead air time and feel the need to fill it with some kind of a vocal noise.

Many of us use a filler phrase that we are comfortable with, rather than an ah or uhm, odds are we are not even aware of it. Here are some commonly used words or phrases: ‘like’, ‘you know what I mean?’, ‘so’, ‘and’, seriously speaking’, ‘but’. I’m sure that everybody can think of some that they hear regularly.

If you have a prepared speech to deliver during the meeting, it can be helpful to tell your speech evaluator in advance that you would like to reduce your filler words. They in turn can provide you with feedback as to when you used them or not and if it added or took away from your presentation.

Thanks for the question.

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