For you, as a listener, what’s easier to understand?
“I… went… to… the… store…”
“Uhhh, I, uhhh… went, uhhh… to, uhhh… the, uhhh… store, uhhh.”?
Which one was easier to understand? Probably the first one, right? Both of them took the same amount of time — the first one wasn’t any faster — but the first one was a lot easier to understand.
Your audience members don’t like “uhh’s.” We call them “filler words,” words or sounds that mean nothing. They make it hard to listen. If you use a lot of filler words, people describe you as “tiring,” and “hard to understand.”
So we’d love to get rid of those filler words, right?
But ask around, ask a bunch of people why they say uhh, and 9 out of 10 of them will say, “Because I need time to think.”
Thinking is good. There’s nothing wrong with thinking. Audiences love listening to people who think.
So what if there was a way to get rid of the uhh’s, but still give you time to think?
The answer is yes, there is a way, a couple of ways actually, and I’m going to show one of them to you right now.
It’s speak slowly. Breathe. Watch this example:
The point of this exercise is to become comfortable with pauses, comfortable with speaking slowly.
Of course, you’re not going to talk like this in real life, in front of other people. But this isn’t real life.
You’re just practicing alone. You’re alone in a room by yourself.
When one of our clients tries this we ask them, “How did it feel?”
Usually they look at us, and they’re unsure, and they say, “Boy, that felt really slow, I don’t want to sound stupid. I feel like if I talk fast, people will think I know my subject.”
But then we turn around, and we start asking the audience members, “How did that feel for you?” And pretty much every time, they say, “The slower version was so much easier to listen to, AND I felt like the speaker must know their subject really well, they seem like they’re in better command of their thoughts.”
Let me say that again: The speaker thought they sounded dumb. But the audience had the opposite reaction. The audience thought the speaker knew their subject better.
Remember, the audience is the one that matters. They’re the ones whose opinion matters the most.
So when you’re speaking, go slow. Breathe. Go slow. Breathe. Think during the silence; your audience needs you to give them time to think, too.
About Matt Krause
Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, Bucharest, and Sofia for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.