Too many ums or other vocalized fillers can ruin a speaker's credibility



Stop the Ums

and Boost Your




After the presidential election in 2008, Caroline Kennedy gave up her short-lived attempt to be appointed to replace Hillary Clinton as U.S. Senator from New York.

While several factors led Kennedy to withdraw her name from consideration, one of her biggest problems turned out to be weak speaking skills. In her responses to interview questions by various New York media outlets, Kennedy consistently repeated the phrase “You Know” every couple of seconds in three separate interviews.

In a 2008 interview with the New York Times, Kennedy said “You know” 142 times (Count them yourself at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/nyregion/28kennedytranscript.html.)

Also, in a 30-minute interview with the New York Daily News, she said “you know” more than 200 times. The Daily News also commented that Kennedy “You knowed” more than 80 times in an interview on a local New York City television channel. (See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/caroline-kennedy-no-whiz-words-article-1.355586)

The reaction is seen in Google search results on the right (Note: search results have been edited to save space.)

Caroline Kennedy is not alone. Many speakers struggle with this problem.

Poor presentation delivery can damage your credibility with an audience. This post discusses a common delivery blooper called vocalized pauses, which if not fixed, can have a serious negative effect on how your audience will judge you. A simple and easy yet highly effective solution follows.

How Vocalized Pauses Affect Your Speaking Credibility

Vocalized pauses, including “you know,” are sounds some speakers make in between thoughts when they’re thinking about what to say next. Here’s a list-to the left-of common vocalized pauses (also known as vocal fillers, disfluencies, bad pauses, and junk words).

In this post, I’m focusing on um because it’s the most frequently used vocal pause. Also, these fillers are often called “bad pauses” to distinguish them from silent pauses. Silently pausing during a presentation can very effectively emphasize important ideas and concepts.

Ums become a problem because saying one of these filler words repeatedly can affect your credibility with an audience, as Caroline Kennedy found out.

When you feel yourself about to say um, pause, remain silent
and resist the urge to make any sounds until you think of your
next real words.

Replace Vocal Pauses with Silent Pauses

  1. Right before you feel yourself about to say “Um,” or another vocal pause, stop and silently think to yourself what are the next “real” words you want to say.
  2. Say these real words! (This pause will only take a fraction of a second and an audience typically will not notice the silence.)
  3.  The next time you feel the urge to “Um,” which will almost certainly happen shortly after the first one, simply pause again and repeat the above steps
  4.  Keep repeating the above process as often as needed when the urge to “Um” strikes again!
  5. Soon, pausing will become second nature to you, and these fillers will go away!
  6.  If the problem does recur, simply repeat above steps.

That’s it. Your ums will be a thing of the past.