I’ll be honest when I started off preaching and public speaking in general I was really bad about using filler words. “Um” and “uh” were my worst ones. The problem with me is that in my natural communication I am kind of a slow burner. Any time you ask me a question that requires thought it is going to take you awhile to get to my answer. So to compensate for this I use “uh” and “um” and words like that to fill time.
The problem is I quickly found out this is an absolute no-no for preaching. It is so annoying to be sitting in the audience and hear the speaker use filler words over and over again. Wouldn’t you agree?
Like so many of you I took public speaking my first semester in college. I remember, being a preaching student, I was pretty confident in my standing in the class. I got my first speech back and I had been given a B! I was so confused. What do you mean? I then realized I had a major issue and that was the use of filler words, specifically “uh”.
For my next speech I only changed one thing. My professor recommended that I write “don’t say UH” at the top of my notes. I did and there was already improvement.
But I have taken several steps since then to improve my public speaking, and specifically my preaching in this particular area. Here are a few principles I followed to get rid of filler words in my preaching and public speaking:
This is the natural remedy for this issue. Do you spend hours on sermon prep only to get up onto the stage and drag down your delivery with filler words? If you do then find every outlet for public speaking that you can. Two specific ways that I have been able to practice completely separate from preaching are in teaching and podcasting. Both of these avenues require me to think off the top of my head and continued experience leads to less filler words.
Use Natural Space (Pauses)
Work on your natural pauses. It is ok not to string your words together consecutively for your entire presentation. Actually it is better if you skillfully and professionally incorporate pauses throughout the message.
Don’t Think About it (While you’re preaching)
Maybe this is not universal. But, I know the absolute last thing I need to do is think about not saying “uh” when I am actually preaching. The reason for this is it would distract me from everything else I am trying to do. I would not worry about this issue during your life presentation. Instead, use the first two principles to make it so you do not have to address filler words mid-thought in your actual delivery.
Eliminating filler words from your preaching and public speaking is an important task. As much as it would be great to be able to say, “Oh, you know what I put fifteen hours of study into this so it should not matter.” We cannot say this.
So tell me: how have you successfully removed filler words from your speaking in public speaking? Share in the comments!