Nothing is more annoying for an audience than to be subjected to a verbal tic over and over and over again. Instead of paying attention to your message, your audience begins to count the tics.

Verbal tics include the sounds um, ah, uh, or the words like or you know.

If your message is replete with any of these habitual utterances, you should stop the practice. The best way to do this is to:

1. Record yourself saying your presentation. You don’t need to record the entire thing – just a few paragraphs. [This does not work for reading material. It is rare for someone to um or ah while reading.]
2. Play it back and make note of when and where you add the tic. It could be at the end of every sentence. It may be after every 4 or 5 words. If the latter is the case, then you probably speak in rhythm as well. This is known as sing-song and is a sure-fire method for lulling your audience to sleep!
3. Record yourself again saying just 3 or 4 lines of your presentation. As you say your words, listen to yourself closely. Having studied your playback from the original recording, you know when it is happening. Now you need to listen for it as you speak. This takes a lot of concentration but it is so worth the effort.
4. Play it back and, again, listen for the tics. Were there less or hopefully no tics this time? If not, do it again until you can say one paragraph at a time without the tics.

Your question may be what to do when you are not uming or ahing? Allow yourself to pause. Take a breath, thereby supplementing your air supply, when you feel the urge to um. You may be very uncomfortable with the pause but it is better to have a brief moment of silence than an ah.

[If you find that you are adding verbal tics every 4 or 5 words, you need to stop your rhythmic speech. In this particular case, there is the possibility that you read in rhythm as well. Practice reading out loud with your recorder and getting through as much of the sentence as you can without a pause. Then apply this technique to your spoken sentences, recording yourself as in the steps above.]

Verbal tics are annoying for your audience. You can stop the ums and ahs if you are motivated. Learn to concentrate on ‘how you are saying what you are saying.’

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Voice Dynamic.

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