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Have you ever listened to a presentation where the speaker constantly used fillers such as ‘um’ and ‘ah’?

I once listened to a presenter who for the whole presentation used fillers.  It became quite distracting.  People often use a few when they’re nervous.  However this person went to the extreme.  For every ‘real’ word, I then heard one to two fillers.  Do you think I remembered his message?  No I didn’t.  Yet to this day his fillers are still prominent in my mind.

Many people don’t realise that they’re using fillers until it’s pointed out to them.  Once they’re aware of them they can then work on reducing or even eliminating them altogether.

Impact of fillers

Fillers are words or phrases – such as ‘um’, ‘ah’, ‘you know’, ‘so’, ‘like’ – which are used in a speech or presentation to allow the speaker time to think.

Over-use of these fillers weakens phrases, becomes distracting for the audience and results in the message of the presentation having less impact or even being lost.

Using the pause

In the movie The King’s Speech, there’s a scene where King George VI is preparing to address the British people as war has just been declared on Germany.  His speech therapist, Lionel Logue, is coaching him through the speech and makes the comment:

‘Turn the hesitations into pauses.  Long pauses are good.  They add solemnity to great occasions.’

This is true for any speech or presentation.  Powerful speakers use the pause effectively.

How else can the use of the pause be of benefit to you?

Key points

Pausing after a key point gives your audience a chance to think about what you’ve said.  It brings focus to your key point.

It’s been found that when a group has had time to think within a presentation about what’s been said, there’s a greater chance of later recalling the key points of the message.


Pausing slows down your pace and gives you a chance to breathe so that you can use your voice more effectively to deliver your message.

Time to think

Pausing allows you to re-gain your composure, giving you time to think while minimising the fillers.

Is it easy to do?

Many people don’t feel comfortable using pauses when speaking.  A pause can seem like an eternity.  Our sense of time changes under pressure.  When we’re speaking to a group our rapid heart rate will convince us that a second is a minute.

Your audience will gain from your willingness to pause during a presentation.  The message of your presentation will more likely be remembered and the experience will be more enjoyable for your audience.

You’ll find that with practise the dreaded fillers will reduce to the point that pausing will replace the fillers of the past.

Experience the power of the pause!

What do you think?

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Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the director of Infinite Growth, a Sydney-based company that works with individuals and businesses to improve their communication skills so that they can professionally present their products and services with maximum impact. Her areas of specialty include presentation skills, business writing, customer service and leadership development. For more information about Infinite Growth’s programs visit www.infinitegrowth.com.au

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