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Want to Sound More Confident? Stop Using Filler Words

Photo by Amador Loureiro

Um, are you familiar with filler words? They’re like… meaningless words that you use when you can’t think of the next thing you’re going to say. They make you seem, you know, less confident or sure of what you’re saying.

As a professional, however, you want to be confident and well spoken if you want to influence your peers and move up the career ladder. Filler words may be stopping you from getting there. In order to nail that job interview or deliver a powerful speech, it’s important to get out of the habit of using filler words, even the most seemingly benign — ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘you know’, and ‘like’.

Here are few tips and strategies to help you out:

Prepare for Your Talk

Before you deliver a talk or professional dialogue, prepare a list of the major points you want to make. If you know your content, you’re less likely to fumble over words. Knowing what you’re going to say before you say it eliminates your reliance on filler words, many of which we use when we’re speechless, confused, or dumbfounded.

Do Breathing and Articulation Exercises

Many prominent professionals such as Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, use breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety. For example, one simple exercise is called Resonant Breathing, in which you inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. These types of exercises can be used before a presentation, interview, or speech to help calm the nerves and warm up your voice and mouth. Here are some breathing and articulation exercises you can do.


When speaking, instead of using filler as you think of your next point, simply pause. This easy trick makes you appear far more confident than if you start your next thought with ‘um’. Indeed, one common tip for executives wanting to gain influence is to pause more and slow down their speech.

Practice and Get Feedback

“Practice makes perfect”.

Whether you practice by recording yourself or with a friend, repetition helps sandpaper your language and remove excess filler words. One easy way to do this is on our platform, TalkMeUp. You simply speak into the camera as you would on a Zoom call and then get instant feedback on your communication skills, including filler words.

Record Yourself

Recording yourself speak, with audio, video, or both, is a great way to audit your own speaking style. Watching your footage back with a careful eye and ear is a fantastic way to find filler words and improve your public speaking skills.

Give Yourself a Break

Finally, it’s important to remind yourself that you notice your own mistakes more than your audience does. Getting stressed about using filler words or public speaking will most likely only result in needless nervousness and ultimately a worse performance. Before you give a talk, take a deep breath and relax.

Practice makes perfect, but perfect takes time. Be patient with yourself and tackle filler words one by one.



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