Flip the Fillers

Ayesha isn’t usually bumbling. She rarely sounds uncertain. However, as soon as she’s presenting, certain words creep into the pauses.

She didn’t even realise that she said, “Right?” at the end of a sentence until a colleague pointed it out.

In fact, nearly every sentence was punctuated in the same way.


Public speaking is a powerful skill that can propel your professional success to new heights.

However, even the most seasoned speakers occasionally find themselves plagued by annoying speech fillers that diminish the impact of their message.

If you still have the odd ‘um’ or ‘uh’, it’s no big deal.  However, when they regularly appear, these fillers detract from what you’re saying.

Verbal crutches, such as “um,” “like,” and “you know,” can disrupt the flow of your presentation and undermine your credibility.

Fear not for in this post, I’ll unveil the most notorious speech fillers and equip you with practical techniques to eradicate them from your vocabulary.

Get ready to captivate your audience with fluency and finesse!

How to get rid of annoying speech fillers

1.”Um” and “Uh” – The Silent Assassins:

The treacherous duo of “um” and “uh” are perhaps the most common speech fillers encountered in public speaking.

These insidious fillers often creep into our speech when we pause to gather our thoughts or search for the right words. To eradicate their presence, try the following techniques:

a) Increase your Awareness: by actively monitoring your speech patterns, you can catch yourself before the dreaded fillers slip out.   You can do this by recording and reviewing a section of yourself speaking (maybe about a minute), identifying the moments when you tend to rely on “um” and “uh,” and consciously work on eliminating them.

b) Embrace the Power of Silence: instead of resorting to “um” or “uh,” use this exercise here to practise a purposeful pause so that you can gather your thoughts. This not only allows you to appear composed and confident but also gives your audience time to absorb your words.


2. “Like” – A Linguistic Culprit:

The notorious interjection “like” has stealthily infiltrated the modern English lexicon, often finding its way into our sentences without much thought. Although it was a copycat of Valley girl speak, it is, in my opinion, one of the three most annoying vocal mannerisms to have popped up recently.

To curb its excessive usage, consider the following strategies:

a) Expand your Vocabulary: include alternative expressions that accurately convey your intended meaning. Then you won’t need to say ‘like’ because it ‘is’.

Engage in regular reading and expose yourself to a variety of written works to enrich your linguistic arsenal.

If you can’t stand reading, then listen to the radio, podcasts or watch one of the better documentaries out there.

Whichever source you use for expanding your vocabulary, make sure you use that vocabulary.  Whenever I’ve had to teach myself another language, I’ll drop a new favourite word into a conversation, because if you use it you don’t lose it.

Ordering a kebab became a strange experience when I’d drop the word ‘migration’ into an order, but it was for my benefit, not theirs 😉

b) Deliberate your Speech: consciously make an effort to speak deliberately, avoiding the tendency to use “like” as a filler. Share at least a short section of your presentation, in a conversational way, beforehand, paying particular attention to moments when you might be prone to using this filler.  That way, you’ve another pair of ears to pick up any extraneous use of ‘like’.


3. “You Know” – A Connector Turned Filler:

“You know” is a seemingly innocuous phrase that has transformed into an often-repeated filler, bridging gaps in conversation but contributing little to its substance. Break free from this habit by adopting these techniques:

a) Spy on yourself:  You could ask a friend if you’re using this as a filler.  Their awareness will increase yours. Recording yourself in conversation with someone – as if you were spying on yourself – can also be effective, but only if you actually brace yourself for that 10 second playback!

b) Get another pair of ears: Enlist the help of a trusted colleague or mentor to provide feedback on your presentation skills. They can help pinpoint specific instances where “you know” is used excessively.



Mastering the art of fluent public speaking involves eliminating the distracting speech fillers that hamper the delivery of your message.

By implementing the strategies outlined above, you can confidently bid adieu to the likes of “um,” “like,” and “you know.”

Remember, practice makes perfect, so hone your skills through regular presentation opportunities, and ensure you’re using new words so that you can describe more accurately what you mean.

As you become more conscious of your speech patterns and employ techniques to eliminate fillers, you’ll cultivate a commanding presence that captivates your audience, leaving them hanging on your every word.

Happy speaking!


Your Action Steps:

  1. First off, see if you can detect any speech fillers you may be using.  We can pick them up from the people around us too, so you may have adopted a new one recently!
  2. If you’re aware, you’re halfway there: get comfortable dropping fillers sooner by doing the exercise above on getting comfortable with the pause.
  3. You can always ask someone you know well for feedback.  Ask them if you use any of these fillers and request them to point out when you’re using them.  They don’t need to do it all the time, only once or twice, to raise your awareness.
Got a team that needs help with how they speak in public?  Do they need to improve how to steer people and have others get stuff done – whilst retaining rapport?
If you recognise any of these challenges, book a 15 minute free Discovery Call with me, Frankie Kemp.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

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