Filler Words

My friend, Gavin McMahon, is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He also writes a great blog on public speaking and presentations: Make a Powerful Point.

Gavin recently turned his attention on filler words. He assembled a virtual panel of experts and asked the following question: “How do you get rid of the ‘ummm’ word?” On the panel were Peter Watts, Lisa Braithewaite, Michelle Mazur and me.

Interestingly, even though everyone on the panel answered the question independently, there is a common theme in the answers: Reducing filler words when we speak is a worthy objective; however, we should not become fixated on them. Things such as content and connection with the audience are much more important.

From left to right: Gavin McMahon, Peter Watts, Lisa Braithewaite, Michelle Mazur and Me

From left to right: Gavin McMahon, Peter Watts, Lisa Braithewaite, Michelle Mazur and Me

[Update: As of January 2020, it appears that the post is no longer on line.]


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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7 Responses to Filler Words

  1. Pingback: Naomi Osaka's Australian Open Speech - Manner of SpeakingManner of Speaking

  2. Jon Gleason says:

    Timely post for me. My wife just told me I’m spitting out more “and, um” than normal these days. And, um, I’m not sure why.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Jon. The ums could be coming for a number of reasons: being tired; too much going on; lack of preparation time (for presentations); or other reasons. I find that I cycle in and out of “umming” and “ahing”. Unless there is an um in every sentence, I would not make too big a deal out of it. Rather, get comfortable with slowing down the delivery and pausing more. The rest will take care of itself.

  3. mikeschultz says:

    Reblogged this on Brinker Toastmasters and commented:
    A variety of opinion on filler words…

  4. Harry W Arp says:

    A Sunday morning murmur: I’m a regular audiobook listener? I get my free classics at, which uses volunteers to read chapters? Amateurs, bless them, so I’m very accepting of varying quality, accents and audibility? There’s one phenomenon that makes me skip chapters however, I think it’s called the ‘Valley Girl Syndrome’ where women volunteers make their voices go up at the end of every sentence as if it was a question? I could deal with a few lines in a dialogue that way, but whole book chapters? See? It’s catching..?

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