Pump Up the Volume to Eliminate 'Ums & Ahs'

Speak Louder to Eliminate filler WordsAll public speakers struggle at one time or another with “fillers.” The “ums” and “ahs” pop up unexpectedly in our tales, stories, and demonstrations.

The most common advice speakers in training receive are to pause – let the words come to you mentally without reaching for fillers. But what if the cure was the opposite?

In “Do You Talk Funny?: 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker“, author David Nihill offers a suggestion for how to erase the “ah,” “eh,” and “buts” in your next speech. His suggestion: speak up.

“By speaking as little as 20 percent louder than normal, you will reduce the number of filler words you tend to use.” According to Nihill, it is harder to say the “ehs” and “ahs” at a pumped up volume.

While it may feel strange at first, but the higher-than-normal voice will seem normal to your audience. It may even enhance your audience’s ability to hear and understand you.

Next time you take center stage at work or in a Toastmaster’s meeting, pump up the volume and see how many filler words pop into your presentation.

Let us know if it works for you!

Happy speaking!


My Secret (Public) Speaking Sauce

Public Speaking Secret Sauce to Calming Nerves“What’s the best public speaking advice you have to offer?”

One of the District 96 Toastmasters I follow on Facebook posted the above question. I didn’t have to think long before the answer popped into my mind.

I’m going to share my secret public speaking sauce with you; the ritual that plays out in my mind before I take the stage to deliver a speech at our Toastmasters club. Ready for it?

I call my mother.

No, not really, but in my mind as part of a mental ritual to calm my nerves, focus my thoughts and connect with my awaiting audience.

Here’s the ritual in full:

1) When the chair calls upon the evaluator to share my speech objectives, I mentally envision myself dialing my mother’s cell phone digits.

2) The chair then reads my introduction, I imagine the phone ringing in my ear, waiting to connect me to my mother.

3) “Please welcome, Weegee Sachtjen.” As the chair calls my name and I walk on the stage, I can hear my mother’s voice, “Well, hello!” She has caller ID, and I can hear the surprise and excitement of the unexpected call from her eldest daughter in her voice.

4) During those few seconds that I take a deep breath and make my initial eye contact with the crowd, I can hear myself say, “Mom, so glad you answered, have I got a story for you!”

5) And I start my speech.

My husband inspired this simple ritual. He heard a practice version of a speech that I wasn’t “feeling.” The speech ticked off the “must haves,” such as gestures and vocal variety. However, it lacked my usual “rompish” touch.

“Tell it like you would tell your mom.”

The stories I tell my mom are nothing short of Tall Tales taken to the nth degree. My family has a flair for the dramatic and embellishments. However, it is also how I connect. It shows my vulnerable and authentic self.

In short, my mom hears all the tabloid stories of my life.

Why this is my best public speaking advice:

1) Speaking Rituals Help Calm Speaking Nerves
Creating a ritual can help ease you over the anxiety threshold that builds up as we prepare to take the stage. A ritual is the shortcut speakers use to fast track their ability to shift into speaker mode. It is a series of thoughts, motions and breathing techniques that help us transition into our speaker stance and confidence. Many speakers refer to “turning on” or “flipping a switch.”

2) A Room Full of Friends Beats A Room Full of Naked People
“Imagine the audience is naked.” Who wants to think of colleagues, coworkers, and clients naked? What if you felt like you were sharing a story, idea or thoughts with your mom, siblings, best friend or partner? It’s a bit more calming and a lot less awkward the next day.

3) We Are Most Vulnerable When We Feel Safe
We share our hearts, struggles, challenges, and triumphs with people who make us feel safe and connected. Imagining that you are talking to best friends or your mom allows your nerves to make the jump that the audience is safe and connected.

4) They Want to Hear Your Story and See You Succeed
Who are your cheerleaders? The ones who want to see you succeed? Who can you say anything too? Your audience. Your audience is on your side. Thinking of them as someone close to you reminds you of this important fact. Yes, it’s a fact.

Maybe calling your mom doesn’t work for you. Experiment with your speaking ritual. Find your own shortcut.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a phone call to finish.



Submitted by Weegee Sachtjen





Naming Your Inner Critic

Naming the Inner Critic - Morningstars ToastmastersIn Toastmasters, we are trained to be great listeners. But there is one voice that could use a bit of the silent treatment.

The Inner Critic.

The Inner Critic is the little voice in your head that casts doubt on your speaking ability. It is the voice that second guesses your word choices or phrases in a conversation. It is the voice that rushes in with “Why didn’t you . . . ” or “You should have . . . ” before the applause even dies down.

It focuses on your weaknesses without offering any props for what you do right.

The Inner Critic robs you of your confidence and leaves self-doubt in its place.

The Inner Critic comes from comments from others or ones we have said to ourselves that have been internalized unchecked. By unchecked, I mean we believe the harsh comments without evaluating their validity or truthfulness. It is persistent negative self-talk that spirals in our heads, keeping us stuck in our Toastmasters journeys.

Last week, one of our newest members, Lowery O., mentioned his Inner Critic in an Icebreaker speech. In fact, his Inner Critic had a name — Harold.

Well, that’s interesting. Naming the Inner Critic.

Does your Inner Critic have a name? No? Perhaps it should.

The best way to break through the cycle of negative self-talk is to confront the statements. Is this the time for critical thinking? Is there truth to what the Inner Critic is saying? If the answer to these questions is no — it is up to us to tell the Inner Critic to pull up a seat and wait.

Or, what I like to do, is send her to the corner until she feels she can join the party with a better attitude.

But the Inner Critic is a part of you. You are addressing yourself.

Naming the Inner Critic helps to separate yourself from the negative thoughts and hear them in a different tone. You would not allow someone else to squash your dreams — hearing your thoughts as if they are coming from a friend helps hear it in a different voice. A voice you can confront.

Evaluate the thoughts for truthfulness and whether this is the appropriate time. Then, confront the Critic.

“Harold, you are not helping in this situation. I will be okay. I will be able to cope with whatever happens.”

The key is to know when to challenge your Inner Critic and know that thoughts aren’t’ always true.

I’ve chosen a name for mine — Ethel. I think this may be the start of a whole new relationship . . . with myself.