You don’t notice when people don’t say “um” and “uh” and “you know.” When they do, though, they can really interfere with listening because they break the flow. Those are the obvious “vocalized pauses,” but there are others that will interfere for a different reason, and they can be even harder for a speaker to notice and eliminate.
There is a bit of wisdom that sticks with me from childhood, from Ecclesiastes 4:12, that says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Even if you don’t do a lot of manual labor (I certainly don’t), you still know that a typical rope isn’t just a bunch of threads. It consists of fibers twisted into yarn, yarn twisted into strands, and strands twisted into lays. A typical rope consists of three lays.
Take a look at this article from The Art of Manliness blog. Yes, it’s gender-centric. But the advice is good for anyone, and really is more properly focused toward men. As the article notes, men are much more likely to use filled pauses (ums, uhs, etc.) than women.
I’ve read a few posts lately mentioning that eye contact is hard for a speaker, even experienced ones. (One place I just saw it is in the very good article “5 Public Speaking Tips that Build Relationships.”) I agree! But I also want to push a little beyond the initial resistance we have to it.
As Dr. Michelle observes, “Making eye contact allows you to connect with your audience.” The emphasis here is on genuine contact. The old saws about picking out a spot on the back wall or looking at their foreheads do not work simply because they don’t establish contact. While the idea of contacting a stranger that intimately seems threatening at first, once you do you’ll discover something very pleasant: there is no such thing as an audience! Continue reading “Eye contact helps overcome stage fright”