Filler Words

Are you annoyed when listening to a person talk who uses many filler words such as “ah,” “uh,” “er,”  “so,” “well,” or “you know”?

Does it impress you when people say “like” time after time? Or do they sound like airheads?

I heard a speaker say “again” about twenty times in an hour long talk. Another proclaimed “as I said” over and over again.

Again, as I said, those speaking habits are, like, really, uh, you know, hard to listen to if used, well,  excessively.

“um” … You?

You don’t pepper your talk with these unneeded sounds, do you?

Are you sure?

One way to know is to listen to a recording of yourself and count them.

At my Toastmasters Club meeting, we have a role called the “ah” counter.

That person rings a bell when someone says “ah” or “uh” and then reports on how many times we were guilty. We do it during all parts of the meeting except the Prepared Speeches.

When I first joined Toastmasters, we rang the bell in all talks, including the first one called the Ice Breaker. As I introduced myself to the club, it sounded like an ice cream truck was in the room ringing its bell.  Or a train going around the track in the children’s section of an amusement park.

It did break me of that annoying habit.

Improvement begins with awareness, and some mental toughness is required to endure what is needed to change.

Toastmasters clubs around the world have different practices regarding if and when the “ah” bell is used.

That immediate feedback has been a benefit to me, and I am grateful it was used.

If you want to have some constructive fun,  purchase a bell at an office supply store. Then listen to your recording and ding it on yourself. I dare you.

Whether or not someone says “ah” and “um” a few times is not the main thing. It is usually a little thing.

But, as we’ve talked about in previous posts, it’s the little things that make the big things possible.

I encourage us to work on being that person who has no or few unneeded sounds in our talk.

  • Filler sounds and words are annoying.
  • Too many of them cause us to sound insecure and unconfident.
  • We need to be aware of them.
  • Immediate feedback can help.
  • Sometimes we need to endure a little discomfort to change.
  • We can eliminate them.
  • They are a little thing, but they do matter.
Here at The Break Out Session, we work on increasing our confidence, connection, and professional presence so we can achieve more, faster, with less stress.
If your organization needs your people to:
  • exhibit better professional presence through enhanced knowledge of business etiquette and protocol
  • be more confident and skilled in basic presentation skills and overcoming stage fright
  • be more confident and effective in answering off the cuff questions in person or on the phone
Consider my programs about:
  •  Is There a Protocol for That?
  •  Basic Presentation Skills for Overcoming Stage Fright 
  • Thinking on Your Feet and Speaking Off the Cuff
See my Speakers Page at and contact me at or 1-859-474-2806.