Friday, 11 March 2011

The art of the umm

Have you ever considered why we put an umm into our conversation? or like me, are you irritated by presenters who constantly utter an umm or err between sentences? There is a reason for the humble umm or voiced pause as the experts like to call them.

It stems back to the way we learn to hold a conversation, when we aren't finished, but need a little thinking time, we let our fellow conversationalists know that we haven't finished by filling the uncomfortable pause with a voiced pause. This voiced pause lets people know we haven't finished and stops people from butting into our airtime. The problem is, it doesn't quite work when you are presenting, yet how do we re-wire our brains to stop it?

Learning to stop using voiced pauses and replacing them with silent pauses takes time, but well worth the effort. Experts say that pauses however brief should be introduced every 6-9 words (depending on the audience and subject), but certainly when there is a natural break in the subject matter, or when there are key points to make.

How long should your pause be? as professional conversationalists, anything over half a second will be noticed, and as a presenter, anything up to three seconds will make a real impact. It may seem like an eternity, but it gives the audience time to digest the killer point that you have just made.