It’s OK to “umm” and “err”!

Not me, not my son

Good news, you umm and errers (ie most of the people I work with on Presentation Skills Training)!

According to researchers at Univesity of Rochester, New York, parents who pepper their explanations of things to their children with “umms” and “errs” are in fact making the explanation easier to digest and signalling that the child should pay attention to what is coming up.

The “umm” and “err” habit is, I find, one of the hardest to break, as it is such a useful tool for avoiding silence when presenting.  We all feel the need to fill the space with sound, and if no word comes to mind, an “ummm” does the job pretty well.

I normally find that slowing down by 10% or so helps people to gain enough cognitive processing time to be able to find the right word ahead of speaking it. It can be a breakthrough moment.

Also converting the “ummm” into a pause is a great solution, as it gives the presenter time to think about what to say, whilst we the audience gain time to process what has just been said:  what you might call a Win/Win!

So now we can relax a little, and tell ourselves that a well produced “ummm” is a signal to pay attention and a valid presentation technique.  And having relaxed on it, what’s the betting the problem will cure itself anyway?  Like many things in life, once you stop remembering not to do something, you stop doing it anyway.

So, err, take off your “ummm  and errr” chains, release yourself to the joy of, ummm, relaxing on this one, and concentrate on the more important stuff such as, err, your audience.

Photo © Yuri Arcurs –

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
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One Response to It’s OK to “umm” and “err”!

  1. Mike Ponting says:

    Mike erm really on point!! I find the power of silence SO much better than an ummmm or errrrr.
    Look forward to catching up soon
    Mike P


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