Friday, November 02, 2012

Why speakers need a bra

Many people use filler words in conversation. These include "er", "um" and "like". Provided they are used sparingly, they don't interrupt the flow of a dialogue. However if used during a speech, these vocal tics can become distracting and may even prevent the audience from hearing the main message. I've found from working with many speakers that it's fairly easy to eliminate these distractions from a prepared speech, but much tougher to eliminate them from answers to questions. That's when you need your bra. 

It may not be what you're thinking. In this context, I use the acronym BRA to remind speakers of a three-part technique to remove the ums and ers. Here's how it works: 

Break. Make a deliberate effort to leave a break between the question and your response. (You might remember it as B for Breathe if you prefer). There's often a temptation to rush in with a response, and in the moment while your brain is composing it, your voice is saying "um". Pausing for a few seconds is absolutely fine. 

Reflect. The pause allows you time to reflect on your answer. There are no prizes for answering quickly. The idea is to give a valuable and appropriate response, and that requires a few seconds of reflection. 

Answer. Once you know what your answer is, deliver it in a seamless manner. Giving yourself a moment to breathe and reflect will also make your answer flow more easily, since you will have time to compose a full response, rather than starting before you know how to finish.

In short, when you need support to eliminate those ums, use a bra.


Suzan St Maur said...

Excellent point Alan - I often find that some of the most interesting discussions with an audience happen during the Q&A session, if only because it's interactive rather than a one-way monologue. I have taken careful note of your advice and will make sure I use it next time!

Claire Boyles said...

another good "filler" would be to say (If it's true)

"excellent question..."

you can follow that with a clarification/mirroring statement too- this gives more thinking time.