Stop Saying "Like" : How to Eliminate Filler Words from Your Public Speaking Vocabulary

Do you suffer from the curse of "ums," "uhs," and "likes" when you speak?

Join the club! 

One of the #1 problems clients come to me with is:

"How do I stop saying 'like' and 'um' in my talk?!" 

In general, I have two ways I like to fight the plague of what I call filler words

We'll cover the first method today, and I'll save one for next week, just to keep you on the edge of your seat. ;)

STRATEGY #1: Beat the Buzzer

This approach is usually best for memorized speeches—and it's a game!

(We'll discuss the tougher issue of eliminating filler words in extemporaneous speaking next week!)

The game is all about creating new muscle memory around your speech. 

When filler words creep into prepared remarks, it's not because you're struggling to come up with the next thought—it's a habitual vocal tic.

So how do we get rid of this tic? 

You may not like the answer...

Here's how to play "Beat the Buzzer."

STEP 1: Grab a friend to practice your talk in front of. 

STEP 2: Arm your friend with either a bell or a bowl of Cheerios.

STEP 3: Instruct them to either ding the bell or hit you with a Cheerio anytime you say an offending word.  

Yes, the first time will be a MESS. 

(Figuratively if you use the bell, literally if you use the Cheerios.)

And each time you get buzzed, you have to start the talk again.

Once you're able to get through the first 3 minutes of your speech without a filler word, you have officially "Beat the Buzzer."

3 minutes is all I ask.


9 times out of 10, however you START your talk is how you will deliver the whole talk. This goes for filler words, physical tics, and pacing as well.

Muscle memory is a powerful thing. 

So grab a friend—and a bowl—and give it a try!

And don't forget to join me next week for my exercises to address filler words in extemporaneous speaking.

(I promise it won't require you getting pelted by food.)


Photograph of Sara Glancy on stairs
Headshot by Jessica Osber.

Sara Glancy is an NYC-based actor and public speaking coach and the founder of Speak Masterfully, a service that helps professionals take the stage with less fear and more fun! 

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