‘Right’ is the New ‘Ummm’

This month’s Rant is all about the new ‘Ummm’.

At a recent business conference, the experienced and otherwise effective speaker had a conspicuous habit of saying ‘… right’ all the time. It was as if she replaced the annoying ‘ummm’ with the equally annoying ‘right’.

And while the vocalized pause ‘ummm’ doesn’t convey actual meaning, ‘right’ does. If the inflection ends upward, it suggests a question, as if the speaker is subtly seeking affirmation and validation of her content. Not exactly projecting confidence or competence. Other speakers I’ve encountered substitute ‘OK’ for ‘ummm’ with similar annoying results.

I offer a simple solution to my presentation coaching clients. Replace ‘ummm’, ‘right’ or ‘OK’ with … wait for it … SILENCE. I encourage them to overcome the temptation to keep making speech sounds while thinking, looking at notes or changing slides and get comfortable with silence. The resulting pauses allow them to do those things naturally as well as taking a comfortable breath or a sip of water.

So, Harness the Power of the Pause and turn Silence into the New ‘ummm’.