Everyday, when I turn on the TV or I watch a video on YouTube, I see a talk show host interview a guest while spurting out a flurry of ‘ah’, ‘uh’ and ‘um’ into their delivery. You’ll see this from Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, world leaders to professionals in radio.
When it comes to podcasting, some hosts have a particular philosophy as to how they want their podcast to sound and whether they want to have their delivery sound pristine or more transparent.
Filler words seem to be a huge topic in the podcasting industry and are almost vilified by every amateur podcaster and editor. But there is a misconception behind these words and shouldn’t be confused as a sin.
When we think of filler words like ‘uh’ and ‘um’, we have to differentiate the difference between formal and informal speech. Typically in conversation, filler words are more thoughtful because the speaker is thinking of a question or response that may be more poignant for their audience.
If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and you’re trying to pick your words carefully, and you have to say ‘uh’ or ‘um’ every now and again, it’s usually because you’re probably looking for the right words. Most of us don’t even think to realize we are participating in informal speech when we do this. In turn it becomes a crutch word that we lean on in normal speech.
Good orators usually don’t use ‘uh’ or ‘um’. When you see this type of speech, it’s typically whenever they’re giving something that is more formal.
For instance, a professional speech by the President of the United States may differ completely from a radio host who’s presenting in a very casual form to his audience.
As a podcaster, consider the differences of formal vs. informal speech for your podcast. You may literally have to ask yourself the question, “Is my podcast formal or is it informal?”
There’s a whole community out there of podcasters who believe that you should edit out every ‘uh’ and ‘um’ from the podcast. You have to remember that removing these filler words may be a part of their philosophy. However, it is not mine and I coach individuals to be ok with filler words, however reducing the amount in the podcast.
To me, podcasting is a transparent form of media where you can connect with an audience on a deeper level. When someone listens, they can feel as though they’re in the room with you having the conversation. Having those filler words like ‘ah’ and ‘um’ are completely okay because I consider podcasting as an informal platform.
If you find that you have a lot of filler words and it seems like a bit of a distraction, I can assure you that removing these filler words within your natural speech just comes with time. I particularly don’t like when podcasters feel they need to edit every ‘uh’ and ‘um’ from their podcast because that is not how natural speech is made.
Some podcasters and podcast editors find that editing out ‘um’s’ and ‘ah’s’ justifies the reason to edit a podcast. Please don’t be that person because editing a podcast is more about the structure and sound engineering than it is about removing simple filler words.
The number one reason novice podcasters and editors take forever to edit their programs is because they feel the need to edit every little thing and that is just a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a clean podcast, however, I like the content and the delivery to be more important than having to edit out ‘ah’s’ and ‘um’s’.
Also, if you’re having to edit out those particular filler words, when you hear the final podcasting product, it sounds completely chopped-up and awkward--not like natural language.
There is a term in the comedy world called a “pregnant pause” to drive home a point. The pause usually comes right after one sentence into the next, but holding onto the subsequent sentence util the emotion has build up for the audience that they are forced to wonder what is next.
Once the subsequent sentence is spoken, the audience may either let out a laugh, well up with tears or emote something on the inside.
Let’s say for instance, you want to drive home an emotional point and you place a pregnant pause between two different ideas to get a point across. I particularly would not edit out that particular pause in the case of my podcast guest sharing a story and welling up with tears after telling his/her story. There is almost an immediate need to share that pause in order to gather the emotion into the podcast, I particularly would not edit out that pause.
Don’t feel that you need to edit out every filler word or every piece of dead air that is in your podcast. Anyone who tells you this is someone who doesn’t know the difference between formal and informal speech.
The process of podcasting already is enough. In order to edit all filler words and pauses could take you anywhere between 1 to 2 hours for 30-minute to 40-minute podcast (if you’re a beginner). That’s just unfair to you as a podcaster.
Your time is better spent coming up with better content, not editing senseless words for the sake of editing.
The answer is no.
The only software that you’re going to be using is GarageBand, Audacity, or my favorite, Adobe Audition.
Please keep in mind that I do live radio and nothing can be edited. If podcasters want to be held to the same standard as a radio broadcaster, then they must treat the medium as a live medium.
Does it mean you can’t edit out certain parts of your podcast? Of course not! In fact, I want podcasters to edit, but only edit parts of the interview that don’t make sense to the overall product.
If podcasters want to be held to the broadcaster standard, they will realize that self-editing comes with time in front of the microphone. In my case, it has been 18 years and I still use filler words. I use a lot less, but I don’t obsess over it like I used to.
There’s no way that you can go into the day without having to use a filler word.
I encourage anyone to go watch someone like Stephen Colbert orany of the late night talk show hosts and you can see that they litter their interviews with filler words. But they also recognize their environment and what type of delivery they are giving.
This also means that each talk show host knows when one segment is formal and another is more informal.
Honestly, the answer is called “practice.”
Do it over and over and over until you learn that you learning how to control your thoughts through the microphone.
As an 18 year veteran of being on the radio, I can attest to the fact that I still use filler words in my live radio delivery and do it in podcasts that I do for others.
However, I’ve gotten better at not putting them in my speech when I’m on the radio. This is a form of self-editing that you will need to learn and practice over and over. The skill is no different than having to learn how to play an instrument or learn a new software.
You will have to self-edit without any type of software.
Self-editing is a skill that is learned over time and when you become proficient at it, people start to notice and recognize how well of and orator you are.
Determine what your philosophy is for your speech delivery in your podcast.
Are you going to have a more formal podcast or is your podcast going to be more laid back and informal?
Typically when we have an overabundance of filler words in our podcast, the reason may be that we haven’t prepared or have done research for our program or that we are not preparing a thought.
I encourage you, the podcaster, to do the research on your topic before you go into recording your next episode.
Take notes on your topic and create bullet points for what you want to talk about instead of a script.
If you are an expert in a particular field, there should almost be no reason for you to stumble over words and insert filler words because you know your topic better than anyone else. That is why I encourage you to write bullet points of the sub-topics you wish to speak about and elaborate from there.
Pacing is a huge thing for anyone who is delivering speech into a microphone.
The reason I have all of my students create a bulleted list of sub-topics is because this aides in the thought process while conducting an interview or performing any type of monologue.
As an orator, you have the ability to hang on words and draw out their sounds through inflections and breaths. Most people forget that our thoughts move faster than our speech, so it’s the orators responsibility pace thoughts and speech a the same time.
I’m almost positive that you have spoken a sentence at length while you formulated the next thought in your head.
Think of your speech like a revolver pistol with bullets in 6 chambers. Once you pull the trigger, the bullet is thrust from the chamber and moves toward the target. While this is happening, another bullet has been rotated and ready to be fired out of the chamber.
You must think of your thoughts and speech in the same manner. Always prepare for what you want to say next. The bullet that has been shot is the speech you are placing into the microphone while the one that is in the chamber are the thoughts and research you’ve done in preparation to share your next thought.
Ultimately, I want you to focus on the delivery of your content as opposed to feeling that you sound ridiculous and have too many filler words. If you continue to believe you sound ridiculous, you will never get beyond making better programs.
Telling yourself that you sound ridiculous is an insecurity about a skill that you have yet to master. The last time I checked, it was OK to be a beginner at anything and most professionals will give you a hall pass when it comes to not being great at a new skill.
However, if you want to start holding yourself to the same standard as broadcasters and amazing podcasters, you have to practice.
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