Hone Your Skills

How to Stop Using Filler Words In Virtual Meetings

April 26, 2022
4 Min Read

While filler words such as uh, um, like, well, you know, and literally can be harmless when used every once in a while, when used frequently they become very distracting to those you’re speaking to.

In today’s world, virtual meetings have become the norm but can be a little awkward at first if you’re used to meeting with people in person. It’s much harder to gauge the room virtually and that can cause some social awkwardness on the speaker’s part. This typically leads to thinking whilst communicating. And that leads to filler words! Filler words are typically used to pause what you're saying, allow yourself a moment to think, and then continue sharing your thoughts. Filler words are both distracting and not very professional. 

If you’re concerned about using filler words, and you hope to sound more poised, confident, and articulate as you speak, let us help you! Here are 5 ways to conquer the use of filler words.

Record Yourself

A great place to start is by evaluating your speech and recording yourself. This seems obvious, but how can you improve if you don’t even see the problem. You’d be surprised by how many things you can miss in the moment, so start by recording yourself. 

Record yourself in different scenarios! Record yourself leading a meeting, answering a question, asking a question, and making a presentation. If there’s a chance you can do it in a virtual meeting, record yourself practicing it! This will help you later identify trends. Maybe you don’t use filler words when giving a presentation you’ve worked hours on. But maybe you do use filler words when asking questions, and you learn your questions aren’t actually that clear.

It’s difficult to know your weaknesses until you hear yourself speaking.

Identify Your Personal Nemesis

Once you’ve recorded yourself, identify your personal nemesis. Maybe you say “uh” and “like” too often. Maybe, you’re a “so” or “well” kind of guy/gal. Regardless of what your weakness is, you will notice what filler words you say most. 

Consider even keeping count of how many times you say other words. It’s possible you don’t even use filler words, but you say certain words too many times. Just because a word isn’t a “typical” filler word doesn’t mean it can’t become one specifically for you. 

Apart from identifying what filler words you use too much, try to identify when you use these words! What are your triggers? Do you use more filler words when you're nervous, unprepared, caught off guard, or excited? You will notice trends when it comes to the context in which you’re using more filler words and it’s important to be equally aware of these triggers as it is the words themselves. 


Now that you’ve identified your enemies, conquer them through practicing! Practice makes perfect, right? Well, we’re okay if practice just makes for improvement. The goal isn’t to speak perfectly, we are human after all, and we do want to help you maintain sounding like a human (just a more refined human). 

One idea to help you practice is writing down what you hope to communicate. Most people are much more articulate when they write. Filler words aren’t as well accepted in writing and most people know not to use them. Writing also gives you the ability to stop what you’re writing, think, and then continue again when you’ve formed your thoughts. Improving your speech may start by practicing the way you write. Writing helps you put your thoughts into words, and many people can articulate themselves better if they simply write their thoughts down first.

Some people even find success practicing to themselves in the mirror!

Slow Down, or Speed Up

Most of the time, slowing down your speech can help avoid the use of filler words. Practice speaking more slowly to give yourself time to think as you speak. But remember, you don’t want people to lose interest because of how slow you’re speaking. If your thoughts are just racing through your head too fast, slow down and speak at a more comfortable pace for your brain. 

Occasionally, instead of slowing down your speech, speeding up will be the answer. Some people have too much time to think and this could cause more nerves. Nerves typically lead to filler words like “uh, ah, uhm”. If you catch yourself saying these a lot, practice speaking faster to avoid your brain glitching out. 

It really depends on the person what will be right for you. That’s why recording yourself to first determine the problem, is a necessary step before you can know what you need to practice. 

Pause More

Another great suggestion is to pause when you want to use a filler word. It may seem counterintuitive, but pausing is actually viewed as more acceptable than using a lot of filler words. If you don’t have a fully formed thought and you realize that mid-sentence, pause to think, then continue speaking once you’ve got your thoughts together. 

Become More Poised with Poised!

Now that all sounds like a ton of work right? Let Poised make improving your speech in virtual settings easier for you. Poised is an AI-powered communication coach that provides you personalized feedback and lessons by observing your online meetings. And if you’re worried about security, don’t be! Poised listens to you and only you, so your co-workers will have no clue you’re using it (unless you like it so much that you recommend it to them). Poised integrates with Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft teams to make using our software easy and convenient for you.

Our software gives you real-time feedback on qualities such as clarity, filler words, confidence, speaking pace, and speakshare. With Poise, you will also receive a personalized learning plan to help with your weaknesses. If you struggle with filler words and nerves, this learning plan could include lessons such as breathing exercises, intentional pausing, managing nerves, speaking slowly, and more! If you want a plan specifically created with you in mind, sign up for Poised today!

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