Penny HaslamBlog, Coaching & training, Make Yourself a Little More Confident, Your speaking, Your visibility

I received an email with an agony aunt style question this week, from someone who’d attended one of my half day sessions for boards, about stepping up as ‘brand ambassadors’. She wanted helps with a common problem that occurs when we speak, and she’d noticed it while watching herself back on video.

When you notice something about the way you communicate, a tic – either verbal or non-verbal – when you’re talking in front of groups of people, or on camera, it can start to become a big thing.

  • You might realise that you put your hand in your pocket or on your hip, or that you touch your nose, a lot.
  • Or you pick up on the fact your voice rises at the end statements? Like you’re asking a question, but you’re not even Australian?
  • And there’s the problem of the erm.

It was this last habit, that she wrote to me about. And it can be a problem, as erm-ing too much makes you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Imagine an erm-ing political leader, they just wouldn’t get elected and into office would they? (Discounting ones that get into office, having never been elected – ooh, get me). The thing is, you do know what you’re talking about, so any erm-ing could really do with being cleared up.

Here are four steps to ridding yourself of verbal tics, like erms, that hamper your success as a communicator.
  1. Get a second opinion. Invite a friend or colleague to ‘vet’ your video or listen when you present, but don’t tell them what’s on your mind. Do they notice it? And if not, is it actually a thing or have you started focusing on it unnecessarily?If they concur that it’s a ‘thing’, then it’s worth concentrating on this particular aspect to change it – but do so with kindness, so you don’t get cross with yourself when you do hear an erm, or similar.
  2. Be sure of your content. An erm is simply a verbal delay tactic for the brain. It could be you’re not entirely sure of your content, or comfortable with speaking in public or using video, just yet.The brain is fetching for information and tee-ing up what’s next – and so needs a pause to do that. You can then consciously replace the erm with something else…ideally silence…then you’re giving your brain what it needs, while appearing sage at the same time.
  3. Be clear. Make sure you’re super clear on what you’re going to say – does your message make sense to you, does it flow? Content is king for sure, but clarity is queen for the brain, when you’re under pressure.
  4. Up your energy. Is your energy dialled up well enough so you are speaking at pace, or are you verbally dawdling? Pace doesn’t mean ‘speed, but erms and other gremlins tend to come out when we’re ponderous. By keeping your energy upbeat when you’re ‘performing’, you can push past any brain delays that cause the erms in the first place.

If you’ve got a #bitfamous problem you’d like advice on, drop me an email on and I’ll feature it here.