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Guila Muir

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Presentation Skills: Can Dreaded “Ers” And “Ums” Actually Be Positive ?

A recent study at Stirling and Edinburgh Universities (U.K.) found that the use of “ers” and “ums” in speech boosted listeners’ retention. These speech boo-boos, called “disfluencies,” actually helped people remember what had been said.

Here’s how it worked: Volunteers listened to a series of sentences, some including verbal blunders and some not. When tested, volunteers remembered more of the sentences with the disfluencies (62% vs. 55%), a statistically significant difference.

What’s going on? Researchers guess that speech disfluencies force the brain to pay attention. Dr Martin Corley, of Edinburgh University, says “It’s like we are saying to ourselves, ‘I’d better pay attention now, because what I thought was going to happen isn’t going to happen!’ ”

Even with this surprising news, most presenters want to clean their speech of disfluencies. And as listeners, we all know how distracting constant “ers” and “ums” can be!

Read more about current findings in Presentation Skills.

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