When the media comes calling, it’s natural to feel nervous and unsure of what to say. So much so, that all that comes out is“um”, “ah” and “err”. So, how do you stop saying these fillers?

Being interviewed is important for successful public relations and bringing you and your business into the spotlight. It’s important that you make a good impression, but you don’t want the public to think you don’t know what you’re talking about or appear less confident in your brand’s messaging because you’re stalling or stumbling.

One of the best ways to stop is to become aware that you’re saying um and ah during your normal conversations. Many people don’t even realise they say it!

Here are some tips to help break the habit.

Practise talking to yourself:

While it may feel weird, talking to yourself in front of a mirror can help you actively listen to what you’re saying and make you aware of your own voice.

Whenever you’re alone, try and have a conversation with yourself. This will help you become less self-critical and feel more comfortable with your own voice.

If you’re wondering what you should say, try asking yourself questions and answer them like you’re being interviewed. Practise being expressive, talking with your hands and using different voices and volumes. Try selecting any conversation topic and talking for 30 seconds on this topic, unscripted. Record it using your phone and listen back to the number of times you say um and ah.

Learn and become an expert on saying your key messages – you don’t want to accidentally blurt out something you shouldn’t.

Talking to yourself will help you talk more confidently, calmly and strongly when you’re out there doing the real deal.

Participate in media training:

Having a media expert help you prepare for an interview is a great way to rid yourself of those ums and ahs.

Media training will teach you how to present yourself in front of the media and run through questions that journalists will likely ask you.

Experts will give you industry tips and tricks to help you perfect your key messages and make you feel confident saying them once the cameras start rolling.

Interviews are a necessary part of PR, so it’s important to keep practising as journalists aren’t looking for just experts, they’re also looking for someone who can engage an audience.

Take your time:

Often, we say um and ah as a stalling technique while we think of something to say. Take your time and pause. There’s no need to say anything until your ready. Sometimes just taking a breath can be enough time for you to ready yourself for an answer.


Experts will also tell you to familiarise yourself with “bridging phrases”. These can include phrases like “What I can tell you,” “That’s a good question,” “Our research shows”. These can be used to link what the journalist has asked you with your key message.

Remind yourself:

Another way to stop saying fillers is to put sticky notes around your work and at home. Write a different filler with a line through it on each note, as this will help remind yourself to stop saying them.

The only thing you can do is to realise what your fillers are and stopping yourself before you say them.