In December 2008, Caroline Kennedy – daughter of the late United States President John F. Kennedy – gave an interview that helped decide the future of her U.S. Senate campaign. One of the frontrunners for the senate seat in New York, Kennedy had been criticized for avoiding media questions, so she finally sat down for a televised interview. The result was a disaster.

Her performance was almost universally disparaged, in part because her speech was cluttered with filler words – “ums,” “ahs” and “you knows.” One listener counted 27 “ums” and 38 “you knows” in the space of five minutes.

A few weeks after giving the interview, Kennedy ended her Senate campaign.

The example shows how filler words can be more than dead space – they can be deadly. “Using excessive fillers is the most irritating speech habit,” Susan Ward, a speech specialist, told the Wall Street Journal when the newspaper wrote about Kennedy’s media debacle. “They distract your listener often to the point that he doesn’t hear anything you say. Your message is entirely lost.”

Fortunately, filler words can be trimmed from speeches, as all Toastmasters know. Here is how you can learn to cut down on these verbal tics – so that you can open your mouth and not say “ah.”

Building Confidence
Most beginning speakers are afraid of pauses. They believe their audience will think they are inarticulate if they pause to think of what to say next, so they use filler words to avoid the silence. However, a pause is actually more impressive than a filler word. Listeners know that the speaker is thinking, trying to find the right word. They respect this. Sometimes a pause can actually improve a speech, as when an actor uses a dramatic pause to rivet the attention of his audience. A speaker shouldn’t be afraid to pause occasionally during a speech; it shows self-confidence.

Because speakers overuse filler words when they are nervous, it is important for a Toastmasters club to help speakers feel at ease. Clubs should immediately make it clear to new members that when they speak, no one will interfere. Bob Chikos of the Crystal Lakes Toastmasters in Crystal Lake, Illinois, finds knowing this is very helpful.

“I remind myself that I have the floor and that nobody is going to interrupt me,” he says. “I also tell myself that it’s okay to be silent. When I’m collecting my thoughts, I believe I appear more cerebral and deep in thought if I remain silent for a second or two. And I tell myself that what seems like a long pause to me is probably a short pause to those in the audience.”

Brittany Hoff Gill of the Eagle Toastmasters in Eagle, Idaho, believes the way a speaker views the situation also affects the “ah” quotient. “Filler words generally come in when you don’t view the presentation as a conversation,” she says. “This makes you nervous and tense, and then you have a tendency to use filler words.”

Another key to building confidence is being prepared. If you know your topic thoroughly and have rehearsed your speech until it is second nature, delivery in front of an audience will go more smoothly. This certainly proved true for Nadia Moffett, a member of Express Yourself Toastmasters in Tobaccoville, North Carolina.

“I was one of those speakers who used an array of filler words,” she says. “I eventually realized that, for me, filler words were simply a byproduct of not being fully prepared or of not being confident in my credibility or the delivery of my topic. This would make me distracted and uneasy, and the filler words would take on a life of their own.”

To cut out filler words, it also helps if you believe in the importance of what you are saying. Just listen to someone being interviewed on TV or radio. Often they give a poor performance on questions they care little about, casting about for something to say and using lots of filler words. Then they get a question on a topic they are passionate about – what a difference in the way they talk! Suddenly the filler words are gone and instead they offer an animated, forceful response, coming from the heart as well as the mind.

Practice Makes Perfect
Many times at business meetings or public forums, unexpected questions will come up that weren’t anticipated or prepared for in advance. This is when filler words are particularly prone to crop up. Table Topics are great training for these types of situations. You learn the skill of thinking on your feet, gathering facts from the corners of your mind and putting them together coherently. Just like learning a new sport, it takes practice to become adept at impromptu speaking. When Nadia Moffett became aware of her filler-word problem, she took action.

“I asked my Toastmasters club to be tough on me,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Always call on me for Table Topics and always give me feedback.’” It worked.

You can also do drills at home for extra practice on impromptu speaking. Ward recommends playing the “Tell-Me Game.” A week in advance, make a list of 20 topics for impromptu speeches and seal them in an envelope so you can’t look at them again. At the appointed time give the list to a partner, who will read topics and count the filler words during your responses. Start with two-minute responses and increase the times until you can deliver a five-minute impromptu speech with nary an “um” or “ah.”

The Wizard of Ahs 
You cannot correct a problem unless you know you have one. Filler words are insidious because they are invisible to the speaker, but not to the listener. To help members become aware of this verbal clutter, Toastmasters clubs designate an Ah-Counter, who tracks filler words used by all speakers during a meeting and then discloses the results at the end.

“This is really important for a new member,” says Eric Jahn of The Talk of Lincolnshire club in Lincolnshire, Illinois. “They are often not aware that they are using filler words in their vocabulary, since nobody ever counted them.”

Speech evaluators may also comment on overuse of filler words, but all critiques should be presented in a constructive, non-threatening manner – a “building up,” not “tearing down,” process.

When it comes to the Ah-Counter’s role, different clubs have different styles. The London Athenian Speakers in London, England, doesn’t have the Ah-Counter announce how many times each speaker used filler words. “We have found that a more positive approach is for mentors to discuss any filler words, ums and ahs with the speaker after the meeting,” says member Jessica Bass.

Other clubs not only report the filler-word infractions, but go a step beyond and fine their members a nickel or a dime per word, depositing the proceeds into a piggy bank for the coffee fund. To avoid bankrupting a member, an upper limit is placed on the total penalty for the session – say, fifty cents. The guilty party may exonerate himself: Each time he uses the Word of the Day, he is forgiven one filler word.

Does “Ah” Ring a Bell?
In addition to the Ah-Counter’s report at the end of the meeting, many clubs give their members instant feedback. Some have the Ah-Counter ring a bell when he hears a filler word. In other clubs, the Ah-Counter drops a nail into a bucket when he hears a “clinker.”

Some groups encourage listeners to tap their glasses with silverware at the sound of an ah. Brittany Hoff Gill says when she was a member of the Chehalis-Centralia club in Centralia, Washington, several years ago, the club had a novel approach to the problem. “Our grammarians were hilarious,” she recalls. “Whenever someone messed up on a filler word during a speech they would hold up the ‘Jaw of Teeth,’ one of those gag props that you can make chatter on a table by pushing a lever. The whole club would laugh.”

Reminders such as these should be used with care, since some speakers feel uncomfortable with them. Rattled, they use more filler words, causing more bell ringing and glass tapping, causing still more filler words. Different speakers have different personalities, and a club needs to be aware of this and tailor the reminders to the speaker.

“I think instant reminders can be a good idea, but only in an advanced club,” says Nga Nguyen, DTM, of the Harris SpeakEZ club in Melbourne, Florida. “My club has lots of new members and I think this practice would cause them to shy away.”

Melanie Ghazarian, DTM, a member of several clubs, including the Conejo Valley Toastmasters in Thousand Oaks, California, believes that modern technology supplies the most helpful reminder for a member seeking to cut the ahs. “One of my clubs video-records the speeches and gives the speakers a copy,” she says. “This is the best feedback for a speaker – to see yourself in action.”

A Success Story
As the 2009 winner of the Mrs. New Jersey beauty pageant, Ceylone Boothe-Grooms attends many charity functions, often hosting such programs herself. A member of the AT&T club in Middletown, New Jersey, she once co-hosted a cotillion for inner-city girls in Plainfield, New Jersey, an event attended by 300 guests, including local dignitaries and media figures. Just before the event was scheduled to start, Boothe-Grooms learned that the program’s script had not arrived. She would have to ad-lib everything – introductions and interviews – for the better part of two hours!

After the initial shock faded, she felt her confidence returning. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, now my Toastmasters training will come in handy,’” Boothe-Grooms recalls. “And it did. I had maybe five ‘ums’ in two hours. No one in the audience noticed anything was wrong.”

Humorous Speech Contest

img_0236Speech contests are a Toastmasters tradition. Each year thousands of Toastmasters compete in the Humorous, Evaluation, Tall Tales, Table Topics, and International speech contests. Competition begins with club contests and winners continue competing through the area, division, and district levels. The International competition has two additional levels — semifinal and the World Championship of Public Speaking.

Each year, more than 30,000 Toastmasters compete in one or more of the following contests:

Congratulations to our Humorous speech contest First place winner, Walt Hansmann.  Walt will be representing our club in Area U-3 Humorous speech contest at New Beginnings Church located at 4104 E 151st St S, Bixby, OK 74008 on Saturday, September 24, 2016.

Learn more about our club member Walt Hansmann:


Come and Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

Come and conquer your fear of public speaking in an atmosphere of love and friendship. Meetings are also a wonderful way of meeting people in the community who are taking the steps to change their lives! We look forward to having you join us!

We meet every Monday from 11:45 AM -12:45 PM Central at

Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Road
Tulsa, OK 74133

Do You Have Fear Of Public Speaking?

backgroundCome and conquer your fear of public speaking in an atmosphere of love and friendship. Meetings are also a wonderful way of meeting people in the community who are taking the steps to change their lives! We look forward to having you join us!

We meet every Monday from 11:45 AM -12:45 PM Central at

Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Road
Tulsa, OK 74133

Come join us!

backgroundWhether you’re a professional, student, stay-at-home parent or retiree, Toastmasters is the best way to improve your communication skills.  Toastmasters can help you lose the fear of public speaking and learn skills that will help you be more successful in whatever path in life you’ve chosen.  You’ll be a better listener. You’ll easily  lead teams and conduct meetings.  You’ll comfortably give and receive constructive evaluation. If you already have some or all of these skills, you will enhance them in Toastmasters!

Venue Information

Asbury United Methodist Church

6767 South Mingo

Tulsa, OK

Every Monday at 11:45 AM to 12:45 PM CDT

See you there…

Famous Toastmasters

We’re in Good Company

You’ll be hard pressed to find an occupation that cannot be enhanced by the skills learned in Toastmasters. Many well-known people from various fields have been Toastmasters including:

Famous Toastmasters
Carl Albert Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1971-77)
Tim Allen Actor and Comedian
William Bennett Former Premier of British Columbia, Canada
Everett Alvarez American POW – Vietnam War; Former Deputy Director of the Peace Corps and Veterans Admin
James Brady Two-term Press Secretary for U.S. President Ronald Reagan; Author of the Brady Bill
Nancy Brinker Founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; Former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary
Peter Coors Chairman of Coors Brewing Company
Ben Couch Late Former Member of Parliament, New Zealand
Philip Crosby Quality Expert and Leader of the Quality Movement
Carl Dixon Rock Musician, Former Lead Singer for The Guess Who
Mark Eaton Former ALL Star Center for the NBA’s Utah Jazz
Robert Emory Founder, Emory Worldwide Courier Service
Debbi Fields Rose Founder, Mrs. Fields Cookies
Anita Perez Ferguson Former President, U.S. Natl. Women’s Political Caucus; Princeton Lecturer & NPR Contributor
Steve Fraser 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist in Greco-Roman Wrestling; Dir. of Sports Marketing for Domino’s Pizza
Napoleon Hill Best-selling Author of “Think and Grow Rich”; Presidential Advisor
Tara Dawn Holland Miss America, 1997
K.C. Jones Former Basketball Coach for NBA’s Boston Celtics
Richard Lamm Former Governor of Colorado (1975-1987) and 1996 Reform Party Presidential Candidate
Donald D. Lennox Former President, Xerox Corporation’s Information Systems Group
Linda Lingle Former Governor of Hawaii (2002-2010)
James Lovell Former U.S. Astronaut; missions included Apollo 13
Chris Matthews Author and Host on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews”
Harvey Mackay Best-selling Author of “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”
Bob McTeer Former President/CEO, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank; Former Chancellor, Texas A&M University
Hyde Murray Former Republican Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives
Robert Nesen Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, 1970-71
Todd Newton TV Host (E!, USA, Travel Channel, Game Show Network), Life Coach and Speaker
Leonard Nimoy Actor
Paul Oreffice Former President and CEO of Dow Chemical, Midland, Michigan
Cavett Robert Late Founder of the National Speakers  Association; Author
Pat Roberts U.S. Senator, Republican from Kansas
Walter Schirra Late Former U.S. Astronaut; only man to fly in the United States’ first three space missions
Carol Stoker Missouri State Congresswoman
John Tunney Former U.S. Senator and Television Commentator
King Vidor Late Director of Classic Hollywood Motion Pictures
John Young Former U.S. Astronaut



Preparing for a speech is one of the best ways to ensure you give an effective presentation. Try these tips to help you properly prepare:

  • Organize your speech in a logical sequence: opening, main points, summary.
  • Practice and rehearse a speech frequently before delivering it. Ask friends to be your audience or practice in front of a mirror. Be sure to use a timer to help you pace your speech.
  • Become familiar with the stage or the setting where the speech will take place. Get a sense of the size of the stage, where any steps or obstacles might be, and where to enter and exit.
  • Choose comfortable clothes to wear, but always maintain a professional appearance.
  • Visual aids should fit a speech, whether they are funny, serious or technical. The main goal of visual aids is to help the audience understand what is being said, and reinforce the points of speech in unique and interesting ways.