We’ve all participated in more than our fair share of video conferences lately. And, during all those calls, have you noticed that “ummmm” sounds more like “UMMMM” online? This two-letter word can hold you back from landing a point, particularly in virtual forums.

When we’re in person, a million incongruous human ways of connecting cover our stutters and fillers. We remain engaged with one another because we sense and connect with the human in front of us, listening over and through the “um’s”. 

But online, every “um” gets amplified. “Um” breaks a train of thought, distracting the listener online, more than it might if we were in person.

To improve your communication skills and increase engagement, check your “um’s”.


This will be a painful, yet revealing exercise – though it only take ten minutes!

Here’s what you do. Pull up your presentation. Set your phone in front of you, on video mode. Then record yourself presenting your deck. Now, grit your teeth and play it back, counting the um’s. I know… this sucks. Do it anyway.

So, how did you do? 

  • TOTAL PRO: 0-1 um’s within five minutes
  • SMOOTH OPERATOR: 2-4 um’s within five minutes
  • STUMBLER: more than 5 um’s within five minutes

No what? You’re going to love this – do it again. Count ’em up again. And keep doing this until you get to your desired end state – maybe it’s SMOOTH OPERATOR? Or maybe you’re a super achiever and are aiming for TOTAL PRO. Either way, go for it – practice makes perfect!

Photo credit: https://theconversation.com/finding-endless-video-calls-exhausting-youre-not-alone-137936, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/cultivating-connection-reviving-the-lost-art-of-eye-contact-0527155