I occasionally review websites for how usable they are on the UserTesting.com site. I enjoy user interface design, and UserTesting.com also pays for each site you review. It's a nice way to fund my Starbucks habit. :)
My feedback about how to be an effective user tester was recently posted on the site's blog. You can find it here.
I've reprinted my advice below:
Stop using filler words. Filler words are phrases like “ummm” and “you know” that we often use to insert into our speaking to avoid gaps of silence. The best way to remove them is to realize that silence is fine! While it may seem like an eternity in your head, taking one or two seconds to organize your thoughts will be almost unnoticeable to the people listening to your recording.
One reason I wanted to offer advice on using filler words is that I constantly work to remove them from my everyday speech. Even great public speakers occasionally use filler words in personal conversations. I see filler words as lazy mental shortcuts that we use to avoid silence and gather our thoughts. As I said in my blurb above, it's ok to have a little silence!
On a related note, I enjoy doing interviews because they give me a chance to hear my recorded voice. While I personally think my recorded voice sounds strange, I listen to recordings of my interviews to see how I'm doing with filler words. I used to use "you know" a lot, and I've worked to stop doing that. However, I now see that I'm using "right" as a filler word when I speak. For example, I need to stop using right, right? That is pretty irritating, right? You get my point, right?
It takes work to stop using filler words, but it's worth the effort. This is especially important for those of us who are public speakers, but it's also important for everyday conversation.