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40 Mellifluous Ums and Ahs

This presentation was filmed at TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch:

This speech by Van Jones provides a good example of a good speaker with a few areas for improvement.

On the positive side, Mr.Jones has a rich and mellifluous (mellifluous: having a smooth, rich flow) speaking voice, with great projection.  He speaks with ease to his audience with a friendly voice and manner.

However, in the first four minutes of his presentation, he voices 40 verbal fillers – ums or ahs.  Some of them are barely noticeable, and some are strung together and quite distracting.  One should always seek to replace verbal fillers with silence.  Pauses are a speaker’s friend; in addition to not being distracting as are fillers they give the audience time to absorb what is being said.  In the same vein, Van Jones does not pause between sentences, rushing from one to the next.  That is sometimes a symptom of nervousness, or more likely in this case, often a sign that the speaker feels rushed to fit his content into the allotted time.  There again, the audience benefits from a pause.

It is worth observing the speaker’s use of his note cards.  The notes themselves are quite large and distracting, preventing him from using both of his hands in gestures.  It is worthy of note that the speaker never refers to his notes at all; as far as we can tell they are there primarily as a security blanket.  He could have dispensed with them altogether.

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