Being in Toastmasters I’m sensitive to the “Umm’s” & “Ahh’s” uttered in a speech. I and the other speakers get evaluated on them.
Yet, they can help to maintain a flow, and; how they are used can reflect and honor the rhythms you’d expect from a unique personality. It’s when they’re pauses for blank mental spaces on the subject matter or speech that it’s bad.
This guy is pretty good. Knows his subject matter, sounds passionate about it, and is graceful.
On this talk I stopped counting at 11 ahhs and umms, but they go by almost unnoticed and didn’t feel like mental blanks. I think sometimes they work like a sort of metronome for a skilled speaker, or like a momentary pause to insure accuracy in their next statement. I can’t begrudge them for that, I appreciate their concern. Used occasionally, I don’t think it’s such a huge speaking sin.
Same for the momentary hands in pockets. It helps you relax for a moment. It may reflect fear and insecurity if you’re digging into your pockets reaching for your kneecaps, but resting your arms from just hanging I think is a rather natural gesture. I’ve seen men wearing a blazer rest by holding their jacket at the button and buttonhole edges. It may look cooler and more poised but it’s still a rest from hanging arms, and I don’t think they get gigged for that. How about sticking your thumbs in your belt?
I saw a picture of some English and American Politicians posing in groups. In one group all the men had their hands clasped dangling in front of their crotches, in the other group all the men had their hands clasped behind their back. The question was asked; what were they protecting and why? Not to mention who was who. I don’t remember. Ummm, not sure why I bring that up.
There are gestures that are useful to convey emphasis and drive, the steeple, the hands is askance, the pointing, but if overused they can be as bad as any hands dug into pockets.
What about women wearing dresses, what can they do for an arm rest? Well I notice mostmen will stand square while many women will naturally pose in what’s called a “model’s T” feet shoulder width apart, one foot in front of the other front one pointing ahead while the back one facing laterally. Even if they have their arms dangling, they seem more relaxed with it than the men.
What I think is that the ahhs and umms, as well as the resting use of the arms, are indicative of the unique person before you. Unless they obviously bespeak lack of subject matter knowledge or lack of confidence, a few of them should not even be counted against you. If everyone got zero ahhs, ums, and stood like a statue they’d be robotic and dry. In a speech I don’t want just the words, I want the speakers personality to come through, through their vocal variety, tones and inflections, grammar, posture, rythyms, facial expressions, all of it.
Part of why we go see or listen to a speaker is not just to get the information but to know the speaker. It’s a good talk.