30 Seconds Without An Um

This activity was submitted by Dr. Erica Lamm at Concordia University Nebraska. You can learn more about Dr. Erica Lamm here.

Learning Outcome(s):

(1) Students will be able to identify the types of delivery methods used in speaking.

(2) Students will understand how anxiety impacts speaking and how to overcome it.

(3) Students will participate in group activities.

(4) Students will be able to practice their speeches and learn tips for delivery.


Materials Needed: 30 Second Timer


Estimated Class Time Needed: Dependent on number of students. Assume each student needs two attempts or 60 seconds/one minute. Multiply the number of students by 1 and add 10 additional minutes for buffer, instructions, and discussion.


Instructions: Have students sit in rows (or in a circle in the room facing each other), you should also take a seat in the audience. Have each student take turns standing up to talk for 30 seconds about any topic they choose. The goal is for them not to say the word “um.” Each time they say the word “um” the timer restarts. Go around the circle until all students have completed the activity. You should participate as well, this will help your students connect with you.


Note: It may be tempting to allow a student volunteer to man the timer, however, it is best if the instructor do so. This gives the instructor discretion the ability to not restart the timer should a student be experiencing a difficulty.


Critical Thinking:

1) What type of delivery did this exercise use? How was it used?

2) What are some ways that we can reduce our reliance on vocal fillers, like “um?”

3) How did you feel when you had to start the timer over? How did you feel when you completed your 30 seconds without using the word “um?”

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