At one point or another, odds are we’ve all been guilty of poor communication habits – the excessive use of filler words included. Some of us are keen on cramming “like”s and “I mean”s into sentences, while others favor sprinkling “uh”s and “actually”s between every other phrase. And we might not even notice it.
Here’s the problem: It can give the people listening to you the impression that you’re unintelligent, maybe unpolished or inarticulate at best. Sure, if you’re dealing with your family or friends who know you well, it’s not an issue. But in social situations where there’s more on the line – like job interviews, sales demos or meetings with investors – it matters.
That’s why a team of Harvard Business School students – Damola Adamolekun, Anshul Bhagi, Andrea Coravos, Sam Li and Yasmin Razavi – has launched Ummo, an app that acts as a personal speech coach and helps users shake bad habits when it comes to talking.
From their experience in both the professional world and the classrooms at HBS, communicating effectively and eloquently plays a major role in how people perceive not only your thoughts and ideas, but also you as a person. From that observation, they decided to make a self-improvement tool that addresses communication.
“We’re trying to do with speech what Fitbit does with fitness,” Li said.
Ummo was made to increase self-awareness among users about their speech habits, so they can make a conscious effort to correct them. It uses voice recognition technology to record and analyze individual speech sessions, giving you instant feedback on your speech, such as information about your pace, clarity and filler words. The app is customizable, so it can address your specific problem areas. You just enter which fillers and other words – even swears – you’d like to track and Ummo will keep tabs on how frequently you let those select words slip.
For example, Bhagi admitted he has a habit of blurting out “sorry” and “my bad” when it isn’t necessary. He’s planning on using Ummo himself to curtail his use of these expressions to only when it’s really applicable.
Additionally, Ummo’s ability to customize preferences will make the app timeless. Language, especially on the colloquial level, is so dynamic. People’s jargon and speech habits are subject to change over time (like how no one says “groovy” anymore). Keeping that in mind, Razavi said the founders had to think, “How can we make this app serve a market today?…How will it forever stay relevant depending on how the lexicon changes?” and customization was the answer.
Up until now, Coravos said the founders have been focusing on developing an app for consumers, which costs $1.99 on the App Store. After they perfect it, though, they have bigger plans for Ummo. She explained they’re ultimately hoping to develop a comprehensive SaaS platform for businesses to use in employee training and enrichment. And while the startup has already received inbound interest from investors, they’re likely going to continue bootstrapping for the foreseeable future as they work on the app.
Images via Ummo.