June 16, 2010
“Um, well, ya know, like, consequently, so, uh, know what I mean?” Does this sound familiar? It’s called using “filler” words or saying everything without really saying anything. It is the weakness of many brilliant people when it comes to giving presentations.
So what’s the problem with filler words? Don’t they make pauses less awkward? The answer is no, they actually make pauses more awkward. I once counted someone saying the word “um” 215 times during a 20 minute presentation. Was I paying attention to the content of the presentation? No. I was so distracted with the verbal pauses that I couldn’t focus on what he was really trying to say. You don’t want your hard work to go to waste and fall on deaf ears. Filler words are distracting, interrupt the pace of the speech, and demonstrate poor preparation. Thus, filler words should be nowhere in a good speaker’s vocabulary.
Obviously this is easier said than done. So what’re some ways to kick the habit of lining your presentations with filler profanity? There are numerous methods that work for different people. The one that worked for me is pretty simple:
- Invite some of your friends to watch you practice your presentation.
- Instruct them all to clap every time you use a filler word.
- Wash, rinse, repeat.
It almost seems too simple. But believe it or not, the annoyance and break in rhythm is enough to “scare” you out of using your go-to fillers.
Olivia Mitchell provides another method:
“To be effective at stopping the habit you have to focus on something else – something positive that you can do, as an alternative to um’ing. That alternative is chunking. Chunking is talking in short chunks of words with breaks in between the chunks. When you chunk you get into a rhythm: burst of words/break/burst of words/break….Focus on that rhythm and your um’s will go.”
Whatever your method, you’ve got to, um, get rid of, like, all of your fillers… ya know?