Filling is for jelly donuts, not your presentation.
What are filler words? Examples… um, ah, okay, like, you know… the list goes on.
These are the words that salespeople, speakers and trainers say when they are not saying the words that really matter.
An abundance of filler words becomes distracting for the listeners and demonstrates a lack of confidence and professionalism in the speaker.
This of course leads to the natural question: why do we use filler words in the first place?
There are a number of different reasons why we may use filler words. One is because as we were growing up, both our parents and our teachers conditioned us to immediately answer them when we were asked a question. As you can well imagine, often we didn’t have anything to say and when this happened, we’d look for ways to fill the uncomfortable silence. Modern researchers now believe that the filler words that we use are actually our way of trying to communicate with people. Some words may be used by us to hold onto the conversation while we try to determine what we want to say next. Other words may signal either a short or a longer pause.
Regardless of the reason behind your use of filler words, if you want to ensure that your message is “heard” and absorbed by your audience, practice and get feedback from others to identify the filler words you use the most.
Try some of the following tips to eliminate these distractions from your presentations. These tips really work.
#1 – Smile and Make Eye Contact with Someone – It is almost impossible to say um when you are smiling. When you make eye contact with a friendly face in the audience, this also reduces the instances of filler words because it relaxes you and brings your focus back.
#2 – Pause and Breathe – It is okay to be silent for a moment. It is actually easier on the audience when you insert strategic pauses because then they can reflect on what you are saying.
#3 – Close your Mouth – Similar to smiling, if you concentrate on keeping your mouth closed in between sentences, you will be able to eliminate many instances of um, ah, okay…
#4 – Prepare – Practice ahead of time by saying the words out loud and pausing and breathing between sentences. Create appropriate notes so you can avoid brain freeze which is a major cause of filler words. Review your presentation and write a note to yourself in the specific places where you should pause.
#5 – Focus – Pay attention to when you are most likely to use a filler word and focus on one of the techniques above to eliminate them.
Practice these tips in your day-to-day communications so that by the time you’re delivering a talk, they’re grooved in.