Okay. So, like, you know what I mean?
We hope this sentence made you cringe, but we fear it didn’t. So often we sit in conferences or presentations and hear speakers stumble over their words, filling in what would traditionally be a pause with a series of ums, uhs, kind-ofs, likes or you-knows. It’s become so common, many of us hardly even notice the pervasiveness of verbal fillers anymore.
See if you get a better feel for the problem from Taylor Mali’s famous poem, Totally, Like, Whatever, You Know.
Now do you see it?
Using verbal fillers discounts your authority. Your speech is a critical component of the impression you leave on others -- make it count! By actively removing verbal fillers from your speech, you begin to sound more authoritative and prepared.
Here are our tips to improve your speech before your next presentation, interview or meeting:
Once you realize you are doing something, it’s easier to stop. Acceptance is the first step and denial is just a river in Egypt. Ask a trusted friend or coworker to let you know when they notice you using filler words. Record a practice presentation to see first hand what fillers you may be using. Once you know your weak spots, you’ll be able to feel the filler coming, and hopefully stop it with a pause.
Silence is golden. Although it may feel awkward, pausing while speaking is a great tool to allow your listeners to process what you have just said. If you get stuck on a word or lose your train of thought, stop instead of fill. Pausing is one of the best tools in professional speaking and often the most overlooked.
If you’re getting ready for a presentation or interview, study up and take notes. If you go in knowing what you want to say you are far less likely to stumble. Avoid over-packing during your preparation. If you have too much to say you could get lost and feel the need to use fillers.
Practice speaking in shorter sentences during your daily life. This habit will prevent rambling. We tend to ramble when we lose our train of thought and then we reach for our old friends, the fillers. Work on using forceful sentences with just one subject and one verb.
Know Your Stuff:
If you really believe in the message you are sharing, you won’t be as inclined to look to filler words for help. Do research, talk to others and practice your pitch. All of these things will help you to believe in your message and eliminate the need for fillers.
By slowing down your speaking pace, you are allowing your brain more time to catch up with your mouth. Understand how much time you have to say what you want to say and be realistic about how much you can pack in. Allow time for pauses, if you know they are coming, they won’t catch you off guard.
BONUS: Speaking slower will also make it easier for your audience to understand.
The Bottom Line… Using filler words is detrimental to your message. By being aware of the fillers you use when your brain gets stuck and employing tools to prevent using filler words, you can be a smooth and suave speaker! The more you practice better speech, the more it will filter into your everyday life.