Either we have to give a speech and our nerves get the best of us. Or, we are listening to a presenter who sounds something like this: "We need to, um, focus our attention, on aah, this proposal."
Filler words-um, aah, so, like-are just that. Words we use when we're trying to think of the next thing to say. These "filler words" can make us sound, um, unsure and unprepared, especially under high-stress situations. Filling in the dead air with ums and ahhs can kill your credibility and detract from your message. Rather than listening to the message, the audience focuses on the number of "ums" or "likes" the person uses.
While some of us are aware that we use filler words, many of us would be shocked to find out how often we really use them. Whether you're in a job interview, pitching your business, or simply having a conversation with a friend, reducing the "ums" in your speech will help improve your credibility and make for a more successful meeting.
SEVEN TIPS TO GIVING A CREDIBLE SPEECH
1. RECORD YOUR PRESENTATION
Once you hear yourself saying "um" and "like," you'll start to notice when you're about to use a filler word and can stop yourself before you do. So get out your phone the next time you're in a meeting or doing a presentation and record yourself.
2. PRACTICE WITH EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS
Make a conscious effort to reduce your use of the by practicing in your everyday conversation with a friend over lunch, or while you're on the phone with your mother. Simply remind yourself that you're going to try to get through the conversation without using filler words.
3. PREPARE AND PRACTICE OUT LOUD
If you are clear on the points you want to make, you can stop yourself once you've made them, rather than rambling on and using a ton of filler words while you collect your thoughts.
When rehearsing your speech or presentation, it's important to practice saying it out loud. You'll become aware of where you naturally want to inject filler words.
4. JOIN A TOASTMASTERS' CLUB
A tried-and-true program for overcoming your fears of public speaking and improving your speech skills, Toastmasters assigns a grammarian to each meeting whose job is to record all the filler words used by speakers. Knowing that someone is listening for these words can help you to recognize them in your speech and take steps toward eliminating them.
5. SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Learning the art of the pause will make you sound more professional, and give you a moment to gather your thoughts. When you feel a filler word coming on, substitute it with a split second of dead air.
6. EMPHASIZE A KEY WORD
Supplement a pause with a key word stress. For example, by stressing the word "tax" in this sentence: "Our clients want to talk about the
tax implications of these new policies," our mind has a chance to think about the words coming up next. It also helps the audience to remember the key message.
7. GET NERVES UNDER CONTROL
To get nerves under control, take slow, deep breaths and avoid changing your normal physical behavior. Continue to use hand gestures and avoid locking down your hands as this will just create tension in your body and make you even more uncomfortable, which will only make the ums more frequent.
So, um, the next time you tasked with public speaking, put these tips into practice.