Filler words are those nasty little words that replace your pauses; pauses that give your mind some time to think about what you’re going to say next. Um, ah, so, like are a few examples.
We all use them (some more than others). Even though they may help to buy you some time, they can be distracting and, in a presentation, break your flow. Removing them will make your speech cleaner and help you to come across as more confident in your presentation.
So there I was, delivering my first presentation at my Toastmasters Club. This wasn’t my first-ever presentation, but the first where someone was actually going to count my filler words! Counting filler words is one of the tasks of the grammarian — a Toastmaster role.
My nerves were on high alert when out of my mouth came an um. One um wasn’t the end of the world, until my eye caught the grammarian adding a check to the tally. It was at that point that I couldn’t stop filling my pauses with ums!
So what’s the cure?
Easy. Take a deep breath before you start. That gives you time to compose yourself. Then, when you need the time to think, pause. Give yourself some time to think without filling the space with a filler word. A pause will add interest to your presentation and variety to your vocal pace. Like anything else, it takes practice. Now that you’re aware, you can start catching yourself.
Spoiler alert! Now that you’re listening for your ums and ahs, you’re going to hear everyone else’s as well!