Filler words such as um, ah, like, basically, ok and others like them distract others from hearing the points you want to get across. These fillers are merely space holders for the silence that many of us are hesitant to embrace. There’s nothing wrong with being silent during a portion of your presentation as it gives impact to what you want to say, however it can seem like an eternity. Using these silence fillers make you seem less confident, convincing and conversational. To stop using these words follow these guidelines:
1. Videotape some of your presentations. Many times we don’t realize we are using these filler words until we see ourselves.
2. Have others count how many times you use these words. If you join Toastmasters International they actually have a person who counts the filler words for each speaker at their meetings.
3. Take it one step further, and pay conscious attention when you’re speaking in everyday life. You’ll notice how many times you use these fillers and as a result you’ll be more apt to eliminate them in your actual presentations.
4. Once you know are aware you are using certain filler words, focus on not using that word for a period of 21 days. For example, when I was in toastmasters I was caught saying the word ‘ok’ 31 times in a 5 minute presentation. To fix this, I consciously focused on not saying ok for a period of 21 days. By the next meeting I only had one ‘ok’ in my presentation.
5. Pause. Many times we want to put something in between the words we are saying because we don’t want to have any down time. We recommend when you are giving your presentation, pause when you have a natural break instead of adding an um or ok. The quiet time actually gives people time to think about what you are going to say and it adds emphasis to your presentation.
6. When preparing your presentation consciously add pauses between sentences and transitions.
7. Finally, without being critical of others, quietly pay attention to other people when they are speaking whether it is in person or someone on television. Notice how many times they say, “ah” or “um” etc. Consciously paying attention to the speech patterns of others will actually make you more conscious of your own speech dos and don’ts. Remember, the use of these fillers are not the end of the world, however avoiding them will make you appear more confident and professional in all of your speaking endeavors.