Have you ever found yourself using a lot of these filler words when you have to speak on a stage or to a large audience?
We all get nervous while speaking at some point in our lives, and when we do, we rely on crutch words or ‘filler’ words. We use these fillers so that we get a moment to gather our thoughts and proceed speaking right?
The Problem With Filler Words
Using it too often while speaking jeopardizes the impact you wanted your message to have on the audience. According to an HBR study, there are three main problems when a lot of filler words are used –
To get your message across effectively, the audience must be engaged and must actively listen to you. It’s hard to pay attention when every third word is a filler. It causes friction while listening and leads to your audience being disengaged with you and may not really understand the message you’re trying to convey.
You want to seem natural and authentic while presenting or giving a speech. Even though we use a lot of fillers while having a casual conversation, it causes a negative impact when you bring it when speaking into a microphone. They make you seem inauthentic, nervous, and distracted.
Your audience needs to trust the message you’re trying to convey or the information you’re sharing. For that to happen, you need to be clear and easy to follow. If you’re hoping to persuade the audience to a call-to-action by the end, then trust is the most important factor.
Using too many crutch words will lead the audience to believe the opposite of what you’re trying to convey.
Now that we’ve understood the detrimental effects filler words can have when speaking/presenting, let’s look at how you can avoid using them –
Understanding the purpose of your speech presentation is the very first thing you should do. This is the #1 tip any great communication coach will give you to avoid filler words. It allows you to understand your audience and their perception, which in turn allows you to prepare accordingly. It seems so simple, isn’t it? But, most people never put a conscious effort into understanding the purpose and that is why they feel the need to memorize the whole thing, word to word.
When you understand the purpose, you won’t ever need to memorize it as you will have the clarity and the flow of thoughts while presenting/speaking. It allows you to connect with the audience because it’s easier to resonate with emotion rather than logic.
Understanding the purpose gives you the leverage to adapt on the spot. Let’s say you’ve memorized the whole thing and at some point, you forget a certain word or phrase (it happens we’re human beings after all) what do you do? You panic and start deploying the filler words. But, if you understand the purpose you have the freedom to immediately say something else.
Pausing when speaking is any day more effective than just using crutch words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you suddenly slam the brake and pause in between a presentation or a speech. If you do need a moment to recollect your thoughts – Pause after a sentence or after a slide. Take a moment, it helps you recollect your thoughts and also gives the audience a chance to process the information.
Pausing is an extremely valuable tool in the arsenal for a great public speaker. Think about it, so many of the best public speakers pause, usually before a hook or to time the delivery of a joke. Pauses aren’t the enemy, fillers are!
Preparation is often underestimated in life, not just in public speaking. One thing to always remember when preparing for the big presentation or speech is Never Memorize!
I can’t stress this point enough. Now, when I say never memorize – I mean don’t memorize it word to word. Highlight key points and cues to connect the stories together. Write down certain points you’d like to talk about and memorize these cues and keypoints.
Practice, practice, practice these cues and key points, and understand the purpose – The audience’s purpose of listening to you and your purpose of speaking. This helps you in keeping it natural and making it authentic. Prepare alone, time yourself, prepare in front of friends and family, prepare in front of a mirror to nail down gestures and your body language.
Keep all these points in my mind and put a conscious effort in implementing them when practicing and you’ll see how simple it is to avoid filler words.