So, you know those, um, small little words or sounds you tack on to the beginning, middle, or end of your sentences? They’re called sentence fillers and pretty much everyone uses them. Some of the most common ones are um, uh, like, so, right, and the list goes on (I’m notorious for using the word so before everything, even in my writing). I’m sure you can think of multiple times they’ve slithered their way into your speech.
Although these words have become a common part of our everyday language, during presentations and when talking with colleagues they can be a turnoff. They may cause others to believe you’re insecure or not prepared to speak about a certain topic. Plus, they’re extremely distracting. There is one individual I work with that uses the word “right” as a filler so often that I actually can’t focus on what she’s saying. Instead, I find myself concentrating on how often she’s saying that word. Even though she’s extremely smart and always has amazing things to add to the conversation, her use of fillers negatively impacts my reception of her ideas.
If you’re one of those people who constantly use a filler, there are ways to change that! The most common tactic is to pause instead of saying anything.
Removing fillers at the beginning of a sentence: Utilize a half-second pause
Removing fillers in the middle of a sentence: Pause very briefly. Think about it in the same way that you pause when using a comma.
Removing fillers at the end of a sentence: Pause very briefly and then start your next sentence.
Utilizing pauses keeps your audience engaged (and not keeping tallies of how many times you said like) and allows you to focus and slow down your presentation. It definitely takes a lot of practice though to change the way you speak. When you have a free moment, practice in the mirror or in front of friends. Each time you’ll get better and better. You don’t have to remove the fillers completely, but it will help to reduce them as much as possible. This way, everyone can focus on the amazing content you’re discussing and not subconsciously going nuts listening to fillers.
Now, it’s your turn! What other tips do you have to improve your public speaking?