Um. So I am going to like tell you a little about a challenge in speaking that is sorta like a big issue. But like most people are like super annoyed by it. And ... um ... well ... I can understand why because it's sorta like a problem when it comes to - you know - sounding well like credible.
Now that I've sufficiently tortured you, let's cut to the chase.
Filler words, also called verbal segregates, are a part of everyday speech. We hear professionals use them ... even anchors and reporters use them. We use them all the time, and it's not that the mere use of them is a bad thing; it's problematic when you use them too often, which can weaken your message and, as a result, incredibly diminish your credibility. A repeated use of them makes you sound unsure and makes you look less confident.
It is not recommended that you completely eliminate all filler words from your vocabulary as you will learn in the first suggestion below. In all honesty, (and yes, that phrase is one of my fillers!), the use of filler words makes you sound human! Therefore, you have to decide how many of them is too many to have and use, which ones you want to eliminate, then how to go about doing just that. And this post has you covered on all fronts so your credibility is no longer getting crushed but is instead rock solid. Let's do this!
1. Decide which filler words you want to eliminate.
Try to stay away from the idea of getting rid of all filler words from your vocabulary. That can feel like (and BE!) quite a feat! Listen to a recording of yourself, and as you listen, determine if there is one or two filler words you use in heavy rotation, then decide you will focus on eliminating it/those from your vocabulary.
2. Slow it down.
We think faster than we speak. As such we often say "um," "uh," and "like" when our minds are working to catch up to our mouths. The fix is to speak more slowly. Not only does this help with eliminating filler words but it also helps you sound more articulate.
3. Pause, and say nothing.
The next time you feel a filler word about to make an appearance, pause and say nothing. Seriously. No one will even notice. It will come off as a contemplative pause or a pause for effect or drama. It can be really slick! Bear in mind, this technique works best at the start or the end of a sentence rather than in the middle. If you pause in the middle for more than a half a second or so, it can confuse people and cause them to think something's wrong (with you!). Start practicing this by simply pausing after every sentence you say; this gets you accustomed to the idea of this silence that may initially seem weird and awkward but that is not even a big deal!
4. Look your listener in the eyes.
Think about this one. And it's really wild, but think about it. When you stare into someone's eyes, it's awkward to say "um." Therefore, and it's simply good practice, make great eye contact when you speak, and as such, you are less likely to use filler words.
5. Prepare and practice for upcoming meetings and presentations.
Using filler words in professional settings can make you look and sound unprofessional. The key here is to prepare. If you're leading a meeting, then plan the transitional phrases you will use. Consider "let's move on to ..." or - and I like to use this one - "excellent" to reduce the likelihood you'll say filler words.
Now if you're making a presentation, then you can avoid filler words by chunking; this is where you say chunk of words, breathe (which helps with voice projection), then say another chunk of information. What's happening here is you are forced to slow down your speech, and you are developing a rhythm. Doing both makes you less likely to get lost and less likely to go in search of a filler word.
6. Use your entire body when you talk.
When you cannot move your hands as you speak, you feel restrained and less confident about your message. Consequently, when you feel less confident about your message, you tend to use more filler words. So get that head a-movin' and those hands to flailin'! I'm kidding, but seriously; use your body to your advantage when you speak. Gesticulate as you speak to punctuate your words, to tell your full story, and to put confidence in your words. (Here's an outstanding source to help you determine what to do with your hands when you speak!)
7. Project your voice.
When you project your voice, you project confidence. When you project confidence, you are less likely to use filler words. Think about it: Would you fill the bottoms of your lungs, then loudly and energetically say "uh"? LOL! Not likely. It doesn't feel (or sound!) right. So you won't do it if you are projecting your voice.
8. Make it a habit.
Meetings and presentations are not the only places where you can/should consider eliminating your use of filler words. If you make it a habit to reduce your usage of them and to focus on always being an effective communicator when you are in social settings, out and about, running errands, and the like, then it becomes far easier to not use them when you are in those professional settings. So when you're at the grocery store, post office, or bank talking to the cashier, mail carrier, or teller, use the 7 techniques above. And when you do that then take to the stage, it's far easier to not use filler words!
Did you ever wish you could get personal and helpful guidance on improving your presentation skills? Get on the phone with Bridgett for a complimentary 45-minute call to learn how to start making your presentations amazing once and for all! Schedule your call here. It will be the best 45 minutes you have ever spent working on your presentation skills. I guarantee it!
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