One common way that many speakers can negatively impact their credibility is by using crutch or filler words throughout their presentation. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means the words that we use when we’re not sure what to say next or to buy us time to find the right word we want to use. It’s a verbal hesitation that clutters the message we’re saying to our audience. You’ve heard these words before: um, uh, so, you know, and like (probably the most overused word) are some of the most frequent offenders. Using these words once or twice in your talk is not going to create an angry mob, but peppering filler words after every other word will start to become very noticeable to audience members. And then you’ll start to come across as unsure of your material or unprepared. Instead of using these words that add no value to your presentation, try pausing. Silence feels uncomfortable for some people, mainly because the silence feels like a longer period of time than it really is. It’s a good approach to use for a couple reasons:
1. It gives you time to collect your thoughts and get back on track with your message.
2. It allows you to calm yourself in that brief moment. This is especially helpful for someone who is nervous about public speaking; you can take a deep breath while you relax yourself.
A few other crutch words to be mindful of: actually, basically, and even literally (I once heard a well-known speaker use “literally” in her workshop repeatedly, and after a while – it was the only thing I heard).
Take the time to pause instead of dotting your speech with these words that can minimize your message.
What other distracting words have you heard speakers use?
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