A presentation with lots of ‘ums’ and other filler words (I find the millennial generation that I coach use the word ‘like’ A LOT) is not the best that it can be. The odd one here and there is not a problem but too many and a presentation can really lose its professional feel and you can lose your credibility. But why do we do it in the first place and what on earth can we do to get rid of them?
We use filler words because we are not as prepared as we should be, our nerves get the better of us and we just aren’t aware that we are using them. People tend to ‘um’ in specific places. They ‘um’ at the beginning of sentences, in between slides and they ‘um’ when they are thinking. But you can do something about the ‘umming’ and the other filler words when you start becoming aware of them and you start planning to eradicate them. I can remember the first Presentation Skills training course I did myself some twenty years ago. I was videoed, in the same way that I video people on my course, and I ‘ummed’ a lot. Only when I started to work on removing them did I see a change in the professionalism of the presentations I delivered. And now today I do not ‘um’ or use any filler word, instead I use pauses – silence really can be golden.
So what can you do to remove them from your presentations?
- Know what you are going to say. Preparation really counts for a lot in the war against ‘umming’. If you know what you are going to say, you plan it in bite-sized chunks and you are clear on your structure, your mind can be more present and you will ‘um’ less. When you are not clear on your content your mind starts racing ahead and the ‘ums’ become more frequent.
- Look confident in your delivery. Stand tall, look like you want to be there and you will feel more relaxed in your delivery.
- Ensure your content is engaging. If you know that what you are delivering is great and will appeal to your audience then you have no need to worry.
- Know your slides inside and out. People tend to ‘um’ most when they transition from one slide to another – if you prepare for this there will be no need to ‘um’.
- Practice, practice, practice and record yourself. You will then hear where you are most likely to ‘um’ and you can start to do something about it.
- Listen out for the word that might replace the ‘um’. Some people do a great job at losing the ‘ums’ but replace it with an alternative filler word!
Finally speak to me about presentation skills coaching or attending one of my training sessions as I will most certainly get you thinking about them and helping you to get rid of them. Only last week I got an email from a lovely lady I trained several years ago and she said:
“You may like to know that your training had such an impact on me. I’ve been told I never ‘um’ when presenting which was all thanks to that exercise you did with us.”