Old habits die hard. Many of us have been “um”-ing and “you know”-ing our way through public speaking encounters our entire lives, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s something most of us do naturally when formulating our thoughts while speaking, but when the nerves run high during a presentation, our um’s and like’s have the potential to become a potent distraction.
First, do you even have a “filler” problem?
Most people use fillers in their presentations without even consciously being aware of it. It’s something that kicks in automatically when we’re recalling information to speak aloud. While we all dread the sound of our voice, a good exercise is to record yourself giving your presentation, then listen to the recording. You might surprise yourself by what you subconsciously utter when formulating your next statement. Becoming aware of your habit is the first step toward addressing it.
Don’t be afraid of the sound of silence.
No, I’m not talking about the memorable Simon & Garfunkel song, I’m talking about the process of accepting that it’s okay to have a presentation where you’re not constantly speaking. Doing this is the most important step in alleviating your filler problem.
A dramatic pause will give the words that follow it more gravity. If you watch any competition TV show (Like American Idol for example. Yes, I watched it. Lets move on.), then you almost certainly had your nerves wracked by the ridiculously long dramatic pauses of the hosts before announcing the winners and losers at the end of each show.
While a 10-second pause in your presentation will probably seem contrived in your professional presentation, there’s a lesson to take away from the way Ryan Seacrest uses drawn-out pauses to make us cling to the edge of our seats. Unprovoked silence can heighten the awareness of your audience, ensuring that they’ll pay significantly closer attention to whatever follows. So rather than filling your rapid pace talking with fillers, slow down, take deliberate pauses, and deliver your words with added weight.
Lastly, take a deep breath and relax.
When we start each sentence with “um” and begin talking at the speed of light, it’s usually the result of nervousness. When we’re already stressing about the fact that we’re giving a presentation, it’s hard to focus on the little nuances that make for good presenting. So before you step on stage, stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the key things to focus on in order to ensure success in front of your audience.
“Putting Your Presentation before Your PowerPoint.” SlideGenius. December 9, 2013.