Why Public Speakers Should Cut Out Filler Words

by drjim on October 9, 2012

Filler words are an ugly way to join two parts of your speech together

Filler words are an ugly way to join two parts of your speech together

As we all strive to become better speakers, we tend to focus on the big issues: how to write a great speech, how to use our bodies to connect with our audience, etc. However, it turns out that sometimes it can be the little things that can trip us up. Things like using filler words in our speech.

Why Do We Use Filler Words?

Using filler words during a speech is a bad idea. The reasons that this is bad are actually pretty simple. Once your audience uses their listening skills and realizes that you are using words like “umm”, “like”, and “you know” in your speech then they will become distracted as they start to listen for the next time that you use one of these words.

If they start to do this, then they won’t be able to hear anything else that you are saying no matter what clever presentation tips you use. The message that you were trying to share with your audience will be completely lost.

The reason that you or I might be using filler words is because our brain is running so much faster than our mouth is. As we go searching for the next thing that we want to say, our mouth runs out of words to say while the brain is off thinking up new ideas. Nobody likes to be silent during a speech so we “fill in” the gaps with filler words just to keep making noise. Never a good idea.

How Can We Stop Using Filler Words?

As speakers we want to find ways to stop using filler words. What this all comes down to is identifying ways that we can get our brain and our mouth to operate at the same speed.

One of the first things that we can do to reduce the number of filler words that we’ll end up using during our next speech is to find ways to boost our confidence during our next speech. This can be as simple as reminding ourselves that our audience wants up to succeed. Realizing this make us less nervous and will reduce our need to add filler words to reduce the silence in our speech.

Often times we’ll see speakers who are not prepared to give a speech use many filler words. The reason that they are doing this is because during their speech they can become distracted or uneasy and when this happens the filler words show up in force. Take the time to practice your next speech and this won’t be a problem.

Finally, you can’t fix what you can’t see. Have a friend or a coworker listen to you deliver your speech. Show them what to look for and have them put their hand in the air every time you use a filler word. You’ll be amazed at how often you are using filler words – at first. The nice thing about having a friend make you aware of this problem is how quickly it will go away once you have this awareness.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

We all know about the importance of public speaking; however, even the best speakers can get tripped up if they use too many filler words. Filler words are unnecessary and they distract our audience from paying attention to the main message of our speech. As speakers, we need to find ways to eliminate filler words from our speeches so that our audiences can experience the full benefit of the benefits of public speaking.

There are a number of ways to go about doing this. The first and the simplest is to become confidant about what you are talking about. The next is to take the time to practice your speech enough – in this case practice does make perfect. Finally, you need a friend who will listen to your speech and give your feedback on your use of filler words.

The good news about filler words is that once we become aware that we’re using them, they’ll go away quickly. Take the time to work on eliminating them from your next speech and you’ll be amazed at how much more of an effective speaker you will become!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should have your friend make a gesture each time you use a filler word?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Being asked to speak before an international audience can be a big complement – not that many speakers can do this successfully. If you choose to make the most of your audience’s listening skills and work some humor into your speech, well then more power to you. However, you’ve got quite the challenge lying before you: forget presentation tips, how are you going to make sure that what is funny to you is going to be able to cross international borders and arrive funny when it gets to the other side?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt T October 30, 2012 at 8:31 am

I remember this is one of the first things my public speaking teacher called us out on – using filler words. It is remarkable how much more magnetic and intelligent a person will seem if they replace filler words with pauses in their speech. I’d never actually thought about it in terms of distracting the audience. Thanks for the insight!

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

Matt: You are correct — however, it can be very hard to realize that we’re using filler words. This is where having a good friend who will listen to you next speech and then tell you if you are doing any “padding” can be invaluable!

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