What are filler words? These are words such as ‘um’, ‘ah’, ‘er’ that are used when delivering a presentation. Filler language usually comprises of longer phrases such as “Does that make sense?” as this HBR Mangagement Tip says.
There is a lot that has been said about filler words and language in presentations. They tend to distract the audience. Repeatedly using fillers won’t make the presenter look good.Jerry Weissman in this HBR article explains why you should not use phrases such as “Does that make sense?” or “I’m like…” when presenting. He says that such expressions can depict Uncertainty or Doubt in a presentation. Some suggest that fillers can also ruin delivery.
However, fillers are not always bad. You need to be an extremely talented, trained and a highly experienced speaker to give a speech without fillers. Many times, audiences may not even notice the use of an occasional filler word such as ‘um’. In our everyday speech, we do tend to use ‘um’ and ‘er’ regularly, so it is natural that these slip into our presentations. Fillers can also make the presenter sound human and therefore more approachable to the audience. Michael Erard, author of the book Um: Slips, Stumbles And Verbal blunders and what they mean wrote an article on Slate.com (http://slate.me/oPw2rZ) where he says:
Speakers and Presenters must nevertheless try and minimize using fillers. Use too many, and the audience will notice. Olivia Mitchell of the blog Speaking about Presenting (http://www.speakingaboutpresenting.com) has described an interesting technique to reduce filler words called ‘Chunking’ where she suggests (http://www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/delivery/obama-eliminate-ums/) breaking up the speech into short chunks. Read more about it here (http://www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/delivery/dont-slow-down-effective-presenter/).
Brad Philips suggests another technique in this article on Ragan.com where you speak about any random object for 30 seconds without using any filler. Read more about it here (http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/43373.aspx).
What do you think of filler words? Have you used any technique to help you reduce fillers in your presentations? Tell us in the comments section!