Have you ever been in a meeting, presentation or every-day conversation and been distracted from the message because of the person’s fillers?  What are fillers? you ask.   Um, you know, so, ah.  These are fillers.  They fill the “uncomfortable'” void of silence – in the mind of the speaker – when you speak.

Most people aren’t aware of their fillers in conversation, they may not even notice someone else’s fillers, if it’s only once or twice. When you do become aware of these in either someone else’s or your own speech, you know how annoying they can be.  They also completely detract from your message.

I was at a luncheon and a marketing guru was the luncheon speaker.  I’d heard about this person for years and was eager to garner good, solid and valuable information from the presentation.  Wrong.  Because I’m almost 100 percent aware of fillers, they seem to glob on to my brainwaves and intensify their being during presentations.  Well, this was no exception.  I started counting the “ums” after I heard the first dozen!  Within :20 the speaker had said “um” more than 45 times!  YIKES.  I obviously wasn’t paying attention to the value of the presentation. (Now that’s my situation.) What’s a person to do when those fillers get in the way?  Wait, it’s not me that’s the problem, it’s the fillers, and they come from the speaker!

Another marketing guru was extolling the marketing tidbits of a book and workshop.  But wait, “you know” came through more times than I could count and I just couldn’t get past them.  Yes, I know it’s me too, but hey, why is that they’re there in the first place, and why do I have to get over them if these people can’t take the time to listen to themselves?  A coaching client was with me at a meeting last week and I could feel his glare behind me every time the speaker said, “you know.”  It’s a dangerous game to play, counting those fillers.

Do fillers bother you when you listen?  Do you hear yourself say them?

Fillers.  For me they’re the nemesis of speaking. For others, they may be a minor irritation, and yet for others, they’re oblivious to them and they make no difference to the points or message.  When you become aware of them though, they’ll come to haunt you every time you speak or you listen, or both!

How to rid yourself of these mosquito-like fillers, follow a few easy tools:

1. Listen.  Really listen to yourself and others.  Once you become aware of your speech patterns you’re more likely to become aware of others too.

2.  Have a filler buddy.  Ask a close colleague to charge you a dime every time you say, “ah,” “um,” “you know,” “so,” or any other repeated filler. Ask them to write down how many times they heard any of them in your presentation.  Dimes may not seem like much, but after you owe your buddy $5.00 or more a week, you pare down the fillers.

3.  Record your presentation and replay it.  Or video tape it and watch.  When you hear yourself as others do, your sensibilities to fillers grow.

4. Notice other’s speech.  Does s/he gather fillers and proudly offer them up to an audience?  Start to count his/her fillers, and then realize they’re a curse of the English language.

You don’t write “you know” when you send an e-mail.  You don’t put “um” or “ah” in a sales letter or proposal; why then do you say them when you speak?

Are you concerned about a void in your conversation? presentation? voice mail? Silence is golden.  Pauses help your listeners concentrate on your points and get their brain wrapped around its importance to their lives.  A pause is only one or two seconds, and to some those seconds are huge billboard voids; not so to the listener.  To the listener they’re message lottery winners!

Practice talking without fillers if only to a co-worker.  Then practice your presentation without them. You’ll be proud of your progress when you delete these maggots of language, and your audience will regale in their absence.  Your message will also be  more considerate, comprehensive and concrete.

Here’s to your perfectly clean presentation.


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