Filler words to fill your full speech

Every time I listen to a speaker, I learn. The first time I attended an NSA chapter event, the speaker taught us how she had 26 shiny jackets to use in videos she was posting. Each jacket would be used for 2 videos each year. The lesson I learned was that a speaker “uniform” helps identify and differentiate you. And I learned that I would never wear a sparkly jacket.

One of the main lessons I learn every time is about how language is used, specifically the overuse of words and filler phrases. The one that bothers me the most is the use of the question “right?” at the end of every/many sentences. It may be uttered as “ok?” or even some phrase that is a check in with the audience. The bother comes from the fact that “right?” or “ok?” are questions. And rarely does the speaker pause while the audience can answer that question. The speaker makes a promise to the audience that a question has been asked, but does not wait to fulfill the promise by waiting for an answer.

Certainly, this utterance could be a moment to pause and breathe without uttering a sound. That allows the audience to digest your point and make it stick. Or, some speakers who are training will often ask a longer question such as “are you with me?” or “do you understand” and wait for an answer. 

I believe this “technique” is more often used by speakers who have some insecurity about their value to their audience. If you consider yourself a peer to the audience, “right?” is a momentary check to see if you are still at the same level as them. By continuing to speak over the promise, the speaker can be assured – absence of anyone objecting (which they have no time to do) – that all is going well and their insecurities are unfounded. 

There is a simple method to overcoming this particular filler word technique. For your session, you are not in a peer-to-peer relationship. You are most likely not in an adult-child relationship. This scenario is usually a teacher-student relationship. You, for that time, are the expert in your topic. Step up to that role and there will be no need to check in with your audience to determine if they are awake and aware. You can own the stage and the need for those filler words.

I wrote about this in my pocketbook (also, ebook/PDF) called Eight Filler Words/Phrases to Ditch from your Speaking – it is number two in the list. I have been collecting filler words form some time, and while the list grows in volume, it does appear that these eight are the most common. I would definitely add to the list the words “in conclusion” or “finally”. My list is not comprehensive – simply a starting point, and maybe you have your own list.

In conclusion (yeah, I went there), taking these words out of your speaking will allow you to be more efficient, make stronger points, and improve the power of your message.

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Trevor Perry