Words Matter: How To Speak With Authority

Filler Words

By Tim Conway

As Adjunct Faculty at Chicago universities for the past decade, I have witnessed endless presentations.  Being a generous grader who rounds-up, most productions barely earn a “C.”

Reason for poor performance:  Undergraduates/MBAs bore audience through over-use of “fillers.”  Unfortunately, these bad habits carry forward to the workplace.

A filler word or phrase is anything that speaker says over-and-over.  The worst offenders, by far, are “ya know” and “like.”  Others that are popular:  ah; um; really; actually; so, what I mean is; awesome; cool.

What can you do to trim reliance on fillers?

  1. Admit that you/peers are the problem. Don’t believe it?  Listen closely to dialogue of radio interview or TV sitcom.  Better yet, ask to record a conversation with friends; then count the repetitive, brain-numbing terms.
  1. “Catch yourself” when talking too informally. Fact:  by owning this matter, you’re on the way to improvement.
  1. Before a verbal pitch, rehearse relentlessly: use simple slides (only 2-3 words; one visual); with note cards; videotape; address a faux crowd of colleagues.  These methods are effective for top executives (proof:  view YouTube clips of Steve Jobs launching i-products).  Request blunt feedback to constantly fine-tune language/mannerisms.
  1. Challenge yourself to strengthen vocabulary (read novels; use dictionary; freerice.com).
  1. Take a speech course/seminar (campus, American Management Association, Dale Carnegie); join local chapter of Toastmaster’s International to practice techniques (such as taking occasional breathes to slow cadence).

Conclusions: What comes out of your mouth everyday leaves an impression (with boss, subordinates, clients, recruiters); your professional image is at stake with managers who have power to promote.

Tim Conway When not uplifting learners in a classroom, Tim Conway guides start-up founders to devise profitable business models:  timfconway@gmail.com; 312-523-1448.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *