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How to Banish Filler Words from Presentations

Often when speaking impromptu, you can fall into a common trap…

Using filler words to bulk out your presentation or fill time if you lose your place. 

A couple of times in a 5-minute presentation is fine. But any more than that, and the people listening are likely to question your credibility - and your confidence.

Here’s an example to show you what I mean:

“Hi…um…everyone. My name is…eh…Kyle. And I’m…like…going to be delivering a presentation on…ehm…you know…how to speak with confidence.”

We’ve all seen someone like this before. It’s not the most articulate way to introduce yourself, is it?

Nobody is perfect when it comes to using filler language - even I find that I use it sometimes in one-on-one conversations!

But I’ve learned never to use filler words in a group setting, and I’ve discovered some tricks to help you too. 

With that in mind, here are my three key tips to removing filler words from your speaking, so you always sound articulate and feel confident in front of a crowd. 

1. Identify the problem 

The first thing you need to do is understand the ‘what’ and the ‘where’ of the filler language you’re using:

The ‘What’: The specific filler words or phrases you are using. Words to look out for are:

  • “Em”

  • “Um”

  • “Ah”

  • “You know”

Or worst of all, the dreaded “like”...

The ‘Where’:

Spend some time figuring out where you use filler words too.

You may start speaking by using filler language. For example, rather than jumping straight into your topic, you may say something like “Um…today I want to…eh…talk about…”

This makes it sound like you have a lack of confidence in the point you’re trying to make. 

Similarly, if you use filler words at the end of a point, such as “um”, it could indicate to your audience that you have lost track of what you wanted to say. 

You might be wondering: how do you understand your ‘what’ and ‘where’? 

The most effective way is by recording yourself speaking and watching yourself back. This helps you understand your use of filler words in a real setting - and you will know what needs to change. 

2. Slow things down

Oftentimes, nerves can cause you to speak very quickly. If you start stumbling over your point, you could end up using filler words to fill the space.

The best way to stop yourself from doing this is to slow things down. 

The slower you speak, the more time and control you will have to stop yourself from using filler words. By giving yourself time to think, you can get yourself back on track much more quickly.

Then, once you’ve started speaking more slowly, get comfortable with filling any space with silence.

I know this is easier said than done, but silence is the best thing you can replace filler words with. 

Silence gives you time to think, which helps you plan what to say next or find your place if you get lost. 

3. Take on the 7-day challenge

Now, it’s time to take action and spend time every day removing these filler words from your presentations. 

For seven days, I want you to film a video of yourself speaking for 60 seconds.

You could speak about anything - what you had for dinner, the weather, something that made you laugh…

The point is: just do it!

Then, watch yourself back every day to count the number of times you use filler words. 

Your goal with this challenge is to reduce the number of filler words you use in your videos every single day. 

This might be tough to start with, so don’t put pressure on yourself to get rid of them all at once. 

Make cutting them down your goal instead.

So if you start with 10 filler words, try to only use 8 the following day…

Then 5…

Then 3…

Until you aren’t using any at all. 

Make sure you are always speaking off the cuff. Resist the urge to write a script - it may help you feel like you’ve cut out your filler words, but you’re just reciting information. 

This won’t help you in the long run as when you have to deviate from this script, you’ll jump straight back into using filler words again.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Get yourself on camera and start to make small improvements every day. I promise by the end of the week you will see a big difference.

What advice would YOU give someone struggling with filler words? Let me know in the comments!

Filler Words for Prepared Presentations

To find out more about removing filler words from your presentations, check out one of my recent videos here. 

If you would like help to become the most polished and professional speaker you can be, my 1-2-1 training is tailored to your specific needs and can cover topics such as confidence, body language, storytelling, and more. 

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