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How to Be Persuasive: Eliminate Filler Words


How can your presentations be persuasive? Do you allow filler words to diminish the power of your message?

Words have great power to be persuasive as highlighted in our post The 12 Most Persuasive Words of the English Language.

But when words are used as fillers to replace what should be a pause, they do just the opposite. You risk losing credibility,  your audience and your sales opportunity.

The following guest post by Judie Knoerle author of UPFRONT Persuasion Through Presentation gives you some tips on how to be more persuasive in presentations: get rid of those pesky filler words.

As a presentation skills coach, I often find myself counting um’s, uh’s, like’s, actually’s and basically’s rather than listening to the content of a presentation. I hate that. I’d much rather sit back and enjoy a great message  This is a record of one 30 minute presentation I sat through and the number of filler words I charted:

Are you a counter? Or are you a violater? Let’s talk about how to rid yourself of these pesky filler words and get back to sending a clear, concise and compelling message.

I once had a participant in one of my workshops look at the list of ‘Words to Eliminate’ and half-jokingly say, “If I cut out these words, I won’t be able to talk.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these words unless they are over used. They are usually completely unnecessary, belittle the intent of your message or are substitutes for a wonderful pause.

Here’s an example: “I kinda think that using social media actually is one of the best vehicles for building a business. Basically, I’d like to share a little bit of information so you can, like, get started and hopefully, you’ll kinda get the idea, you know, that it’s actually easier than you think. See what I mean?” (90 words)

Here’s what you should be saying:  “Using social media is one of the best vehicles for building a business.(Pause) I will share step by step information so you can see how easy it is to get started.” (38 words)

Using filler words is a habit that can be broken if you have a reason to do so. Here are three incentives to break those habits.

  1. Your audience will listen to you
  2. You will feel and sound more confident
  3. You will be more persuasive

Breaking the Filler Word Habit

Until you start hearing the fillers, you can’t break the habit. Here are several ideas to help you begin:

  • Find someone you trust to be a “filler counter” for you during an upcoming meeting (virtual or face to face).
  • Review the words that you are overusing.  Select the one that is most overused.
  • Practice leaving a message for someone over the phone. Listen to it. Erase and rerecord until you hear no fillers. Send it.
  • Carve out 15 minutes per day to have a conversation with someone who knows you’re trying to break this habit.  Speak slowly, insert pauses, think of the first word you want to say as you begin, pause and then prepare for the next phrase until you finish your sentence.  If the listener hears a filler word they will say “Stop!” and you must start the sentence over. Soon you will start hearing the filler word yourself and will begin to self-correct.

Don’t give up on yourself. You will get frustrated and moan every time you hear yourself use a filler word. That is a sign you are on your way to being cured but don’t do that in front of your audiences.

Remember, it took a long time to create these verbal habits and it will take some time to rid yourself of them. I promise it will be worth it.




This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on February 18, 2014 in Delivery Skills, Persuasion, Presentation Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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