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?
- 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.
- “Catch yourself” when talking too informally. Fact: by owning this matter, you’re on the way to improvement.
- 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.
- Challenge yourself to strengthen vocabulary (read novels; use dictionary; freerice.com).
- 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.
When not uplifting learners in a classroom, Tim Conway guides start-up founders to devise profitable business models: firstname.lastname@example.org; 312-523-1448.