Too Many Filler Words Undermine Your Credibility

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Recently I attended a meeting where a senior leader of the organization offered opening remarks.  He spoke for 2 minutes and said “um” 24 times.  Doing the math, that’s an “um” approximately every 5 seconds.

Here’s how it would read if he wrote it out:
“Welcome to the um, XYZ meeting. We are happy to, um, have you here today.  We will, um, share the goals of, um, the new program and explain, um, the role you will play in the program.  And thank you, um, for being here because, um, the work you do is crucial to, um, the success of our clients.”

While a few “ums” are okay, this many of them completely distracted from what he was actually saying.  I started listening for the next “um” rather than trying to follow what his message.  It made him sound less confident, less definite and less clear.

Imagine that you are speaking in front of the Board of Directors at your company, the media or a potential client.  Do you want to sound confident and in command of your subject? Or do you want to allow your unconsciously-said filler words to undermine your credibility?

Filler words like “um,” “ah,” “you know” and “like” fill in the empty space while your brain thinks of what to say next and catches up with your tongue and your voice which are still producing sound. 

The solution is relatively easy.  First, you have to become aware that you using filler words.  
Then replace them with a short pause instead (the pause will feel like an eternity to you, but not to your audience) while you think of what to say next.  Get used to speaking in complete sentences and complete thoughts. 

One way to practice this is by practicing speaking out loud and when you hear yourself using a filer word, stop.  Then go back to the beginning of the sentence and try again, without the filler word.

A small investment of your time, energy and focus to fix your filler problem will have a big pay-off: you will sound more confident and the audience will be able to focus on you and your message. 

Or you can do nothing, and keep allowing your filler words to obscure your competence and undermine your credibility. 

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