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Get Rid of Those Junk Words

We’ve all been driven crazy by a presenter who overuses words like “you know”, “um”, and “like”. Surprisingly, research finds that these filler words serve an valuable purpose. Using them helps a presenter transition to what he or she will say next, and audiences appreciate a little break between thoughts.

However, let’s get back to the “being driven crazy” part. Overuse of these words is a great way to lose credibility. And contrary to popular belief, the overuse of junk words is usually NOT due to nervousness. Instead, the culprit is more typically the speaker’s lack of preparation.

If you want to keep an audience’s attention, you must practice your presentation out loud, in front of a mirror, anywhere between 3 to 5 times. This is the surest way to rid yourself of junk words. The following tips will help, too.

3 Steps to Getting Rid of Junk Words

1. Increase your awareness.

Enlist a friend or family member to listen as you tell a 2-minute story. Have them tabulate the number of “you knows”, “ums”, and “likes” they hear.

2. Make eye contact.

When you truly connect with audience members, your use of junk words diminishes. When speaking during a conference call, don’t pace or stare out the window. Turn your full attention to your notes and to what you are saying.

3. Pre-plan your transitions.

Smooth transitions make a speaker sound super-confident. They also help eradicate junk words. Try inserting these into your next presentation:

  • “Let’s move on to…”,
  • “Another important consideration is…”
  • “Let’s transition to talking about…”

Rehearse your next presentation and follow the tips above…and you’ll never drive your audience crazy.

(Erad, 2008: Um…Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean)


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