Lately, I’ve been coaching leaders on developing their presentation skills. In particular, the focus involves role playing using behaviour-based interview questions.
In a typical coaching session of this nature, I provide my client with a brief workplace challenge and then ask them four to six thought-provoking questions. This part of the session takes between 30-35 minutes and the remainder of our hour together involves client self-reflection and coach feedback.
One area that repeatedly surfaces is the use of filler words. Commonly used filler words are “uh”, “um”, “so”, “uh-huh”, “really”, “man”, and “right”.
When you answer a question, do you know what, if any, filler words you use?
You may be shocked to find out what and how often filler words appear in your speech.
When filler words are used occasionally, it is no big deal, but when they are used repeatedly, it makes you look less confident, less professional, and less articulate. Additionally, filler words are annoying to hear and cause your audience to work harder to capture the essence of what you are trying to say.
Back in the 1980s there was a PSA with G.I. Joe who said, “Knowing is half the battle”. It was created to help educate children about avoiding unintentionally dangerous behaviour like playing with fire or running into traffic or these days, looking at your smartphone while crossing an intersection.
While cognitive awareness is helpful, it doesn’t change behaviour. You need to want to make change happen.
You need to watch yourself and listen for the word fillers.
Over the years, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch and listen to recordings of interviews I've conducted on local television and radio. Additionally, all the coach training classes I instruct are recorded too.
Even if you don’t have these opportunities for self-reflection and feedback, try the following tips to start breaking the filler word habit.
Try experimenting with these and other tips and soon you will have broken the filler word habit. It takes time but makes a huge difference in the impression you make, how confidently you come across to others, and could help you nail your next dream job interview. If you feel you need a bit more help or would like to chat about other career enhancing skills, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.