3 Secrets to Arresting “Annoying Fillers” in your Presentation

Author Sarah Beckman

Um. You Know. Like. And. So. Ah. Er. Uh.iStock_000024711637_Medium

These common “fillers” litter countless presentations today – cluttering messages with annoying, distracting and useless words that drain meaning and value as they flow. Spoken so easily – and often unwittingly – they’ve been granted far more power than they deserve.

You’ve likely heard them thousands of times (maybe in one single presentation!) We use fillers when we’re thinking, when we’re nervous, when we’re unsure what part comes next. I’m a professional speaker. I also coach speakers, business people, pastors and students in the art of clear, focused, powerful communication. And try as I might, if I’m not careful, they can still ensnare me.

However, it is possible to arrest these annoying fillers and lock them out of our presentations forever when we learn these secrets.

Secret #1: Play Back

There is no tool more powerful than creating and then listening to a recording of your speaking. Plain audio is sufficient if your goal is to put a stop to your habitual fillers, but if you can get video you will learn a host of other things along the way that will also prove helpful (and you probably didn’t know you were doing.) I use a smartphone app called iPadio to record whenever I’m able. I then upload my messages directly to my social media and website to share with my followers. There’s also voice memo, and several other awesome apps with recording technology available on just about every smartphone these days.

I recently presented a message at my monthly lunch hour. I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to prepare my message, so I was very focused on content that day, rather than on avoiding the use of fillers.

Whoa. Huge mistake.

When I uploaded the message, and actually listened to it myself, I was in shock. I was like a virtual poster child for the words UM, AND SO. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Suffice it to say, playing my message back was the only way I would have caught that, and it’s the very best way to be sure you work on not using fillers in the future.

Secret #2: Practice

If you practice your message, you will know your content better. Simple as that.

The problem is, we write our messages out, we craft perfect sentences, but then we have to SAY them. And if we don’t practice saying them, several times, out loud, we will likely end up using words to fill in the gaps while we think.

When we know our content, we know what words come next. The only way to accomplish that is practice. This is especially true in the case of my luncheon speech gone awry. I didn’t get to practice, and it showed painfully in my performance.

And even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it will certainly get you a lot closer to eliminating annoying fillers in your carefully crafted message.

Secret #3: Pause

When I am listening to a speaker I find it so refreshing when they pause and give my brain time to catch up with their words. And honestly, if you pause when you are the speaker, you will give your brain a chance to catch up, if you ever lose your way.

If you’re not sure what comes next in your talk, you will often use fillers as you attempt to think your way back. Next time, pause, take a moment to check your notes, collect your thoughts or get back to where you need to be.

It is way better to have a moment of silence, than sentence after sentence filled with unnecessary words that detract from that amazing point you wanted to make.

Pausing is a gift, to you and your listener. Use it well and often. And then return to secret 1, and listen to your success as you arrest those fillers and lock them out of your presentation for good.

Do you have any secrets to eliminating “fillers” from your presentations? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Sarah Beckman is a Speaker, Writer and Communications Coach.  She also speaks to audiences across the country on topics including loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.  She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Craig and her 3 teenage children.  She loves the mountains and eating green chile. 

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2 thoughts on “3 Secrets to Arresting “Annoying Fillers” in your Presentation

  1. So true, moments of silence have a way of emphasizing the words just said and calling for your audience’s attention. Thanks for the pointer, good article!