Whenever you open your mouth, whether your audience is one person or one thousand, you want to get a specific message across. Maybe you want your opinions heard at a meeting, or you will be giving a formal talk. Perhaps you deliver sales presentations. To present, persuade, and propel with the spoken word, be aware of this major pitfall: irritating non-words.
“Ur, um, ah, you know, kinda, well, like…”
Pay attention to whether you are unconsciously using these common non-words.
Non-words, also known as filler words or vocal crutches, are meaningless sounds or words that speakers use to fill the silence or pause between words or ideas. These non-words can include “um,” “uh,” “like,” “you know,” “so,” “well,” “actually,” and many others. While using non-words may seem like a natural part of speech, they can greatly detract from the effectiveness of a speaker’s message.
As a speech coach, I introduce my clients to the importance of using parallel structure in speaking and writing.
Parallel structure, also known as parallelism, is the repetition of a grammatical structure within a sentence or multiple sentences. This technique can make your speech or writing more memorable and easier to understand.
When you write the copy for a presentation, or have your talking points on a PowerPoint slide, begin with a verb. Verbs inspire action and commitment.
As a speech coach, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “What do I do with my hands when I speak in public?” It’s a question that is natural to ask. This is what I tell my clients and audiences.
It’s important to remember that your hand gestures are best when in sync with your words. If your words are powerful and impactful, your gestures should be as well.
Remember, in public speaking your hands are a powerful tool.
They can be used to emphasize key points, make gestures, and create a sense of connection with your audience. However, if not used effectively, they can also be a major distraction and take away from the impact of your message.
Keep in mind that your hands should be natural and relaxed. Avoid any unnatural or forced gestures, as they will come across as inauthentic and distracting. Instead, focus on using natural gestures that help you emphasize key points and connect with your audience.
My speech coaching clients frequently hear me say, “Are you going to do it, or kind of do it? Remember, you do not kind of or sort of do anything.”
Even seasoned executives who should know better, use these weak words and phrases. Often, I believe they are attempting to sound humble. However, it only makes them lose their power in conversations and presentations.
We are talking about speech qualifiers.
Speech qualifiers are words and phrases that we use to weaken our statements or soften the impact of our message. Some common speech qualifiers include “kind of,” “sort of,” “maybe,” “probably,” “just,” “a little bit,” “try,” and “I think.” While these words and phrases may seem harmless, they can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of our communication. Here is why.
First, speech qualifiers can undermine our credibility.
When we use words like “kind of” or “sort of,” we suggest that we are not fully committed to our message or that we lack confidence in what we are saying. This can lead our audience to doubt the validity of our message and question our expertise or knowledge on the topic.
Patricia Fripp (that’s me!) says, “Put your words under the magnifying glass.”
𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞 all of 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬, just follow these simple steps.
If you have a video of a presentation that you felt went really well, sit down and watch it. However, change your perspective.
Imagine you are a high-priced speech coach. Pretend that ‘this speaker’ is not you. When we focus on ourselves, we have a tendency to get distracted by a wrinkle in our jacket or that strand of hair that is out of place. Then, look at ‘that speaker’ and think, “What is that speaker doing superbly well?” You must find something. Did they have a good grasp of their content? Did they move well on stage? Did they smile at the audience?
The World is Full of Sloppy Speakers…You Do Not Want to Become One
Many excellent presentations sound “conversational.” However, be aware that there is a distinct difference between an ordinary conversation (with run-on sentences, unfinished thoughts, sloppy language) and a presentation delivered in a conversational style.
The best way to improve formal presentations and reports is to clean up your daily language used in informal interactions.
Whenever you open your mouth whether your audience is one person or one thousand, you want to get a specific message across. Maybe you want your opinions heard at a meeting or you will be giving a formal talk. Perhaps you deliver sales presentations. To present, persuade, and propel with the spoken word, be aware of this major pitfall: irritating non-words.
“Ur, um, hr, u know, kinda, um, ya know…”
Pay attention to whether you are unconsciously using these common non-words.
Is breakfast the breakfast of champions? That depends.
Who is delivering the feedback? Are they qualified to give it?
What is requested or unsolicited?
Many years ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at my local Toastmasters Spring Conference. They considered me a local celebrity, I had already been elected the first woman President of the National Speakers Association, and my speaking career was on the rise.
After delivering my well-received keynote I was on my way to set up for the first of my two interactive breakouts. A Toastmaster with an unknown amount of experience asked, “Can I give you some constructive criticism?” I replied, “No.” His reply was “Please.” Again, I replied, “No.” He asked, “Why?” “Because you will irritate me. I do not want to run the risk that my irritation will take away from the experience of my next two audiences.”
Have you noticed; some people are very uncomfortable talking about themselves even when they are very successful?
This may be because when you were young, your parents told you to not “Show Off.” Or you are uncomfortable when someone else drones on about themselves and all their much-exaggerated accomplishments.
I understand. However, from time to time we are all inevitably required to introduce ourselves to new colleagues, coworkers, or team members and share our career history.
What can you do to avoid coming across as overbearing and self-absorbed?
Present your career history as a story and give credit to parents, mentors, or role models. Think of everyone who helped you become who you are, what advice did they give? Who modeled how to become successful? Who offered encouragement when you most needed it.
Many presenters make the mistake of thinking that a story must be dramatic and life-changing to be memorable. In reality, we can garner meaning from simple, everyday-life stories, and that makes them relatable.
This is where I was; this is where I am now; this is how I got there.
Hollywood movies have a formula for successful storytelling that we can use. The hero or protagonist in your story is not necessarily a heroic character – just the person through whose eyes we see the story. This might be you or another person.
For that, we need to provide a backstory: enough information for your audience to see the character, identify with them, relate to their emotions or situation, and empathize with them. A good way to do that is to offer “a day in the life.”
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