Do You Really Need to Obsess Over Filler Words?

Ideally, you should have no filler words when you speak. Words like “um” or “uhhh” or “so… yeah…” weaken your communication.

But in reality, filler words are all but inevitable. We all use them when we speak.

Through practice, I have massively reduced the amount of filler words I use in my presentations and conversations. But I still use them. Why? Why have I not banished them completely from my vocabulary?

First, because I had more important things to worry about.

Filler word elimination is a case of diminishing returns.

At the extreme end, where literally every other word you say is a filler word, it’s very distracting to the audience. The substance words are actually drowned out by the many fillers. And you just sound inept.

But as you improve and get rid of them, things rapidly improve. Eventually you reach a point where reducing more fillers will serve no real purpose.

In a 1,000-word presentation, going from 300 fillers to 20 will make a huge difference. You literally went from 30% of your words being fillers, to just 2%.

But to then reduce it from 20 fillers to 5 (a fourfold reduction), will make absolutely no difference in how your presentation is received. Out of 1,000 words, the audience will not notice any difference between 20 fillers and 5 fillers.

Because of diminishing returns to this process, it’s just not that critical to keep focusing on them. Move onto another skill or challenge.

And second, because I was trying to relate to my audience.

For many situations, especially for presentations to small groups, it can actually be a problem to be too polished.

Normal human conversation is messy and imprecise. It’s not completely perfect. Being too rehearsed will actually make you less relatable and less genuine. Again, this varies a lot by industry or setting.

Finally, I got more in touch with my passion.

You will notice that you actually automatically weed out a lot of filler words by talking about stuff you are excited by.

The brain magically makes you more articulate, crisp and coherent when you are communicating a theme that you find fascinating.

Focus more on your passion and enthusiasm for your topic, idea or product, and watch the filler words disappear with minimal effort.

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