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Sales Presentations How to Avoid Filler Words, Ums and Ahs

Filler words are killer words that can overshadow an otherwise great sales presentation by driving the audience to distraction.

Filler words are those verbal pauses and missteps like Um and Ah, or thrown in words such as Ya Know or Like.
For an example of the negative effects of filler words we need look no further than today’s YouTube headlines. Caroline is a serious-minded and intelligent person. Her content is strong, but, the filler words weakened her overall message. (Watch the Video Below.)
We can see how filler words can weaken your message; what can we do to avoid them in our sales presentations and demonstrations?

Verify That You Have the Problem and Define the Scope

You may have been told by a colleague or manager, you may have even caught yourself slipping in an Um or and Ah. The first thing you need to do is get some feedback. I have found the following helpful:

Record Yourself

Record yourself doing a presentation or demo in various phases of the activity. Sometimes it’s the Q and A section that will bring out the dreaded Ums and Ahs–sometimes it’s when you are in front of a large group. If you are doing a software demo or slide presentation, you may want to record the screen and your audio at once. This helps you gauge your progress (by looking at recordings over time as you practice) and also to get a better idea what actions may trigger problems as you present.

Join a Local Toastmaster Group

Toastmasters is a great organization if you want to learn to stop using filler words such as: ums and ahs. They actually have a person at each meeting who will count filler words as you speak (Called the Ah Master). This helps you to be more self-aware and to reduce these filler words through real-world practice.

Enlist Others to Help You

You may want to enlist the help of colleagues and even family members to be on the lookout for any filler words or sounds. Kids especially enjoy catching a parent and it can be a good learning experience for them as well.

Quantify the Problem

Each time you speak, try to keep a rough mental count of each infraction. This should help you assess how extreme the issue is and what to do about it.

How Can We Stop?

Once you’ve identified when you’re most likely to use filler words, what can you do to stop using them. (For reference, most people have trouble when answering a question, at the beginning of a thought or at a natural pause in the sentence.) Here are a couple of ideas that can help:

Learn to Catch Yourself

As you become aware of this problem you’ll begin to notice when you do it, and when others do it as well. Try to catch yourself before you make the mistake. As a side benefit, watching others will reinforce the value of reducing this behavior in you own speech patterns.

Learn to Love the Power of the Pause

Add impact to your message by taking adding a 2-second pause before you start speaking. Adding a pause will also give you time to think and to give your audience time to process what you just said. If you’re answering a question, pause for a beat and think about what you want to say; you may even want to ask a clarifying question to give you a bit more detail and time to think before you answer.

Practice Speaking in Soundbites

For most sales presentations and demos you’ll have plenty of time to practice. As you practice, concentrate on speaking in “sound bytes” or “chunks” In time, most of the common sales messages will become second nature to you and you will rarely make a mistake. Finally, if you are having trouble dropping the Um and Ah habit, there may be one bright spot: some studies suggest that you may actually be perceived as more outgoing if you use these verbal pauses in non-business conversations. If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out our Sales Presentations Primer.

Be Prepared

Like a boyscout, or Girlscout (do they have a motto?), you should always do your best to think about and prepare what you want to say ahead of time. This step alone, can help dratimaticly reduce your tendency to use filler words.

Try to Relax

In some situations this is easier said than done, I know but it turns out that nerveousness can bring out the dreaded filler words in most people. many people find  that if they imigine that the  audience is happy they are there and receptive to the message. Others find  that thinking about the preperation they  have done and my sincere desire to bring the audience value helps them to relax. 

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