Executive Studio Presentation Tip #4:
Banish Those Deadly “Ums” and “Ands”
Picture this. You go to the theatre to see HAMLET and hear the leading actor say:
“To be or not to be, um, that is the, um, question.” I don’t know about you, but I’d surely want my money back. We recently rehearsed a marketing Guru from a large media company and on paper he had it down. Good script. Good message. But then, as he started to practice on the stage, and at the podium, we heard it. We heard the word “and” 48 times during his speech. Does it really sound that bad? Yes! “And” is another culprit that will wear your listener down and put your entire audience in a coma faster than a 7th Rocky sequel.
Simply put, “And” is filler “weed” that strings out your thoughts, never allowing your audience to settle on a point or idea. Just when they think they’ve grasped what you had to say, you dilute their understanding and confuse them by throwing “and” onto the speech roadway, plowing through every grammatical stop sign in sight. And, and, and, and….after a while people just give up and tune out.
The “Um” is the bad habit of pausing aloud. You think “I need a second to think about what I’m going to say next” and your audience hears “I’m not prepared. I’m scared. I don’t really have a handle on things.”
The “um” can destroy your narrative, the force of your argument, and your focus.
Here are the best ways to root out and zap these vocal habits so you don’t lose your listener:
Write your presentation (of any length) with short, to-the-point sentences. Avoid those weak filler words. Use words that can have a punchy effect. Think of it as using verbal “bullet points.”
Wherever you would normally insert or write an “and,” in your text, resist the temptation!
When you are rehearsing, (we insist you rehearse!) listen carefully to what you say. Could your sentence be running on too long? Did you accidentally insert “and” where it didn’t have to be? Then just stop talking.
• End the sentence.
• Take a short pause.
• Then continue.
The thought will be clearer. The short rhythms will keep people engaged.
Still not sure? Go through your presentation or speech and look for any long, run-on sentences with the tell-tale “and” – then chop the sentences in half. Use an action word or a word that evokes an image to open your new, shorter sentence.
Don’t let a tiny little “um” be your undoing. (That bad boy can undermine your strength as a presenter.) When you do need to collect your thoughts for a second before you continue, use the “power of the pause” to your advantage.
Take a breath. (More on The Power of the Pause in our next Tip)
You may need to practice! We encourage it.
Ask a friend or colleague to listen while you rehearse your presentation. Rehearse with or without your PowerPoint. Because overcoming these habits requires diligence and help from observers.
If you don’t think you’re guilty, record yourself. You’ll hear the unvarnished truth.
Then….Watch those weeds disappear. Your presentation becomes a thing of beauty.