I was on the ferry this morning reading the paper and having my green tea when I was distracted by the woman sitting next to me. She was aggressively ripping out pages from a magazine. I looked at the pile of pages next to her to see if there was any pattern to her choices. They seemed random- a page of text, a good looking male model. Curiosity finally got a hold of me as I leaned over and asked, "Are you creating a vision board?" She paused for a moment as if trying to process what I had just said. "No, " she explained, "I'm pulling out the ads. It makes it easier to read." She went on to say, "It's disturbing to realize the magazine is mostly ads." She was right. I find those paper pull-out ads to be annoying and they make turning the pages difficult.
What a novel way to read a magazine! I'd never seen anyone prepare to read. Yet, that woman on the ferry was more prepared than many of the presenters I observe.
And it made me realize something about speaking. Those paper ads are like non-words in a speech. Those irritating fillers such as "um", "you know," "ah", "like" are everywhere. Non-words are analogous to those annoying ads in magazines that prevent you from reading the article or even finding the article with ease. Non-words, like ads, are distractions that blur the message.
What are you doing to prepare your audience to hear your message?
How are you weeding out non-words that distract from your content?
If everybody practiced their presentations out loud and determined where they inserted non-words, they could then write reminders in their notes and verbally tear out those insidious fillers. When you use non-words you lose credibility even if you're a subject matter expert.
Last week I reconnected with a woman I hadn't seen in years. We figured out that she had attended my Learning Annex Class on How to Give a Knockout Presentation in year 2000! She confided that I had inspired her and that she still thinks of me. How did I inspire her? She said, "You told us never to use non-words and since that time I stopped saying /um/. I tell other people to stop doing it."
Well, apparently, it made a big impact on her presentation as she is now being called as an expert in the media and doing a terrific job. Think of non-words as clutter. Just as we don't like ads in our magazines or commercials on TV, your audience doesn't like hearing a cacophonous trail of ums and ahs.