This Column Can, Like, Help You Present Better, You Know?

“There is a lost art of, like, speech and, you know, the way that people, like, talk and speak in public.  Um.  If you see, like, how people actually, really, basically talk, it would be, um, you know, unbearable.  I think, that, people should, like, really take a look at how they, you know, portray themselves and they should learn to, like, align their speech with how they would like to, you know, be perceived of by others.  You know?  Right?”

The above paragraph is an example of how far too many conversations sound when you listen back to them.  I attend many meetings and I have many conversations with people, and it is truly unbearable to hear people speak when they have not properly thought through what they are trying to say before saying it.  

The truth is that most people think their speech sounds like a Shakespearean sonnet, but in reality, it’s like what a non-Phish fan hears when they listen to Phish.  It’s painful and meandering and totally lacking in melody.  



Too many of the words people use are “filler,” meaning they’re used to fill the moment while you think of what you should say next. Rather than relying on filler words, take a pause.

A pause creates a dramatic element that serves to refocus your listener. A pause also allows the brain to catch up and implies that what you are going to say next is important.

How you speak and communicate your ideas is the way you present yourself to others. If you do not take the time to formulate your ideas, it looks like you're not detail-oriented and you have not taken the time to adequately prepare. Neither of these impressions are good for your career.

I think we can all agree that you want your audience to see you in a more positive, thoughtful light. To fix the problem, you need only do three things:

1. Slow down to allow your brain and your mouth to be more aligned.  Your brain can develop the thought and you can formulate a way to express yourself without adding filler words that simply prolong the time you allow your brain to think.  

2. Drop the filler words completely.  It’s not easy at first, but you have to drop the crutch of the “um,” “yeah,” “you know” and “right” from any presentations or formal speaking you do.

Imagine what your presentation looks like on paper with those words included.  Refer back to the first paragraph of this column as an example.  They are unnecessary and jarring when you read them.  They are not much better when you say them, because they detract from your ability to make a point.

3. Record yourself and listen back to the recording.  You will be surprised and maybe even a little appalled at just how much you lean on these fillers in your speech.  

The best way to fix your speech is to grade it.  Listen back and write a checkmark for every time you use one of these fillers in a five-minute window.  I once did this for a colleague who was in a position of leadership, and who said “um” 170 times in five minutes.  Needless to say, he immediately moved to fix this issue.

The single most impactful way to succeed is to be able to express your opinions in a clear, succinct manner.  You want to portray yourself as intelligent, thoughtful and considered.  Taking the three steps above will have an immediate impact on the way people perceive you at work.

4 comments about "This Column Can, Like, Help You Present Better, You Know?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Eric Fischer from HJA Strategic Consulting, June 12, 2019 at 2:52 p.m.

    Amen.  As an associate professor in a Journalism School, you'd be amazed at how many students don't have the sufficient presentation skills needed after graduation.  Why students are not mandated for "real-life skills" class work is beyond me. 

  2. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, June 13, 2019 at 3:33 p.m.

    Never mind students. Keep this in mind when listening to CNN's Anderson Cooper. He constantly "you know's" and instead of slowing down after one or several "you know's," he will actually speed up his speech to a level where it's almost unintelligible. And he's not alone... unfortunately. I wish your article could be posted in every TV newsroom. Good job!

  3. George Wright from Self, June 13, 2019 at 6:45 p.m.

    I just had this conversation today.  I was fortunate enough to be taught by Tedd Woods, my favorite teacher of all time.  (Just by a hair, of course.)  He called "filler" - "butches" and he counted them, too.  I do it now as a coping mechanism.  "You know" is at the top off my list probably and every now and then i slip too, I admit.  But often I find myself muttering - "No, I don't know."  Or - "Why are you telling me somethng you think I know?"  A runner-up for me is "you guys" and I've reached "100" in counting these during one sales pitch by an esteemed colleague.  Similarly, we've allowed "narrative" and "metaphor" to replace true communicaton.  Technical buzzwords like "Cloud" and "Best of Breed" are just meaningless and counterproductive.

    You will be accused of "nit picking" for even broaching this topic.  Bad speech is not inconsequential.  It wastes time and contributes to confusion and a myriad of othere harms.  

    I would add a number 4: Say Nothing.  Put it in writing, which requires more thoughtfulness, discipline and sincereity.

    Thanks as always, Cory!

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, June 14, 2019 at 3:22 a.m.


    Hang on Cory, I meant I genuinely like what you wrote.   Not that, ummm, you know, I mean like it's not like I didn't know what to say.

Next story loading loading..