Whether you are having a one on one conversation or speaking in front of a crowd of thousands or anything in between, the way you speak can greatly determine the influence you have as a speaker. Umm what does that mean? Like did that make sense? So, so, what do you mean by the way you speak? Ahhhh, are you confused? In a nutshell, you need to drop these crutch words. Oftentimes, when we lose our train of thought or when we have nervous ticks or when we develop a habit of repeating words, we tend to use crutch words. These are known as the ahs, ums, filler words, excessive interjections and long pauses in the world of speaking. A platform like Toastmasters can make you aware of these crutch words.

Communication is equal parts about your comfort level as it is about the overall packaging of yourself as a speaker. Imagine you are talking about a really pressing issue like public health or your opinions on recycling or anything seemingly important, an overuse of crutch words could distract the listener and take away from your message. While this might seem trivial at a glance, maintaining authority as a speaker is important to keep the conversation going.

Going back to our initial scenario of having a one on one conversation or speaking in front of a large crowd or anything in between, ask yourself why are you speaking to begin with? Chances are you are speaking, engaging or sharing your opinion because you want to be heard. Crutch words get in the way of your audience’s interest. Chances are that is the last thing you want when you are speaking. Because chances are you want people to listen and actively engage in your conversation. 

Sometimes you need to use the and, so or but to carefully transition your thoughts and sound conversations. But remember, the key is in finding the balance between using it and overdoing it. Similarly, the same thing extends to transition words. Just like an overuse of them in writing can be painful to read, an overuse of them in speaking can be equally painful to listen to. The last thing you want is to let the crutch words interfere with the impact you are having as a speaker.  

Think about the last time you spoke with someone. Now, think about the number of times you probably used crutch words. While some of us are innately flawless speakers, some of us use crutch words without being aware of it. The ah counter at a Toastmasters meeting is dedicated to make us aware of this, so we are aware of our crutch word uses and can work towards being a ahs, ums, filler words, excessive interjections and long pauses free speaker. At least we can aim to be closer to flawless!

TM Kriti Panth
Secretary, Professionals Toastmaster Club
Area O2 CGD

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