They’re umm …. errr …. sort of …..

Foghorns, or fillers as they are commonly known, are distracting. They reduce a speaker’s impact and simply take up space. Fillers such as ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’ add nothing to the message a speaker is trying to deliver. 

I recently sat through a talk (on Indian tax….!) and the only thing I could focus on was the number of fillers the presenter used. He said ‘errr’ once or twice in every sentence. He knew his stuff and was well prepared, but ultimately the additions ruined his delivery.

Fillers creep in when you least expect them, and as a speaker you may not even realise they are there. It can take a lot of effort to reduce them from your speech.

I recently delivered a workshop in Mumbai on presenting your message. We played ‘Just a Minute’, whereby the participants had to speak for a minute on a given subject without using fillers. One simple rule – any fillers and they were knocked out of the game. It’s suprisingly hard. Only one participant completed the minute filler free!

So what should you do if you feel the urge to use a filler? Make use of a pause instead. Using a pause instead of a filler will make you sound more articulate. However, don’t use it too frequently as it can break the flow of your speech and make it hard for your audience to follow you. 

How else can you reduce fillers? Keep a tally. The first step is to become conscious of them which in itself is a challenge. Record yourself speaking off the cuff for a minute. Listen to the recording and count the number of times you used a filler. Write the number down and continue to do this every day for a couple of weeks or more. You should, with time, find a reduction. 

Finally, there are also apps you can download. LikeSo: Your Enterprise Speech Coach (iOS), Ummo (iOS and Android) and Um Counter (Android) can all help you to improve. 

What’s your approach to reducing fillers when you speak? 

Look on the back side and do the needful

Image by Sumanley xulu from Pixabay

Participants in my training sessions always enjoy looking at the differences within global English. There’s nothing wrong with, say, Indian English. After all, millions use it every day. 

However, when it comes to business communication, whatever your native language, it’s useful to be aware of idiomatic words and phrases that may sound a little strange to your international counterparts.

‘Greetings of the day!’, ‘revert back’ (I will revert back to you), ‘for your perusal’, ‘do the needful’, and ‘back side’ (back page) are phrases often heard in Mumbai or New Delhi that may cause a polite chuckle or two in London or New York. This cuts both ways, ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ or ‘take a rain check’ may be easily understood in the U.S. and the UK but sound strange to a foreign ear.  

So what can you do to give your language a professional international feel? Well, being aware of ‘Indianisms’, or ‘Americanisms’ is the first step, and then you can tailor your communication to your audience and use global English instead.

What other words and phrases do you often read and hear in business communication that jar cross-culturally?

It’s good to KISS

Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

Too often when we write, we use long sentences and bombastic words when all we need to do is KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. This is crucial for any written business communication, but especially when we write internationally to our non-native English-speaking colleagues and clients.

Can you split a 40-word sentence into two? Yes, definitely. Keep sentences at no more than 25 words, that’s usually a good start. New thought? Start a new sentence. New topic? Start a new paragraph. And paragraphs? Four lines are good, five if you have to. A space between paragraphs will make your writing easier to read. If you can, use active, not passive voice.

Lastly, why write ‘recapitulate’ when ‘summarise’ will do? Instead of ‘consequently’, just ‘so’. Don’t ‘utilise’ fancy words, just ‘use’ simple ones. 

Do you like to KISS?