Junk words are those extraneous words (and sounds) that add no value to your message. When used frequently, they diminish your power and credibility. Be direct with your statements. Having to search for the message under the junk words is like digging for hidden treasure – we know it is there somewhere, but we might lose patience and give up.
Here are some common examples:
- “Uh” – Using good eye contact is the best cure for eliminating this word (or sound) from your vocabulary. Watch others as they speak. The “uh” occurs when the person is looking at the floor or up towards the ceiling – somewhere other than another person’s eyes. It is okay to look elsewhere to gather your thoughts – just don’t speak while doing so.
- “You know” – Actually, I do not and I’m hoping you will tell me.
- “Basically” - “Basically, we are going to attend the meeting.” Either you are, or you are not. The word “basically” adds no value in most cases.
- “Obviously” – This word can sound condescending. It may not be obvious to some in your audience. If it is obvious to everyone, then why bother to say it?
- “Whatever” - “You can get from here to the airport on a bus or whatever...” What? A train, a pony, a pig? What is this word telling us?
- “Like” – If your intention is to sound like a teenager, then continue to disperse this word throughout your presentation. However, if your goal is to come across as an expert and trusted business advisor, then use this word only when describing how something is similar to something else.
- “Unbelievable” – Think about the meaning of this word. If you are trying to persuade someone, then this may not be your best choice.
- “I want” – Many presenters tend to say something like this, “Today I want to show you…” or “During the next couple of minutes, I want to tell you about…” These phrases imply that it is about what you want (as the presenter) rather than what your audience wants. As the old saying goes, your audience does not care about you until you demonstrate that you care about them. Try removing “I” statements, especially during the first few minutes of your presentation. It’s simple to do. Try these, “Today you will discover…” or “During the next couple of minutes, you will learn about…”
Most presenters are not aware that they are using junk words habitually. If you are uncomfortable coaching them, then leave them a short, gentle, anonymous note. I once did this with a former boss who frequently used the word “irregardlessly.” After he left for the day, I left an anonymous note on his desk informing him that there is no such word. It did the trick. I hope he doesn’t read my blog.