Someone disagreed with my opinion on fillers the other day. Among other things, the person said, "Fillers make people sound very unintelligent."
Fillers can certainly make a person sound unprepared, if every other word is "um," "uh," and "y'know." But a few fillers here and there make me sound unintelligent? That just makes me laugh. If a few ums are capable of completely obscuring the intelligence of my presentation, that's more your problem than mine!
Rules are made to be broken
Following all the rules all the time, just because they're there, is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion. Too many rules kill the soul and the spirit of a speaker. A speaker who follows all the rules comes across either as robotic and mechanical, or slick and overly polished. Either way, I find it hard to connect with a speaker who is too concerned about following the rules.
My fellow public speaking blogger Andrew Dlugan said recently, "There are very few public speaking rules. For every best practice, there’s a scenario where a speaker would be wise to go against convention."
Darren Fleming, a Toastmasters champion who made a hilarious video of himself breaking the rules in competition says, "So, it just goes to show, you don't need to follow all the rules to achieve your objectives."
First, understand the rules
He continues, "However, might I suggest that you have a good understanding of the rules of Public Speaking and know how they operate before you go out and break them. If you don't understand the rule and how it operates, you may be doing your cause more harm than good if you decide to break the rules!"
Darren makes a good point. There's a reason for most public speaking rules, and it's good to understand why they exist. But an experienced speaker who is still doing everything the way they were taught in Speech 101 is a boooooring and tedious speaker.
Break some rules. Enjoy yourself. Believe me, you'll still sound intelligent.