It's time I wrote a little something about fillers again, because this issue comes up so frequently.
Last time I wrote about following rules for the sake of rules, Jeff from MostToast.com made a great point in the comments when he said that just counting the number of "ums" doesn't necessarily indicate whether they're a problem.
So the other day, I was reading a public speaking article and the writer suggested that, the next time you attend a presentation, you should keep track of how many times the speaker uses certain filler words.
And I thought to myself, "Really?" This is how I should spend my time during a presentation? Not listening for the value the speaker has to offer me, but to listen for how many times she says, "uh?"
This reminded me of another post, on John Spaith's blog, where he talked about his Toastmaster group throwing beans into a jar for every filler word the speaker uses.
First of all, it's distracting rather than helpful to the speaker.
Second of all, it's distracting to the listeners.
Third (of all?), what about all the other things the speaker might be doing that need to be corrected? Giving such emphasis to "ums," "uhs" and "likes" makes fillers seem ten times as important as eye contact, voice, movement, content, connection, authenticity, and all the pieces that, together, make a good presentation.
Here's my point: Be aware of your fillers, try to eliminate them if you can. But don't give them so much importance in your speaking that you neglect all the other things that make a powerful and effective presentation.
And PLEASE do not sit in the audience counting the speaker's fillers. You've got better things to do with your time. Like listen and learn.