We can all think of a catch phrase that identifies a person or character (the Fonz said "Aaayyyy;" Emeril says "Bam;" Homer Simpson says "Doh") and becomes their signature word, phrase or, in the case of these three, more of an utterance.
However, the flip side of this is the "crutch phrase," a word or expression, repeated over and over, that someone leans on because they can't think of anything better to say. A crutch phrase can be a cliché, like "At the end of the day," or it can just be a filler that doesn't add anything to the conversation or presentation, like "Anyway...." Or in my case, "Right?"
Last year I wrote about a panel moderator who said "Excellent" after each and every response made by a panelist.
I recently had a conversation with someone who said, "In reference to..." several times in each sentence. Over the course of a 20-minute conversation, he might have said this 20 or 30 times.
To use an expression like this once does not make it a crutch. It becomes a crutch when you repeat it enough times that it becomes a recognizable pattern. It's usually unconscious, so recording yourself should help you identify any crutch phrases in your speech.
Most of us have a crutch phrase; don't kid yourself that you don't. Used in casual conversation, these phrases are not necessarily as irritating as they are in presentations -- people are often more forgiving in a one-on-one setting. Unless you're trying to come across as professional and articulate. Then you're probably blowing it.
In a presentation, however, these verbal tics are much more noticeable and magnified by the fact that you are the only one talking and all the focus is on you.
The trick is hearing yourself speak and being aware of your crutch phrase, so that when you give a presentation you don't drive your audience crazy with your tic.
I'm aware of mine and I'm working on eradicating it. I'm getting better, really.
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