February 26, 2008

Rules for the sake of rules

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.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Darren is right - you need to know what the rules are, and if you dobreak them, it should be because you have CHOSEN to break the rules, not because you don't know any better.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Right on, Craig!

Jeff Bailey said...

At some point the amount of fillers becomes a huge problem. Unfortunately, there isn't a hard-and-fast rule regarding where the line is.

One of the problems with Toastmasters is that they count each and every one. But, they don't tell you if it is a distraction. One or two is not close to being a distraction.

I have a theory that they do this because it is easy and you can report on it. I believe saying the "ums" and "ahs" was a distraction is better than saying you had 2000 "ums."

Unfortunately, letting people know after the fact does little to correct the problem. The correction needs to take place in real time. People simply don't realize that they are doing it.

One trick that works really well is to only speak while you have eye contact. It really cuts the number down.

Thanks for the blog,


Lisa Braithwaite said...

You make an excellent point, Jeff. Counting the number of "ums" doesn't really indicate whether they're a problem or not.

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