Guilty of Using Filler Words?

Filler words can kill your credibility and rob you of your authority. Qualifiers, disclaimers, and hedging phrases (“sort of”, “maybe”, “y’know”, “like”) make you sound unsure of your ideas. And turning statements into questions sounds like you’re apologizing for having an opinion at all, don’t you think? To learn the two words that are never appropriate for every audience, click on this 1-min animation (and turn on your speakers).

What’s YOUR first impression?


perfect10In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.

The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

© Jill Bremer 2016

Don’t confuse your global audiences with jargon!

6508193-business-people-sitting-on-presentation-at-office-businesswoman-presenting-on-whiteboardA good rule of thumb is to not use jargon unless you know for sure that everyone in your audience will understand exactly what it means. Words and phrases we take for granted have become part of our everyday vocabulary and too often slip into our conversations, pitches, and presentations. And we often end up confusing or frustrating our listeners. It’s doubly hard for our non-native U.S. clients and colleagues. They’re not only translating everything they hear and say, they’re also trying to make sense of our strange sports metaphors and colloquialisms. They often don’t understand the nuances of American English and want to take what we say quite literally. Before your next presentation or con call, review your content and throw out the jargon!

Here’s a list of phrases to eliminate. If you have others you’d like to add to this list, please add a comment to this post.

“off the top of your head”
“hit the fan”
“on leave”
“let’s touch base”
“ballpark figure”

Making Eye Contact

6508193-business-people-sitting-on-presentation-at-office-businesswoman-presenting-on-whiteboardMaking eye contact with your audience is crucial – it keeps your listeners engaged and gives you insights into their interest level and comprehension.

As you look through the crowd, aim to have mini-conversations with people, making sure to “click” with each set of eyes – don’t look past them or over their heads.

But remember – too much eye contact with any one person can alienate him/her and make them feel uncomfortable. Don’t be that speaker that glazes over when they speak and continually stares at a single person!

Remember – no more than 3 seconds of eye contact with any one person. Then move on!

© Jill Bremer 2015 


Presentations – Dealing with Nerves

Does speaking in front of a group ever make you nervous? As Mark Twain once said, “There are two types of speakers – those that are nervous and those that are liars.” A little bit of nerves can be good as they can help to energize your delivery. But if they get out of control, your entire presentation could crash and burn! Here are a few tips to get those butterflies in your stomach to fly in formation!

Try to relax the body and relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, important areas in the vocal production process.

  • Shoulder Rolls – Push them forward, then roll them up and around in slow circles several times, then reverse and roll in the opposite direction.
  • Head Rolls – Drop the head forward, then roll around toward the right ear, then the other direction toward the left ear, feeling the stretch in the neck.
  • Breathing – Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing to slow your racing heart. Put your hands on your waist, inhale on a count of 5, hold for 3, then exhale on 7. Visualize your lungs filling completely with air and feel your stomach extending out. Raising your shoulders up and down is not good breathing!
  • While waiting to be introduced, uncross your legs. Plant both feet on the ground and let your arms dangle at your sides. Do tiny stretches in the neck and shoulders to check for tension.

Don’t spend those final moments thinking about your opening lines or knocking knees. Instead, concentrate on your objectives. What do you want the audience to know/feel/do differently as a result of your presentation? How is this going to make their lives or organization better? When you get your mind off of yourself and onto your audience and what they need, you’ll put the focus where it needs to be. And not only will your mind and body be engaged, your heart will be engaged, too!

® 2018 Jill Bremer

Timing Your Presentation

You’ve been asked to do a presentation. They said you’d have 45 minutes to speak. How much content should you actually prepare?

Always figure on ten percent less time than they quoted. If they said you’ll have 45 minutes to speak, plan on a max of 40 minutes of material, maybe even a little less. Why? Because one of the following will probably happen…and you’ll still be expected to end on time!

  • The meeting will start late.
  • The presentation ahead of yours will run long.
  • Announcements or other “housekeeping” details will preempt your introduction.

It’s always better to end a few minutes short than to run overtime anyway. Audiences will love you if they’re dismissed early, but will sneer (or slip out the back door) if you run long. If you have a few minutes to fill at the end, you can always do Q & A.

© Jill Bremer 2014