“Ikenna, how do I stop using crutch words while presenting?” That is one of the questions I get a lot.
Before I lose you, let me explain what we mean by crutch words. Have you ever seen someone who was involved in an accident and going through rehabilitation? This could be in a movie or otherwise. Typically, one of the first things they get is a pair of crutches to help them walk as soon as they start trying to walk again. Similar thing for when a child is walking for the first time, we usually get them a fancy walker – something which they can use to stop themselves from falling. Crutch words are no different, they are words which we use to stop ourselves from stumbling while speaking.
I want you to keep the image of someone using either the walker or crutches in mind as you go through this. If you see a baby using a walker, your mind will probably go to the fact that they need stability and confidence to walk. At such a young age, it is cute to see. However, you expect that as the child is growing, they wouldn’t need this anymore.
Something similar happens when you speak, initially people appreciate the effort you are making, but with the expectation that you grow and no longer need to use these words which do not add to your story. While studying about this, I found out that there are different ‘classes’ of crutch words. Since the first step to reducing your use of these words is identifying them, let’s summarize them before moving on.
Before doing that, the problem with excessive use of crutch words is that they distract from your message. They make you seem immature or unsure of yourself. I can imagine this is not the image you want your audience to have while you are speaking.
This is probably the easiest to identify – you see uuhmm, these are words which we uh use to complete the sentence. That should help you catch it when using these mumbles right?
In the middle of my speech, uuhhm, I lost my train of you know thought and I, well, need to uuhhmm find words which will help er prevent me from stumbling.
Just read out the last sentence to yourself out loud and listen to how it sounds. I realize that you may think that was exaggerated, however, it will help show you how we sometimes sound.
It took me a while to figure out that here lies one of my greatest crutches. Adverbs are lovely words, they modify your verbs and give more power to them. But when you keep using one particular adverb or try to modify every single verb, then you are back to detracting from your story.
I essentially want to have a greater wow factor while speaking (or writing). It’s basically just unnecessary, you know? The simple truth is I just think that only these words would definitely improve my speech.
Did I ever tell you the story of my first essay as a child. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and had to write an essay. I can still vividly remember writing – ‘the food was very very very very very delicious.’ Before you laugh at me, the teacher wanted a specific number of words, so I decided to give her words.
You are telling a story and all of a sudden realize that the end is not yet well defined. This is a place that trips us up a lot – how do I stop speaking without having that awkward pause where they are still waiting for me to finish?
I mean, you get what I am saying, right? It could be the nervousness or that the lights are shining directly into my eyes, know what I mean? So, I need words which will help me make the point, you know?
Or one of my favourites – nah mean.
These are just some of the different classes of these crutch words, but not an exhaustive list. We can also stumble while starting our story or use prepositions that reduce the impact of our story. So, essentially there are like so many words which we just use to fill up sentences.
This writeup is to let you know that crutch words come in all different sizes and shapes. Whether you mumble or fumble ending your story, the effect is the same – your words lose their power/effect.
Are you ready to put in more power into your words?