We are all aware of filler words like “um,” “right,” and “uh” and there are words that can kill your credibility like “actually,” but there are words that aren’t usually recognized as fillers that can be just as damaging to the impact of your speech or presentation.
These other words are usually easy to pick out. Many people get stuck on including “right” or “you know” throughout their speech unnecessarily.
But the one word that I see presenters use often, and not realize it is a filler word, is “so.”
In fact, the word is used with such frequency that my Toastmaster’s Club has started counting it as part of our evaluation of a speech.
“So” is simply a version of “um.”
It’s very easy to get into the pattern of using “so.” The word “so” rolls off the tongue with very little effort. It is a soft word, unlike “um,” so it can be hard to pick out unless you are really listening for it.
Just like any filler word, “so” is used by speakers at points of uncertainty to stretch the time their brains have to think about the next point, response, or question.
The word “so” can have a dramatic effect on a speech’s overall impact. To the listener, the use of the word “so” makes a speech run together and results in a monotone delivery.
The greatest speakers and speeches allow for, and intentionally create space through, the use of pauses and voice inflection. Vocal variety and pauses are just as important as the words you speak. They allow the listener to catch up and may be the very way to drive home the most important points of your presentation.
So, next time you use the word “so,” make sure it’s appropriate. If not, just pause.