The Seven Deadly Sins of Presenting…Are you committing them?

Congratulations, you have made it to the end! After implementing today’s critical step you will have all the skills, tools and techniques used by today’s world class presenters. Your final deadly sin is……

# Sin 7 – Using Non-Words

Non words are those typical grunting and acknowledgement noises that we all make to fill ‘gaps’, particularly silence gaps. The most common ones are:

  • Uhhm
  • Errr
  • Mmmm

When you present, it is highly likely that you will use some of the non-words above. This is very common. Used once or twice, it is absolutely fine and most people won’t even notice. However, it’s when they become noticeable that this could become an issue.

Play the below video to see a demonstration on the use of non words:

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Human beings are strange creatures and we respond well to curiosity. If you say “Uhhm” a few times, some members of you audience may try to start counting how many times you actually say the sound “Uhhm”. You may well be thinking well, that’s their problem not mine. Wrong.

As a presenter, it’s your responsibility to ensure your audience is as engaged as possible, if they start to count the number of times you say the sound “Uhhm” – then they are not going to hear your Key Message, or worse,  they may miss it entirely. They will walk out of your presentation wondering what it was all about.

Why do presenters do this? Why do we use Non-words? Are we even conscious that we are? The answer is simple; we use Non-words to fill the silence. If we are at the end of a particular point, or cannot remember the next point, or have had an interruption, we may very well fill the silence with “Uhhm”. It is always best to say nothing, rather that “Uhhm” or “Errr” to fill the gap.    

There are also another group of words related to Non-Words, a kind of ‘close cousin’ that I like to call ‘Filler Words’. These are typically:

  • ‘So’
  • ‘You Know’
  • ‘Basically’
  • ‘Right’

As words, they are perfectly legitimate in context and can be found in the Oxford English dictionary. ‘In context’ being the important piece here. 

In my experience though, most of us have our favourite “Filler Words”. If you are conscious of your filler word, try to deliberately not use it by remaining silent. It will be difficult at first, but it can be done! 

Play the final video below to see this critical step in action…

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Ask a friend or trusted colleague what Non-words or Filler-words you use very regularly. If they are used so frequently that they become a distraction to your audience, then it’s important that your aware of it. 


Congratulations, you have now covered all seven critical steps to becoming a confident and effective presenter. Before we finish I would like to take you back to the very start of this training and talk a little about fear….why? 

The fear of failure is the single greatest obstacle to success in adult life. Isn’t that disturbing? Taken to its extreme, we become totally pre-occupied with not making a mistake, with seeking approval for security above all other considerations. The experience of the fear of failure is demonstrated in the words “I can’t”.

The other major fear that interferes with performance and inhibits expression, is the fear of rejection. Learned in our ‘formative years’ (from 0 to 7 years old), interpreted as: if we do what pleases parents or guardians, they give us love and approval. If we do something they don’t like, they withdraw their love and approval-which we interpret as “rejection”

The antidote to the fear of anything is to do the thing you fear. This will dramatically develop your courage, character and self-esteem in that area.

The most important thing is to:

  • Begin
  • Take action
  • Move forward one step at a time

Taking action is critical. If you’re worried or concerned about something, or the little gremlin in your head says “I can’t”, my advice would be to feel the fear and do it anyway!

The delegates below felt the fear and did it anyway, attended one of our presentation skills programmes. Here is what they had to say about the programme:

Experienced and true professionals

The structure of their programmes, content and interactive coaching methodology is very effective. Their facilitators are enormously experienced and true professionals. We recommend ImpactSkills as a trusted partner for core business skills training. 

Per Breuer, Global HR Director, Roland Berger

High level of professionalism

All ImpactSkills facilitators we have worked with have shown a high level of professionalism. We will certainly continue to work with ImpactSkills in the future.


Sven Sommerlatte, VP Human Resources, Sanofi

Fast paced, never boring

Very useful, good trainers, good impact. One of the top training so far, fast paced, never boring.


Tim Bottke, Principal, Roland Berger


Excellent! Challenging, enlightening and very rewarding!



Torbjörn Hagenius, Partner, Deloitte

Powerful messages

Very interesting and useful! Powerful messages that were communicated well by the facilitator.


Tom Pernodd, Partner, Deloitte

That’s it for now, however I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking part in our seven critical steps to becoming a confident and effective presenter and I wish you good luck on implementing all seven steps the next time you present.

We would really value your feedback and opinion on how helpful you have found the seven critical steps and how you feel they will help you in the future therefore please take a moment to leave your comments below and if there are any other areas that you would like our help with in the future please do tell us and we will create another campaign to help you going forward.

Kind Regards




6 Responses to “Non Words”

  1. Roula Mouawad says:

    it was great ! realy thank you so much.

  2. Sarah Lang says:

    Hi Laith,

    Having attended a half day session with Impact Skills last year, your guidance and videos offered a really worthwhile refresher. Simple but powerful advice – many thanks.


    • Laith says:

      Thank you, that’s very kind of you Sarah. Yes, it’s important to repeat skills; reinforcing and repetition creates mastery. Laith

  3. Paul Turner says:


    This series has been brilliant. I just love small chunks of learning since it gives you the opportunity to take in and experiment with one thing at a time, which for me leads to a quicker overall improvement.

    Many thanks – keep up the good work.


    • Laith says:

      Hi Paul,
      Thank you. Yes, bite-size chunks are a great way to learn. We are very particular about how we teach & train our clients.
      Building a solid foundation and then ‘layering’ skills is key – followed by repetition and practice, which creates mastery,
      Best Regards / Laith