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What's The Big Deal With ... Um ... Idiosyncrasies?

Do you know what your idiosyncrasies are?

Little unconscious words, sayings or actions that creep into our everyday vernacular and demeanour. We all have them and yet can be quite unaware of our own, until they’re pointed out and even then, it can take some time before you fully acknowledge them.

We certainly pick up on them in other people. That teacher used to pause a little too long between sentences. The best man at the wedding smacking his lips during his speech. The comedian who finishes a joke with, ‘ahh’. Sometimes you don’t notice but as soon as they’re pointed out, it’s all you can hear. And then you wait for their arrival.

It seems prevalent amongst younger generations to add ‘like’ or ‘do you know what I mean?’ to sentences. ‘You know’ and ‘um’ are frequent unwanted visitors in a lot of sentences as well, on which hard work needs to be applied to be released from them.

How Do You Identify Your Idiosyncrasies?

Particularly, when you’re starting out, and especially if you are a one person band to begin with, it’s difficult to know what your verbal tics are. If you're not used to pitching or trained in sales techniques it can be daunting but as the head of your own company now, speaking publicly is an important part of your role and generating new business. Even if you are a seasoned TED talker or speech maker, unwanted mannerisms can make themselves present and need to be practised out. So how do you identify them and minimise their distraction?

Unless you can stand the sound of your own voice and play back a recording, it is very difficult to identify them yourself. Practising your pitch out loud to no one will see you concentrate on your content and delivery, not on your misdirecting habits.

The most effective and efficient way is to practice in front of someone. This is a safer place where your audience will be able to pick out the repetitive words that have wound themselves into your vernacular and you’ll thank them for it when you do the real thing.

If you’re uncomfortable or don’t have friends upon whom you can rely to provide you with good criticism, the other option is practising live. This is more risky in that a potential client may be looking for a polished pitch, however there is no better stage than the live one and no better feedback than from a member of your target audience. You’ll be conscious of what you’re saying, learn from your mistakes and adapt accordingly.

Idiosyncratic Distractions

If these verbal comfort blankets are not there, they of course won’t be missed or noticed. It is their conspicuous appearance that makes them become the elephant in the room and can start to distract your audience.

When you’re presenting to any assemblage of people - be that 2 people or 200 - they want you to be the authority on the subject; they want you to do well; they want you to make it easy for them to relax and listen to what you’re saying.

When you take that away from them, you could be Marie Curie speaking on radioactivity, it wouldn’t matter, anything you say now won’t hold the same weight. They are now waiting, watching, listening for the next installment of the quirk to reappear. They are no longer listening to the substance of your pitch.

It’s the same for grammar and spelling. The majority are, of course, just typos, missed in the proof read but once noticed, it immediately decreases the value of the content.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice, practice, practice. The old idiom that the more we do something, the better we become, is certainly true in this case.

So identify your ums and ahhs and give yourself the best shot of presenting yourself in the most advantageous light ... you know what I mean?

What are your idiosyncrasies? How do you iron them out or have helped others? Let us know in the comments.

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