Verbal Graffiti

These days it is absolutely essential to have solid communication and presentation skills as a developer. This will serve you well whether you are presenting at conferences and users groups or professionally on a day-to-day basis communicating with managers and colleagues. I've given many presentations at developer user groups and code camps and I'm always looking for little ways to improve my presentations. Recently I picked up a copy of The Exceptional Presenter by Timothy Koegel and it was a great book and a fast read. One of the sections in the book is entitled "Eliminate Verbal Graffiti" where Koegel discusses the importance of eliminating fillers such as "um", "like", "you know", "I mean", "so", "uh", etc. Among his recommendations for eliminating these are to pay attention to other people's fillers, practice eliminating fillers during every day conversation, and to record yourself during a presentation and listen to the play back of yourself (yikes!).

Recently I recorded a developer screen cast on C# 3.0 so I figured I would use the opportunity to listen to myself in an attempt to identify (and eliminate) my own personal verbal graffiti.  While I was dreading the thought of having to listen to my own voice recorded, I figured it wouldn't be too bad because I'm generally ok with not using "um" all over the place. OH, the misery! The only good news in the ordeal was that yes, in fact, I did a decent job not using "um" a ton of times.  Unfortunately, the rest didn't go as smoothly.  Within the first 2 minutes I heard myself use the word "so" multiple times. Once you're really paying attention to yourself, it can become a little brutal.

The most helpful suggestion for deadening the pain came from my wife who suggested inventing the "so" drinking game.  My wife: "Just take a drink every time you hear yourself say that word "so" – it will be fun!"  Hmm, sounds to me like there wouldn't be too fine a line between "fun" and inappropriately fast inebriation.  So she moved to her next suggestion: "OK, next time you give a presentation at a user group, I'll come and sit in the audience. You can wear the electric dog collar and every time I hear you say "so" I'll give you an electric shock so that you can eliminate this from your lexicon."  Hmm, again.  Some nagging feeling in the back of my mind is telling me my wife might take pleasure in "helping" me get over my issue just a little too much.

I think I'll stick to the suggestions that Koegel puts forth in his book – I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their presentation skills.

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