Category Archives: Bad Habits

Uptalk . . . Ugh

The Disease of Uptalk
Uptalk Destroys Your Credibility Question by Question

The verbal up-tic is a ubiquitous speech pathology afflicting folks under thirty.  Its most common manifestation is Uptalk.

Once it grips you, Uptalk won’t let go . . .

It’s maddening.

Everyone who is exposed to this voice experiences doubt, unease, and irritation, many of those persons not cognizant of where this unease originates.

It screams amateur when used in formal business presentations.

It cries out:  “I don’t know what I’m talking about here.  I just memorized a series of sentences and I’m spitting them out now in this stupid presentation.”

Uptalk Destroys Your Credibility

If you have this affectation – if you’re reading this, you probably do – promise yourself solemnly to rid yourself of this debilitating habit.  But recognize that it’s not that easy.

Students confide in me that they can hear themselves uptalking during presentations, sentence after questioning sentence.

But for some reason, they simply cannot stop.

So exactly what is this crippling uptalk?

Uptalk is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.”

Uptalk is the rhetorical scourge of the 21st century.

Uptalk is the unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked.  Uptalk radiates weakness and uncertainty and doubt . . . and it conveys the mood of unfinished business, as if something more is yet to come.

On and on.

Sentence after sentence in succession is spoken as if a series of questions.

Uptalk  =  “I have no idea what I’m talking about”

You create a tense atmosphere with Uptalking that is almost demonic in its effect.

This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness.  At its worst, your audience wants to cover ears and cry “make it stop!”   . . . but they aren’t quite sure at what they should vent their fury.

In certain places abroad, this tic is known as the Australian Questioning Intonation, popular among young Australians.

The Brits are less generous in their assessment of this barbarism, calling it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.

In United States popular culture, someone calling herself Kim Kardashian is the main carrier of this virus.  Listen for it in any interview you stumble upon in popular youth-oriented television.

Disney Channel is a training camp for uptalking.  Reality television females, as a breed, express themselves no other way.  Their lives appear as one big query.

But you can fix it.

And recognizing that you have this awful habit is halfway to correcting it.

For many young speakers, uptalk is the only roadblock standing between them and a major step up in presentation power and personal competitive advantage.  Evaluate your own speech to identify uptalk.

Then come to grips with it for an especially powerful presentation.

For more on correcting the uptalk pathology and building a credible business presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop Busy Fingers Sabotage!

Don't engage in busy fingers
Stop those Busy Fingers!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit, and one of these is Busy Fingers.

Proper gesture in your presentation means controlling those aimless actions your body takes on its own . . . because of habit or nerves.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.

For instance, without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations that distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are a few of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.

These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Busy Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

Or this nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of  mediocrity.

This bad presentation habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.  And so their fingers get busy on their own – Busy Fingers.

You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what.  So you develop these unconscious bad presentation habits.

Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”

Tugging at your fingers.  I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.

Bending your fingers back in odd manner.  This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced.  It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell.  It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.

Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement.  This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.

Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.

Especially Powerful Gesture

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

We gesture to add force to our points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?

While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

Said James Winans in 1915:

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues.  Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine.

Harmonize.

You attain a powerful communication moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine and align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy.

Be spare with your gestures and be direct, and they gain power.

Make them count for an especially powerful business presentation.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit of busy fingers in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.