Speech Habits

Speech Habits That Risk Your Presentation Success

You know your subject in and out. You structured your message well. You rehearsed your presentation. And you are confident and energetic.

Yet somehow you are not always getting the results you want with your presentations. Something is off but you don’t know what.

Perhaps one or more speech habits undermine your presentation success.

To find out, record yourself when giving your next presentation and listen if one of the following speech habits might be present:


This language trait seems to have its origin in Australian and Californian accents but is now a rising trend anywhere English is spoken, especially with younger generations.

Uptalk is a rising pitch at the end of a sentence. Because a rising pitch indicates a question, it makes speakers sound insecure when they use it for regular statements. It can even keep people from taking you seriously.

According to UK publisher Pearson, which did a survey of 700 individuals in leadership roles, 71 percent consider uptalk a particularly annoying trait. 85 percent found it a clear indicator of insecurity or emotional weakness.

Verbal Tics

We utter verbal tics unintentionally. They include sounds like um and uh. They also include words such as like and you know. This speech habit often repeats frequently during an entire talk.

Experts call them linguistic disfluencies and we seem to experience them more often when we are stressed, nervous, excited, or tired. They can be quite annoying to the audience, especially when they are present in the majority of sentences.

To eliminate verbal tics, breathe deeply, speak slower, and add pauses. We often use verbal tics to give ourselves time to think. By speaking slower and adding deliberate pauses, you will give yourself that needed time without the need for an added um and uh.

Sloppy Grammar

Your grammar doesn’t have to be perfect. But extremely poor grammar can turn people in your audience off.

Using words and constructions like ain’t, gonna, he don’t, me and my friend gives the impression of carelessness. Using proper grammar, on the other hand, establishes you as someone who cares. It will gain you a certain level of respect.

How to Eliminate Speech Habits

Getting rid of speech habits can be challenging because we use them unconsciously. Many presenters are not even aware that they may have a problem. Record your next presentation and ask people who have seen you present for their honest feedback to find out if you could improve your presentations by eliminating those pesky habits.

Then, practice your presentation. A well rehearsed presentation will make your message flow more smoothly as you won’t need to think on your feet about what to say next. Record each of your rehearsals and listen if your speech habits are still present. Repeatedly rehearse your presentation until you are satisfied that it flows well, is free of grammatical errors, and uses correct voice inflection.

If you find it difficult to eliminate your speech habits on your own, you may want to take a closer look at Toastmasters. Joining a club in your area will give you an opportunity to practice and improve your speaking skills in a supportive environment. If you are unaware of this non-profit organization, read my review of Toastmasters to see how it could help you improve your communication skills…and make new, like-minded friends.

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