3 Steps to Eliminate Body Tics in Public Speaking

I just saw an interesting video  in which the speaker used the exact same round arm movements with every statement he made.  This young man had made a video for his business and wanted to know more about my business so I told him what I did and also told him about his repetitive arm movement.  I call it a body tic.

When we use the words ‘Um’ or ‘Ah’ throughout our discourse, we refer to them as verbal tics.  Using your arms in a repetitive fashion is a type of tic as well and might be called a body tic.  I also consider pacing back and forth on a stage in a repetitive manner a body tic.

I am all in favor of good body language while presenting; however, the problem with the verbal tic or the body tic is that we focus on the tic and not on the message.   And, in some cases we begin to count.

So how do we get rid of the tic?

  • First, you must be aware that you are doing it.  If you are video recording yourself for YouTube or your website, for example, you must study the playback.  And, I mean study it before you publish it.

Listen to yourself, watch yourself, and then work on what needs improvement.  If you are selling your services in some fashion, either through your website, on a stage, or in a webinar, you are being judged.  Your goal is to project professionalism which helps establish your credibility and your authority in what you are doing.

  • Hit the pause button.  I am serious!

While you are practicing, take note of what you are doing with your hands as you speak.  If they’re moving in the same direction or if you are pacing back and forth, continue to talk, but stop the movement.  Stand still for a couple of second or don’t move your arms for a few seconds: just let them hang.

  • Then use just one arm for a change or place your arms behind your back or put a hand in your pocket or hold a pen.  Do it differently.  if you’ve been pacing, try moving in the opposite direction when you resume walking.

Admittedly, any type of movement is better than none; however, you can beat this and become a better presenter which is better for you and your audience.

If you are interested in honing your presentation skills and discovering your richer, warmer, deeper voice in the process, join me in Myrtle Beach, April 28 & 29 for my next Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop.

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Is Your Soft-Spoken Voice Holding You Back?

hWhen you look at your strengths and weaknesses, have you ever considered that your soft-spoken voice is not a strength but indeed a weakness? If others cannot hear you, your message is not being received.

Volume is a very tricky dynamic. A voice that is too loud is offensive, overbearing and uncomfortable for your listeners’ ears. One that is too soft, on the other hand, screams timidity, lack of confidence, and insecurity.

  • For the majority of those who use an incorrect amount of volume, being too loud is not the problem – being too soft is.

This problem is not an easy one to solve without dedication and a desire to make the change. When I work with others in voice training, they find that discovering their ‘real’ voice is surprisingly simple, basic and fundamental. And, their inner ear is most accommodating – it enjoys the richer, warmer, deeper sound. When I work with those who speak too softly, however, their inner ear revolts.

Your inner ear is best described as how you hear yourself when you speak. Your outer ear, which is how you recognize other people’s voices, is unable to hear your own voice as others do. This is why you are shocked, disgusted or even embarrassed when you hear your voice on an answering machine or some other form of recording equipment: you do not recognize that sound.

Because your inner ear is most comfortable with your soft-spoken level, when you try to increase your volume, your inner ear will tell you that you are shouting. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, the only way you will convince your inner ear to accept an increase in volume is to record both your voice and that of someone else who is speaking at a normal volume level. Play it back at a comfortable listening level and compare the two voices. Who sounds normal and who does not?

Today, the pressure to make the best impression possible to your boss, your prospective clients and even to your colleagues is on-going. If you are not being heard, however, what impression are you sending? While you may not be shy, timid or lacking in confidence, your voice may be saying that you are. That is not the image you want to project if you are determined to be successful in your career.

There are only so many times others will ask you to repeat yourself before they will take over the conversation. When that happens, your words of wisdom are meaningless. If you expect others to understand and appreciate your message, they must be first be able to hear you say it!

Soft Spoken

Watch as Nancy describes Your Volume Control

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Uptalk: A Part of Women’s Nature – Really?

We hear it every day. We hear it on news stations both on radio and TV. We hear it in conversation. We hear it at work. And, it is driving me crazy! You may do it yourself and not know it. What am I talking about? Uptalk or as I’ve described it in the past – the Valley Girl sound.

Uptalk is a manner of speaking in which you place an upward inflection on the last word of a declarative statement, making that statement sound like a question. It is interesting that the Urban Dictionary says it is common among teens and surfers. Certainly in the ‘90’s that was true. Today, however, uptalk is common among teens as well as those in their 20’s, 30’s, and ‘40’s.

Uptalk gives the impression to your listener that you are unsure of yourself.

In researching uptalk, I found an article in the monthly magazine, The Atlantic, in which Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, said that uptalk is part of a woman’s nature. Part of a woman’s nature? I don’t think so.

I had never heard uptalk in normal conversation from either my clients or those being interviewed by the media until 10 – 12 years ago. However, I have been writing about uptalk in regards to the personal introduction since I started my business in 1989. During business meetings, when people would introduce themselves, every statement in their intro sounded like a question. (And that was before Beverly Hills, 90210!)

No, uptalk is not part of a woman’s nature or else we wouldn’t see the rise of it among men. Uptalk is a habit. A habit that teens started in the 90’s and continued as they went through college and into the workforce. That is why we are hearing so much of it today.

Gillibrand further stated that women speak this way because they want to be ‘well-liked.’ I don’t agree. It started back in the 90’s because teenage girls thought it sounded cute and surfers thought it cool. And then it became a habit.

From my experience, the majority of adults who speak in this manner are not aware of it. At one of my recent voice & presentation skills workshops, a woman in the group told us that her colleagues had complained about her delivery, in particular, her uptalk. She was unaware of it. Once Bora heard herself on video, however, she recognized the problem and started finishing her statements on the ‘down swing’ instead of the ‘up.’

The best way to find out how you end your sentences is to record yourself in conversation and study the playback. If you are finishing your statements on the upswing, you can change this habit.

  • Focus listening to your speech when you talk.
  • Begin training your inner ear to recognize the sound. (Your inner ear is how you hear your voice in your head.)
  • Practice making statements and moving the pitch of your voice down as you finish your statements.

Example: He went to the store.

Once you are comfortable with the above sentence and are able to say those 5 words as a statement, ask it as a question:

Example: He went to the store?

Go back and forth between question and statement, training your ear to recognize the difference.

With practice, you can end the uptalk.  You will sound more confident and look and feel more confident in the process!


If you would like to discover your ‘real’ voice, join me at my next Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop, February 17 & 18, Mt Laurel, NJ

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How Charlie Puth, Rita Ora and Andy Bell Deal with Vocal Abuse

Charley Puth: “Not use it. That’s the quickest way. And don’t whisper — a common misconception is that if you whisper, it’s better for your voice, but that’s way worse. That’s just as bad as screaming — that’s the same sensation.”

Rita Ora: “Oh my gosh. You can’t speak to anyone. You become antisocial. I lock myself in a room and don’t talk. Apart from steaming the s— out of myself, that’s it.”

Andy Bell: “Plenty of rest, you must rest. Don’t talk too much … Well, a little bit. And lots and lots of steam — as much steam as you can.”

From the article I read about this topic, 14 Singers on the Fastest Way to Recover from Losing Your Voice, the most common response was not using the voice.

The one thing these singers have in common, however, is that they are being paid to sing. Chances are pretty good that you and I are not! When not performing, these singers have the luxury of being quiet. You and I do not. Our professional and even our personal lives depend on our ability to speak.

What should you do if you are plagued with a chronic sore throat or even
loss of voice?

Learn to power your voice from your chest cavity thereby taking the pressure off your voice box and throat.

Why don’t the singers do the same? With popular singers, it really depends on the type of sound they are trying to achieve. Many of them use their throat and vocal cords as their primary amplifiers which is very stressful to those delicate areas.

For speaking, however, changing the way you place your sound will not only eliminate vocal abuse but it will also result in a deeper, richer, more mature-sounding voice. After I had worked with John, he attended a Pittsburgh Steelers game and later told me that he did not lose his voice during the game. He was able to be heard amidst the din of the stadium and still had a lot of energy after it was over. This was quite a change for him. Previously he had been shouting.

Once your chest is powering your sound, you then have the ability to increase your volume without screaming or shouting. This is known as projection. In the years raising my two boys, I never yelled at them; I projected.

Until you make this change, your vocal abuse will continue. Drugs will not solve the problem although limiting the amount you speak will certainly help. My question to you, though, is how long can you afford to stop talking?

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How Professional Does Your Voice Sound?

So many people rely on their voice for their business – yet so many people are unaware that their voice can have a tremendous impact on the success of their business. When you hear yourself on recording equipment or an answering machine, for example, what is your reaction? While your 1st response may be that you don’t recognize the sound, it is quite possible that your 2nd reaction is one of embarrassment.

Does your voice sound professional? Does it exude confidence?

Before I discovered my ‘real’ voice, I worked for a tour operator in Philadelphia, selling pre-packed tours to various vacation spots through the US and Mexico. My success at that job was negligible. My boss, on the other hand, a former priest who had previously taught English, was the epitome of success. What did Harry have that I didn’t? An incredible speaking voice. Deep, rich, and resonant, his sound was mesmerizing. I lasted about 3 months with that company.

Following my dismal experience at ‘Your Man Tours,’ I discovered my optimum or real speaking voice while in graduate school during one of my singing lessons. That is one lesson I took to heart because I knew that that lower sound was richer, warmer and more mature in quality. Following my graduate studies, I moved to New York City and got the job I wanted because I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. While I was only 24, my voice exuded confidence and professionalism. And, it paved the way for even better jobs during those years.

While your voice accounts for 37% of the image you project, imagine what happens in a webinar or over the phone where your listeners have only a voice on which to focus. And that is the one you hear on your answering machine – not the sound you hear being distorted in the solid and liquid of your brain!

If you find your voice embarrassing on recording equipment, how do you think your listeners feel about it? You’ve got a better one inside of you, just waiting to be discovered. Don’t let poor vocal habits jeopardize your success in communicating.

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Colorful in Person But a Monotone at the Lectern?

When I consider the thousands of people with whom I’ve worked over the years, it is fascinating to see how many of them lose their ‘color’ when they stand at the lectern to deliver a speech or presentation. In normal conversation, these people are animated, emotional, alive. At the lectern, however, they:

• briefly glimpse their notes;
• look up with fear in their eyes;
• open their mouth to speak and pray that something will come out;
• something does come out but they are unable to control their speed; and,
• talk with little or no expression, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The cause is nervousness.


I love nervousness – that marvelous rush of adrenaline which can lift your presentation to a whole new level. However, if the above ‘symptoms’ sound like you, then your nervousness is working against you. When that happens, it is impossible for your emotions – the color, the life, the animation – to be expressed. Simply put, your nervousness is in control and not you.

Recently I read an article in which the writer said that in order to control your nervousness, try deep breathing before you walk up to the lectern. That is certainly good advice; however, better advice would be to continue the deep breathing throughout the entire delivery. Make diaphragmatic breathing a habit and you will discover a control that you never knew possible as well as an end to breathlessness.

Successful speakers (as well as performers, musicians, & athletes) allow their nervousness to work for them and the really good ones understand the value of the breath.

Watch this brief video clip in which I discuss the value of breathing for public speaking.

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