Article: Lose those teen and childlike habits

Sometimes a speaker can appear a little childish and immature because of the things they say, how they say them and what they do while they’re speaking. Here are some tips and techniques for speaking with more gravitas and impact.

Things that can make you sound childish:

Speaking too quickly in a stream of consciousness
The words tumble out in a breathless gabble with no pauses or time to think. This can be caused by nerves, shallow breathing high in the chest and a lack of attention to consonants. Speak less and say more – breathe deeply, slow down, allow the pause and form each word with care.

If you do have a tendency to talk too fast, try putting a coloured pen dot on your hand between thumb and first finger. Then every time you see it, it will remind you to pace yourself.

Beware the three classic vocal habits that can make you sound like a giddy fourteen year old:

That machine-gun “like” habit
“AndIwaslike andhewaslike andIwaslike andshewaslike …..” after a while your listeners stop listening. Be aware if this habit is creeping in – ask people to tell you when you’re doing it. Having to replace it with “I said … he said …” will make you slow down and think.

Australian Question Intonation?
Where your voice goes up at the end of a sentence? Even when you’re not asking a question? It makes you sound uncertain and apologetic. Take care you let your tone go down when you’re making a statement to sound more clear and authoritative.

The Creak
That Made in Chelsea sound at the end of a sentence where the back of the throat relaxes so much that the voice comes out like a Dalek croak … you’ll hear a lot of American actresses do it too. It’s quite hard to listen to, it’s difficult to project any distance and suggests the speaker can’t be bothered to pay attention to the end of the sentence. And if the speaker can’t make the effort, why should the listener? Keep the energy up at the end of the sentence so the air flow isn’t constricted.

Things that can make you look childish:

“I’m shy and rather cute” body language
Flappy hands … Legs twisted round each other … Head on one side … Fiddling and fidgeting of any sort …. they don’t inspire confidence in you as a business person or manager.

Cultivate poised posture, relaxed stillness and purposeful movement. You’ll look much more in control and credible.