1. Delivery is social
  2. Voice
  3. Posture & Gesture
  4. Use the social to move one another forward

Delivery is Social

Almost everyone feels self-conscious when they hear their own voice on a recording. Our voice is one of our two or three most "personal" components - personal in the sense that it identifies us to others and personal in the sense that we have a very hard time separating it from our sense of who we are. That's probably why we think of the way we talk as being highly individual. I want to argue that that is wrong: our voice, and how we use it, is eminently social.

If you think about it, this is not a very provocative claim - the main thing we do with voice is language and language is absolutely social. As an aside, language ends up being the single best example of an important sociological idea - the interplay of agency (what people do as it comes from our voluntary inside) and structure (the rules and constraints that come from the outside): language is only what people actually do BUT no one is free to just do language as they please.

But back to the point of the moment. Consider the verbal behavior known as the "vocal fry." You might recognize it as a Kardashianism or as a caricature of the wealthy:


Try doing this together. Use this script or one you make up

A: Hey. So, we're working on our project. It's about kids and museums.
B: As if they go together.
A: I know. What are they thinking?
B: Do you have to like go to a museum?

The together part is actually important. The thing is, when people talk like this they are almost always dancing, in a social interaction sense, with others. It's a technique for adding social meaning to an utterance. We can imagine our conversation partners adding "I knowwwwww" with a vocal fry that says "we are in agreement in our disdain."

But there's more. These affectations are also ways of adjusting the ownership we are taking of our utterances. "I'm just sayin…" might "I DO realize it's not a very nice thing to say and I don't really expect you to say you agree but I assume you do even if you don't."


Another frequently remarked upon verbal behavior is "up talk." Although associated with the "valley girl" phenomenon, uptalk is by no means limited to women.

Uptalk is, to put it most simply, speaking statements as if they questions. If "Valley Girls" enshrined uptalk in the 80s, it was Alyson Hannigan's performance in "American Pie" (and one time at band camp) that did it in the 90s. You'll sometimes hear it called "rising terminals" or "rising terminal intonation."

But in any case, the point, for our purposes, is that uptalk is not so much a way that a person talks as it is a way that people talk together.

My friend Tom Linneman, a professor at the College of William and Mary, did a study of how contestants on the game show Jeopardy speak. Remember, on this show the "answers" have to be phrased as questions so you would expect a little bit of uptalk when a contestant buzzes in to "answer." Let's try it


Try out different ways of responding to the host of Jeopardy.
ALEX: Although it burned in 1851, the library of this third president of the US has recently been reassembled.

Contestant: Who is Thomas Jefferson?

Now imagine that I just said "who is Franklin Roosevelt?" and everyone laughed. How would you give your answer then?
Or imagine that you are 15,000 ahead of me. Would you say it any differently

Uptalk and related tonal issues frequently creep into our presentation styles. At some level they reveal how we are feeling : nervous, but mostly they simply send a message we don't want to send. We end up sounding tentative and our message does not get across.

POINT: (1) the way we use our voice says something about our inner state (accurate or not), and (2) the way we use our voice is almost always interactive

We want to leverage the second point to help each other effect change in how we play the instrument of our voice.



Read this script with excess uptalk together

When kids go to a museum they like to touch stuff but that's exactly what they are not allowed to do.
This greatly inhibits the educational potential of a museum visit.
We have a solution.


Deliver the following lines in the worst uptalk you can muster.
"I'm a student in the Academy."

Good afternoon. I'm fname lname. And today, I'm here, to talk to you about noun.

When we were giving our presentation, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I thought we were going to freak. But we did OK.

I saw this movie last week called "The November Man." It was

Now let's practice them with a decided "downtalk" falling tone.

On Being Nervous

Everybody's Nervous. It's normal not pathological. Sometimes it helps to say you are nervous (but not always - think about the audience and situation).

Verbal Tics


The Hierarchy of Body Parts

Eyes > Face > Hands > Posture

Looking at the Audience
5-8 seconds
Move around

Hands & Arms

"Good afternoon everyone. I'm X. Today I'd like to tell you about something that can change your life: learning to listen."

Gesture Tool Box

General concept "nonverbals"

The Steeple


Point at Palm
Count off two hands, count off one hand
Open Palm Point
The Package


"So how does it work?" steeple
"A good talk has one core idea" package
"And the structure of the talk is that two guns
we tell them what we are going to tell them, one right
we tell them, two middle
and then we tell them what we told them." three left
And that works. palms up and out

Sample Texts

For business e-mail users who want to better manage the increasing number of messages they receive when out of the office, BlackBerry is a mobile e-mail solution that provides a real-time link to their desktop e-mail for sending, reading and responding to important messages. Unlike other mobile e-mail solutions, BlackBerry is wearable, secure, and always connected.(http://blog.coryfoy.com/2014/01/product-vision-statements-aka-your-elevator-pitch/)

Good afternoon. I'm X Y and I'm here today to talk to you about Z.

Have you ever [common experience] and found that [common frustration]?


Outline and Scripts


“Postures During an Oral Presentation| Synonym.” The Classroom | Synonym. Accessed September 17, 2014. http://classroom.synonym.com/postures-during-oral-presentation-4500.html.
Higher Education Authority (UK) "Oral Presentation Skills for Students and Teachers of English: Presentations" Coventry University
Abby Normal "Vocal Fry Tones"

Quenqua, Douglas. 2012. "They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve" New York Times Published: February 27, 2012