Don’t be an Uptone Girl…or Guy

Don’t be an Uptone Girl…or Guy

The WORST Public Speaking Habit Any Professional Could Have

By Elizabeth Peterson, M.A.,CCC-SLP

Excerpt from, How to Speak like a Broadcaster and Lead like a CEO


Avoid sabotaging your message and public speaking credibility with weak intonation, particularly upspeak. Never end a statement with upspeak. I call this the “Kiss of Death” for women as well as men. Upspeak is when you send your speech back up the stairs at the end of your statement. When messages end on upspeak, they sound doubtful, lack confidence and give the impression that you are seeking approval. This is not a good speech habit for professional situations or where it is important for you to be perceived as a leader. Studies show that, people make conclusions and judgments based on how people use their voice and speech. If you are public speaking with the up-speak behavior, you are crushing your message, credibility and leadership potential.


Test the Theory

Say the line “This is why I support the idea” using the three types of intonation styles listed below:

  1. Say the line with monotone speech.
  2. Say the line ending the final word in upspeak.
  3. Say the line ending the final word on a downward step.


What differences did you notice by ending your statements on an upspeak instead of a lower pitch tone? Can you see how the behavior of up-speak can hurt your public speaking capabilities.

The Power of Ending on a Lower Step at the Bottom of the Speech Stairs

Speaking with upspeak creates a weak impression. It sounds soft and unsure and does not communicate confidence. Ending important statements on a lower step demonstrates a leadership and executive presence. Think of skilled public speakers or politicians when they are campaigning. When they want to make a point or strong impression, they end their statements on a downward step. The next time you watch the news, observe the network broadcasters. Many of them demonstrate this type of intonation speech pattern. They end their statements on the lower step and never produce speech with a sing-song melody or end a statement with upspeak. Be aware of your habits to gain the speaking skills you want to have in the world of business.

Another Reason Why Upspeak Diminishes Leadership

When you apply upspeak, you are sending your sound waves up toward your nasal cavity and away from your lower throat where you produce stronger tones. Speaking with a voice that is thinner, higher and more nasal are opposite characteristics on how people judge leadership. When people judge individuals with having leadership traits, they speak with controlled intonation and from their lower and more powerful voice.

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