• July 2011

Dawnna St. Louis Challenges Us to "Go Big or Go Home"

By Dawnna St. Louis
National Speaker and Coach

Have you ever been held hostage in your chair by a boring speaker? Were they torturing you with bullets in their PowerPoint? Wait. Were you that speaker?

It is time to put an end to boring speeches that drone on forever, turning minutes into hours, and audience members into victims. As a speaker, the one rule you need to live by is, “Go big, or go home.”

Here are five rules of engagement to get you going in the right direction.

1. Start off with a BANG!

You only have seven valuable seconds to knock your audience off their feet. Make sure you do that with an incredible introduction. A joke, a story, a quote, a dance, a song, juggle, etc., will all work. I know a guy who walks in as a band conductor—top hat, baton, and all—to get the crowd going. While that is interesting, there are better ways to start. Remember, the speech is not about you. It is about entertaining, engaging, and educating your audience. So do everything you can to suck them in from the start.

2. Bullets are for GUNS!

Remove the list of PowerPoint bullets and replace them with images. The goal of bullets is to provide some type of related information to the audience. Instead of giving the audience information and then asking them to translate it into results, use images to show them the results.

For example: My client had a bullet that stated, “only 3 percent of people who purchase empowerment books at networking events actually read them, and only a third of those people will successfully do something with the information.” We converted that to show an image of 100 people on the slide, then we zoomed in and showed three people. And then we zoomed in and showed one person. We finalized by asking the question, “Who has the upper hand in this room?”

3. Messages must BE MEMORABLE!

If you can get rid of the PowerPoint presentation all together—all the better. Ditto for the props. And do let go of the podium. After all, these are all crutches that inexperienced speakers rely on to stave off their fears.

Instead of hiding behind the fact that you really don’t want to be standing on center stage—concentrate on your message, and your audience. Use what I call, “Sticky Mechanics,” to make your message memorable.

This means that you have to convert statistics into stories, use visually exciting words, and create a stage set with your body movement. To make your message even more memorable, use the “rule of threes” (feature three topics, three points, and three examples in a speech). And be sure to get creative. This is the best way for you to impress your audience.

4. Stop talking. START ENGAGING!

Your speech should be a conversation with the audience—one where they are as engaged in as you are. Think about it this way: You are going on a blind date. Your date talks nonstop for two hours. How do you think your date would rate the evening? How would you?

Generally the talker (your date) thinks that everything was amazing. But the listener (you) would cut off their ears before agreeing to be tortured like that again.

It is the same with your audience. Regardless of size (even hundreds of thousands), your audience can be—and must be—energized, excited, and invested in what you are telling them. That’s why they came in the first place. Don’t disappoint them.

5. Go out with a BANG!

If you open with a bang, close with one, too. Unfortunately, too many speakers close the conversation with questions, thank yous, contact information, or a summary of what they talked about.

A better way to close is with a story that solidifies your point. This is the last thing your audience will remember about you, so be sure to make it memorable.


About Dawnna St. Louis

Professional speaker and coach Dawnna St. Louis began her career in 1990 as a technologist. Hungry to learn, she dove into mastering computer hardware, enterprise networks, and software programming languages such as C++, Java, and C#. Her knack for converting techno-babble into concepts that business leaders could understand caught the attention of executives, who soon asked her to help solve their communications issues.

Her ability to speak confidently in public landed St. Louis her first professional speaking engagement, at 25, before a Congressional Committee for the U.S. District Courts in the Southern District of Florida.

Her desire to share her personal knowledge and expertise with other entrepreneurs and business leaders led her to branch out on her own and form the highly successful, Miami-based speaking and coaching firm, Dawnna St. Louis. Her clients include professional athletes and public figures, as well as C-level executives.

“My goal is to coach executives to create memorable and powerful messages, and public figures to answer those embarrassing, impromptu questions fearlessly and flawlessly,” she says. “The results never cease to amaze my clients, who report that after my program they have higher sales, improved public profiles, and the confidence to deliver a well-developed, powerful message.”

For more information, visit www.DawnnaSpeaks.com.