• August 2011

Five Ways to Avoid MNPS: Mind-Numbing Presentation Syndrome

By Dawnna St. Louis
National Speaker and Coach

We have all met speakers who are infected with MNPS: Mind-Numbing Presentation Syndrome. It’s a bit of an epidemic, because to enchant an audience it usually takes a big personality, a good bit of gumption, and the instinct and desire to ham it up.

But there is a cure. Speakers simply need to remember the most important rule of speaking, “It’s not about you. It is about the audience.”

A Prescription for Avoiding MNPS

Take as directed: These five tips should be administered twice a day for several weeks while practicing and preparing for a speech. The side effects are additional requests for speaking engagements, slight deafness from too much applause, a need to purchase additional business cards, and increased likability.

Here’s how:

1. Create an Instant Connection.

  • Meet the emcee before the speech, and talk about what types of professionals will be in the audience.
  • Whenever possible, mingle with audience members before the speech so you will have allies in the crowd. This will also help you get a feel for the culture and personality of the group.
  • If you deem it appropriate, open your speech with a little bit of humor—but be sure the emcee knows that you are going to make some type of joke to warm up the crowd and get their immediate buy in.
  • During the first five minutes of the speech, try to tie in audience members’ comments and names (with permission of course). This provides an instant connection.

2. Embrace the Rule of Three.

  • Share no more than three points in three five minute blocks (approximately every 15 minutes).
  • Why? Because three is the magic number when it comes recalling information. But it’s still tricky to ensure that your message gets across, so make those three points visual, concrete, and as simple as possible.

3. Make It Sticky by Telling a Story.

  • The goal of public speaking is not simply to fill the hall with your voice. It is to motivate, inspire, educate, engage, and/or entertain your audience.
  • The fastest way to drive home your point is to create a story that is visual, concrete, emotional, and simple.
  • When delivering your story, first provide your audience with the teaser point that piques the audience’s interest.
  • Only tell stories that develop your point.
  • Finally, solidify the point with the audience. Here’s a good trick: If you have done a good job, the audience should be able to tell you the point of the story at the end of your speech. So ask them for feedback. This also gives you a golden opportunity to engage them one last time.

4. Remember the Seventh-Minute Inning.

  • Another magic number is seven minutes, which is how frequently you should engage your audience.
  • Let’s make sure that we are clear on the concept of engagement. This does not mean that once every seven minutes you look up from your notes out into the audience; that is not engagement.
  • In fact if you are doing that, please leave the stage immediately.
  • Engagement means that you ask the audience questions. Talk to them and let them respond. Make them a part of the event. When you do, it will invest them in the event’s success.

5. End With a Big Finish.

  • Most speakers end their speech with questions and answers. Don’t.
  • Make your final moments on stage memorable and amazing by ending with an anecdote or joke—something that will leave the audience with a smile on their face, and the wonderful image of you in their memory.


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.