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3 Tips to Deal With Audiences From Hell


istock_000006129446xsmall-150x150Resis­tant dynam­ics can be found in any audi­ence. Here are three essen­tial tech­niques to stay sane as a presenter.

1. Check Your­self.
Ask your­self: What am I feel­ing about this audi­ence? Why? What’s the worst that could hap­pen?

Pre­pare your­self emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. Make sure you’ve had enough to eat, and drink plenty of water. If you find your­self going “on stage” expect­ing the worst, or not being pre­pared for  many ques­tions and chal­lenges, you set yourself up for failure.

2. Don’t Let the Hostile Faces Hook You.
Your goal is to present to the best of your abil­ity, to everyone in the room. Don’t get emotionally connected to the few unhappy audience members.

Acknowl­edge and respect the dynam­ics in the room. Detach from them. Most likely, these have nothing to do with you.

3. Present as if Every­one Were Uncom­mit­ted.
I bor­row from Don Pfarrer’s book, Guerilla Per­sua­sion, for this incred­i­bly help­ful final tip. I’ve used it often, to great success.

Assume that every audi­ence is comprised of four different groups. Each group is either friendly to your mes­sage, hostile, indif­fer­ent, or sim­ply uncom­mit­ted.

Here’s the strategy: Focus on the uncom­mit­ted. In this way, you will successfully address everyone in the audience. By focusing on the uncommitted, you will con­struct and present your mes­sage more thoroughly and per­sua­sively.

All 4 Audi­ence Seg­ments Ben­e­fit When You Focus on the Uncommitted.

Audi­ence Segment What Do They Want From Listening to You?
Dan­gers of Focus­ing Only on This Segment
How This Seg­ment Ben­e­fits When You Focus on the Uncommitted
“Friend­lies” Sat­is­fac­tion, affin­ity. Too easy — you may assume too much. Their knowl­edge and com­mit­ment is deepened.
“Hos­tiles” To see you fail. Increases your own defen­sive­ness. You may come off abra­sively and unlikable. They expe­ri­ence human respect, open­ness and rea­son from you (and are likely to mir­ror the behavior).
“Indif­fer­ents” To be left alone and unchanged. You may tie your­self up into knots try­ing get a response. They may get the mes­sage, while not being ham­mered by you.
“Uncom­mit­teds” To expe­ri­ence a rea­soned, well-thought-out, good-natured expo­sure to the issues. NONE! They get the best of YOU: affin­ity and reason. You won’t cut cor­ners by assum­ing sup­port where it might not exist.

The bot­tom line is: KNOW YOUR STUFF. Be ready for ques­tions and chal­lenges. By check­ing your­self, not getting “hooked” by hostility, and focus­ing on the Uncom­mit­ted, you take great strides towards more resiliency and professionalism as a presenter.


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