Public speaking preparation

How To Handle Difficult People In The Audience

During your presentation or public speaking you may get a contentious question or an audience member who disagrees with your point of view or and audience member who appears to be simply a heckler. There are several ways to deal with this type of situation.

1.     As with most things preparation is important.

Do your homework and be prepared for those left field questions or the objections that you know people will have. It is about anticipation and planned spontaneity.

You can prepare by setting the ground rules of your presentation. Try to anticipate those tricky questions.

2.     Find Some Point of Agreement with Your Challenger

Agree with the person on some level… Again you have to resist your gut instinct to get defensive and argumentative. Finding some point of agreement, however small, with your challenger, helps you appear to be an open minded person to the audience

3.     Get Back to Them

No one can know everything and answer every question or objective. But as a good leader or good trainer you know where to get the answer or you know how to find out and agree to get back to them. Our politicians often take difficult questions on notice and then have 72 hours to respond. Don’t bluff or make up answers, find out and get back to them

4.     Agree to discuss after the presentation

This can be in the tea break or at the back of the room or even via e mail. This is especially the case if their question or concern is a little off the topic or outside of the scope of what you are speaking on. Thus the audience may not understand the question anyhow (a niche question) and you can agree to discuss one on one at a later time.

5.     Involve them

Include their comments or their suggestions in your discussions and your presentation, but don’t embarrass them or disparage their viewpoint, rather explain why you have a different idea or viewpoint. Do this respectfully. Involving them can often defuse a tricky situation and even if your final view is different to there’s they at least know that you have considered their point of view in reaching your own view

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