Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

3 Tips to Deal With Audiences from Hell

by Guila Muir

Resis­tant 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.

Read more articles about Presentation Skills. Learn about Guila Muir’s Presentation Skills Workshops.

Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter:

© Guila Muir.


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