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The Hostile Audience – presentation do’s and don’ts

Presenting to an audience who don’t want to hear what you have to say – the hostile audience.

Rarely is a consultant greeted with open arms by the work force. Think about it: words synonymous with “consultant” often are, expensive, restructure, streamlining, cost control, change – take your pick. The outcome of having a consultant come to stay often means that something is going to change for somebody and nobody wants it to be them.

There comes a point when the consultant may be called upon to present to the audience. Public speaking can unnerve a lot of people; public speaking to an audience who don’t necessarily want to hear what you have got to say can strike the fear of God! So here are a few tips to steady your nerve:

There is no magic wand – so breathe. Deep breathing tells the brain that everything is ok as opposed to short breaths and increased heart rate which is telling you to run!

Expect challenges from the audience and prepare for how you will react if and when they happen. The direct approach is effective and acceptable, ‘Thank you for the question, I would like to continue and cover all questions at the end.’

Pick up on any comments made and link them back to what you have said or are about to say in the as yet uncovered slides.

Be polite. Don’t argue with the audience; think about how your face looks – don’t look exasperated or patronising. Set your face. Thinking about someone that you care for softens your features and gives an impression of calmness.

If you have to answer a question that is hostile – repeat it back to ensure that you have understood, neither agree nor disagree but state the facts as you know them briefly and concisely and then move on without reengaging with that person.

Coming back for more – the tough cookie comes back with something else. Thank them for contributing and use a transition like, ‘Does anyone else have a question?’

Have the last word: summarise confidently and succinctly and then avoid eye contact with anyone. Thank them for listening, empathise if the message was tough and pack up and walk away.

Penny Whitelock

Kenzie people

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