Top Tips To Handle Tough Audience Members During Presentations

Top Tips To Handle Tough Audience Members During Presentations
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The Ability Handle Tough Audience Members During Presentations Can Make Or Break Your Presentation
Not often, but enough times to make it worth planning for, a presenter is challenged by an audience member who wants to take far more air time than is appropriate.  These time-absorbing audience members come in two common varieties:

  • The Incessant Question Asker
    These tough audience members during a presentation attempt to ask question after question, even when others are trying to get some air time.  Every time there is the slightest opening, these questioners’ hands seem to fly up like the hands of contestants on a timed-response TV quiz show, or these people just blurt out their questions without being called on by the facilitator.
  • The Proclaimer
    These tough audience members during a presentation make statements (sometimes long statements) at every opportunity, rather than asking a real question.

Both types of tough audience members during a presentation seem to have similar personal agendas: to get noticed and/or to prove how much they know as opposed to keeping the audience’s attention on what the presenter has to offer.  Since their behavior runs counter to the objective of a productive discussion, and they can be a severe irritation to other audience members, the presenter has to be prepared to deal with such awkward moments.

What is Expected form a Seasoned Presenter
Your audience expects you to deal with disruptive audience members, but no one wants to be made uncomfortable by the way that is done.  This is a touchy situation.  The best approach is never to lose your cool and to politely but firmly let these audience members know that you will need to limit their air time.

Examples of How to Handle Tough Audience Members During Presentations
Our sales presentation training and business presentation training experts have a few field-tested tips to ensure that your important presentation does not get derailed.

  • To an Incessant Question Asker
    “Bill, I know you have many questions on this subject, but I need to let others get their questions in as well.”  Then, immediately break eye contact and recognize another audience member who has a question, or pose a compelling question yourself.

    Do not get into a discussion with the incessant question asker.

  • To the Proclaimer
    “I’m sorry, but for the sake of time, can you please state your question so we can respond to it.” 
    Or you might say: “That’s a lot of background information.  Let me frame a question for the group from what you have said.  What are people’s opinions about …”

The Bottom Line
When the stakes are high, how you handle disruptions can make or break your idea, credibility, and influence. Be prepared to handle the inevitable disruptions that can derail the best presentations at work.

To learn more about how to deliver effective business presentations, download How to Present to Senior Executives Like a Rock Star

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