Friday, September 23, 2011

Six Steps for Dealing With a Hostile Or Indifferent Audience

As a differencemaker, you might find yourself having to deal with a less-than-ideal audience. They might be frustrated, annoyed, angry, upset or even just indifferent. How do you bring them around - or at least to the point where they're willing to listen to your message?

Here's a six-step process, which I call "Offer 3". Use this before your presentation during your planning.

1. Know your OUTCOME.

It's easy to focus so much on their attitude that you forget your outcome from the presentation. What do you want to achieve as a result of your presentation? Knowing this ensures you remain flexible in everything else you do. It also guides you in dealing with the audience, because everything you do to deal with their attitude should be leading towards your outcome.

2. Understand their FEELINGS.

They'll act on feelings, and justify it later on logic. The better you understand their feelings, the better you'll be able to tailor your message to take these feelings into account. Don't judge or interpret their feelings - simply understand and respect them.

3. Know their FRAME.

Their frame of reference, or point of view, is probably different from yours. This is where you look for their logic, reasoning and thinking; and compare it with yours. For example, you might not have all the facts, or they might not have all the facts.

Also recognise that everything they're doing has some positive intent (for themselves). For example, a dominant person who's always arguing with you might not be doing it to be rude; they might be protecting their status among their friends in the audience. This doesn't excuse their behaviour; but it gives you an opportunity to work with them rather than against them.

4. ENGAGE them.

Of course, your message always has to be engaging, but this is even more important with a hostile or indifferent audience.

In particular, put more time into answering their four "Why" questions:
  • Why This? What are the benefits of listening?
  • Why You? What authority do you have?
  • Why Now? What is the urgency to take action now?
  • Why Me? Why is this a good fit for them?

5. REFRAME their concerns.

Is there a way that your message does address their concerns - even though they might not realise it?

For example, if you're addressing businesspeople who've been taken out of their workplace to attend a compulsory training course, and they're impatient because they think they're losing valuable time, demonstrate how your training gives them more time in their day.

This step isn't always relevant or appropriate, but it's very effective when you can use it.

6. Look for a THIRD option.

Don't make it a "You vs. the audience" confrontation. Look for a creative third - and fourth, fifth and sixth - option that allows both your needs to be met.

For example, if you're addressing busy people for a two-hour program, is it possible to offer a summary version in the first 20 minutes, and then give people the option to leave at that point if they don't need to stay for the rest of it? Even giving them the choice will improve their attitude, and many of them will elect to stay anyway.

Finally, with a hostile or indifferent audience, it becomes even more important than ever to do these things well before your presentation. The worst thing to do is to turn up unprepared for that audience, and be forced to tackle these issues on the spot.

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