How to Deal with a Negative Audience in Professional Speaking
At one time or another, you will have to deal with a negative audience member or group. How do should you handle that kind of situation and still keep a professional appearance? The first goal to keep in mind is that you have a message to communicate and that is your job! Your goal is to bring information to the rest of the group whether or not they want to receive your message. The mindset you should have is that you are well able to communicate that message and you’re going to do it in a professional way. Here are some tips to keep you on track as you deal with a negative audience.
1. Know your stuff. Knowledge is power and so is preparation. Do you know your subject matter well enough to answer impromptu questions? If not, you should. Review the material and ask yourself potential questions that might come up. Look for inconsistencies in information within your presentation and then remove them. Prepare answers to potential questions.
2. Don’t react to negative comments or questions. You are the professional and you are the “guru” of information concerning the topic you’re speaking on. Reacting negatively destroys any positive images that your audience has of you. Believe it or not, your audience is not thinking “Oh poor speaker being heckled by audience member Joe!” Don’t give in to emotion because that’s not part of your equation. Stick to the topic at hand and take the stance that you are the information “guru” regarding the subject matter!
3. Always answer all questions. Avoiding difficult questions also questions you’re validity as a subject matter expert. One of your goals as a speaker is to gain the support of your audience. You want them jumping on the bandwagon idea that you’re pitching to them. In the process, you’ll want to eliminate anything that will cause you to lose your credibility.
4. Maintain your control. Responding to your negative audience with the same negative emotion will cause you to lose control of your topic. Focus on the topic at hand. Train your mind to deliver the message you were hired to deliver instead of letting emotional antics get in the way. A developed speaker is one who has control over his/her emotions.
5. Be prepared for the next potential negative encounter. Having one negative speaking experience certainly prepares you for the next. Instead of focusing on the negative situation, take a step back and begin to learn from what happened. Perform a self-evaluation. What did you learn?
6. Engage your negative audience member or group. A negative audience or member is one who is disconnected with your presentation. It should be your goal to connect with as many people as possible and to make your subject come alive in their minds that what you present is possible.
Train yourself to react professionally. In doing so, you’ll be establishing yourself as a leader and as a subject matter expert. Don’t let negative questioning override what you have to communicate – look at it as being just a learning experience. When you do that, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a top-notch professional speaker!
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