Handling Aggressive Behavior Miniseries Rule Two: “Let The Audience Help”

Rob Jolles

Putting on a presentation, and having someone from the audience take shots at you can throw even the most grizzled speakers. Often adhering to the rule, “The first one is free” will allow you to maintain your dignity, and rise above it. People can make awkward and uncomfortable comments with no intent to disrupt your presentation. But sometimes there is intent.

You might ask, “Why would someone deliberately try to sabotage my presentation?” Sometimes it can be because they fear change. Sometimes it can be because they are angry it’s not them giving the presentation. Sometimes it can be because they are looking out for another vendor’s best interest. Sometimes it can be because they don’t see a need to be there, or are angry with their boss. Sometimes it can be because you look they like their ex-husband or wife. Suffice to say, there are a lot of reason someone can deliberately try to sabotage your presentation. Now what are you going to do about it?

My suggestion is to do what the pros do; let the audience help. I’ve given you a handful of reasons why a person might want to disrupt a presentation, but let me remind you of something else. Usually the person who is doing the disrupting, is well known by others in the audience… and the audience doesn’t like their behavior one bit. They grow frustrated with speakers who try and placate these “snipers” as we call them in the business, and want to speak too. Let them. A typical exchange might sound something like this:

Sniper: “I’m not trying to stir things up, but I think I speak for many when I say, we’ve seen all this before. No offense, but isn’t this just another example of a product that just won’t fit into the way we do things here?”

Speaker: “So, if I understand your question, you are looking for clarification regarding the relevancy of this product. Fair enough. There are a lot of products that compete in this shelf space. How do the rest of you feel about this? Is there value in exploring other ways to address your client’s needs?”

Professional speakers call this a, “relay.” Once you relay this question back to the audience, all you need to do is stand back and let the audience respond. In fact you will see that people are itching to answer that question for you. Remember, when a sniper rears its ugly head, it not only embarrasses the speaker, it often embarrasses the rest of the audience too.

I would recommend you field one or two responses from the audience, soften their responses if you need to, summarize, and move on. Your not there to fire back at the sniper, win an argument, or get even. Your job is to put on a phenomenal presentation, and manage the room while doing it.

With the audience’s help, and your careful facilitation of their responses, often the problem goes away. However, sometimes, these snipers can keep coming, and if they do, I’ve got another move up my sleeve for next week’s continuing BLArticle® miniseries.

Rob Jolles - President of Jolles Associates, Inc.
Copyright 2012 Author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved

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