By Marnie Green
All the preparation and knowledge in the world cannot prepare you for an audience who
does not like or believe you. Many of my clients face public audiences who are hostile
or who do not want to hear the message that is being delivered. However, even in the
most tenuous scenarios, some presenters seem to develop rapport and build the trust of
their audience. Here are a few of the things these experts do to win over their tough
Maintaining composure and then developing rapport with an audience who doesn't want to
hear your message is not easy. It takes practice and preparation. However, if you
remember a few of these basic principles, you'll have a fighting chance of having them
want to listen to you again.
Never lie! Never say, "no comment." Those who gain the trust
and respect of the audience are those who are up front and tell it like it is.
Don't be afraid of not answering a question, but explain why
you can't. The audience doesn't expect you to know everything about everything, but
they do expect you to be honest and forthright. If otherwise credible, you will many
times gain added credibility by saying, "I don't have the complete data at this time,
but I'll get it for you by tomorrow." Then, follow up on your promises. As long as
it's obvious that you're not trying to be evasive, you become more believable in general
by admitting there are things you don't know.
Keep the message simple. Comments should be brief, without jargon,
and easily understood by the audience. One way to turn a group against you is to talk in
your language, rather than theirs. When you try to make too many complex, technical
points, it confuses the audience and then they wonder if you are trying to snow them.
Don't legitimize loaded or negative questions from the audience
by repeating them. In your response, either point out the loaded words or change them
so as to disarm them. You never want to directly answer the question, "So, when did you
stop beating your spouse?"
In general, the tougher the question, the shorter your answer
should be. Oftentimes, we tend to ramble when faced with a tough question. We feel as
if we need to explain ourselves. However, we usually end up digging an even deeper hole
when we run off at the mouth. Just answer the question as concisely as you can and then
Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant and President of the Chandler, AZ-based Management
Education Group. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations optimize
their talent pool. For more information about Green, call 480-705-9394 or visit