When A Presentation Turns Into An Inquisition

speakerI used to like public speaking, teaching and giving presentations.  Not so much anymore.  My current situation has turned me from that appeal.  I will say at this moment that I am still a bit unraveled from my experience this morning.  I was asked – at the last minute – to give a short presentation on new equipment.  As I have experienced in past presentations, it turned into an inquisition.  The negative Nellies rear their ugly heads.  People ask questions either to display their own knowledge or find ways to attack what you are presenting.

I will be honest in that I didn’t handle it very well today.

So I was thinking about what ways you and I can be better equipped for these situations.

#1 – Don’t make a presentation at the last minute

Yes, I should have known this when I was asked this morning.  Find a way to put it off to the next meeting or so way to avoid being “thrown to the wolves”.  It is better to prepare mentally before facing this situation.

#2 – Try to separate yourself from the subject.

In other words – don’t take it personal.  Let people have their say and do what you plan to do anyway.  Just because they are negative about the subject matter doesn’t mean they are negative about you.  You are better than their petty comments.  Let them bounce off.

#3 – Promote the positive

Have a positive attitude about the subject and continue to remind the audience how it will benefit them.  Repeat it as often as necessary so that the negative comments can be deflected by the positive ones.

#4 – Ignore the hecklers

Some people have never mentally graduated from high school.  They think it’s funny to make snide comments or poke fun at what is being presented.  As hard as it is to do, develop a deaf ear to them.  If you respond to them it will only empower the hecklers.

#5 – Find a graceful way to end the presentation

If it’s just not working, try to find a way to end the presentation as soon as possible without making it appear that you are simply walking out.  If you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, don’t feel that you have to show all of your slides.  Simply black out the presentation and give the audience your contact information for further questions.

Yeah, I didn’t follow any of these this morning in my presentation.  I totally unraveled and spending time now to regroup.  I honestly don’t understand why people do what they do.  The absence of common courtesy continues to surprise me.  I have always been respectful of presenters.  If I didn’t like what they have to say, I never try to challenge them in the presentation.  I will always ask them later or deal with it one-on-one.

To be fair, not everyone in the audience will be hostile so do your best to focus on those people and make sure the message you are trying to get across is done in spite of the inquisitors.  As one person in my audience said after the meeting: “No good deed goes unpunished”.


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