How to handle a difficult audience #2

In my last post, I discussed what you could do to set yourself up as the leader at the beginning of a controversial presentation.

There’s a second thing that you can do at the beginning of a presentation to reduce the likelihood of audience members getting upset and annoyed. Acknowledge the issue that people are concerned about upfront. Barack Obama did this with elegance and a touch of humour at a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week:

Before I begin, I want to say that I know some provocative e-mails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. A few of you may have gotten them. They’re filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is, Let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening.

You may be concerned about revealing a weakness to a potentially hostile audience. But so long as it’s not a major weakness it may increase your credibility in the eyes of the audience. A study of juror behaviour reported in the book Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive showed that when a lawyer revealed a minor weakness in their case before it was revealed by the opposing lawyer, the jury would trust them more and they would receive more favourable verdicts. So be upfront, acknowledge valid concerns that your audience may have. You’ll reduce the likelihood that the meeting will get out of hand.

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