How to handle a difficult audience

We work with many public sector agencies who are often in the firing line in meetings with the public. Knowing how to handle concerned and angry people in the audience is an important skill.

Remember back to your school days. You can probably remember a teacher who you and your fellow students respected. There¬†was no way that you would play up in their class. There was probably also a teacher who you knew you could run rings around (or if you weren’t that sort of child – your classmates could).

You want to be like the former – teachers who were instantly respected and seen as leaders. So set yourself up as the leader from the first moment of the presentation. Here’s how you can do this:

Establish ground rules

Choose just one or two issues to set ground rules about. Here are two possibilities:

  1. Cellphone use – ask people turn their cellphones off
  2. Questions – let the audience know when you will be taking questions.

But note that the exact issues that you choose to set ground rules about are not important. The important thing is that you have set some clear rules about how the meeting will run. This lets the audience know that you are in charge and that you know what you’re doing. You will have set yourself up as the leader and as a result they will be less likely to challenge you.

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