How to deal with your audience’s inner attitude during your presentation

There are many useful textbooks on PowerPoint and giving presentations that tell us how to tune in to our audience. And that’s good. Because if we don’t take into account who’s sitting in front of us, why they are there, what they actually want and what interests them (or doesn’t interest them), then we’re not going to achieve anything. We’re not going to grab their attention.

There’s another important aspect: inner attitude. How can we attune ourselves to people who are opposed to what we want to achieve? Or how do we treat those who, luckily for us, share our point of view? And what about the ‘neutral’ members of our audience? There are also useful tips for coping with these ‘yes-no-maybe’ attitudes.

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Yes, agreed!

Marvellous! The perfect starting point for reaching your objective. Accommodate these audience members by not overloading them with facts and information. They are already on your side. You’re free to be direct and put forward concrete goals. Increase the pressure to act by getting them to agree to these goals. Allocate roles, define further steps and highlight what needs doing.

No way!

Granted: everyone is entitled to a different standpoint from yours. Remember not to take it personally. You’re not under attack. Take the other person’s position seriously. Show that you understand their point of view. And keep your expectations realistic. Converting these members of your audience from ‘nos’ to ‘maybes’ is a step in the right direction.
At the beginning of your presentation, find some common ground and lowest common denominators: things that elicit a nod or perhaps a little smile of agreement. Organize your presentation into small independent sections that are easy to follow, and confine controversial points to a few of these, or to just one section. This allows your public to agree to most sections of your presentation, and creates a positive atmosphere. Show that you understand the contentious points: repeat the ‘opposition’ arguments and focus the discussion on them. But also indicate clearly that with which you do not agree.
People who are ‘against’ you are not usually interested in your opinion. Present facts, refer to experts that they respect and state your sources. Give your audience the chance to see that there are overriding or neutral standpoints that support your objective.


Then there’s the neutral fraction. Perhaps they are not very well informed, and don’t really know what to expect. Or maybe they were sent to attend the meeting and are not really interested in the subject. Others may simply be undecided. There are ways to get all three ‘maybe’ types onto your side.
If your audience is not well informed, ask them questions. This motivates them to take part and think for themselves. Encourage them to ask questions back. This helps you to identify information deficits you were unaware of, and adapt accordingly. Appear credible and understanding. Give your audience time to understand your answers and help them to keep pace with you.
If you are facing uninterested people, then include them and encourage them to take part by providing imaginative examples and asking questions. Give them something to smile about or agree with. Use images and metaphors from their world. Arouse their interest. And remember that uninterested people are usually bored by factual and analytical arguments.
Approach undecided audience members with all your powers of conviction! At the end of the day, they are not really against you, but want to be convinced. Help them by concentrating on as few points as possible and using real examples.

Yes No Maybe

All three at once? You often have to give presentations to all three types of people: some for you, some against you and some undecided? That’s life. Get the right mixture of all three approaches, and you’re on the right track. It’s even better if you can find out beforehand which audience member plays the key role – either because they are the one making the decisions, or because they are an opinion maker. If you really want to be efficient, then focus on this individual and adapt your presentation accordingly.
The most important aspect in all this is that you have at least given some prior thought to your audience’s inner attitudes. This already makes you better prepared than most.


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