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

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There are many loads of useful textbooks on PowerPoint and giving presentations that tell us how to tune in to our audience. That’s a good thing. If we don’t take into account who’s sitting in front of us, why they’re there, what they actually want and what interests them (or doesn’t), then we won’t achieve anything by presenting to them. 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? What about the “neutral” members of our audience?

Try out our useful tips for coping with the different attitudes and divided opinions among your own presentation audience.

Yes, agreed!

Marvelous – you have people in the audience who are with you. The perfect starting point for reaching your objective. These audience members are already on your side, so avoid overloading them with facts and details. 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. Keep your expectations realistic – converting these audience members from a “no” to a “maybe” is a step in the right direction.

At the beginning of your presentation, find some common ground. Things that elicit a nod or a little smile of agreement. Organize your presentation into small independent sections that are easy to follow, and limit controversial points to just a few of these, or just one section. This lets your audience agree to most sections of your presentation, which creates a positive atmosphere. Show that you understand the contentious points: repeat the “opposing” arguments and focus the discussion on them, but be clear on what you don’t agree with.
People who are “against” you aren’t usually interested in your personal opinion. Present facts, refer to experts they respect and state your sources. Give your audience the chance to see that there are overriding or neutral standpoints that support your objective.

Maybe …

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 but aren’t really interested in the subject. Others may simply be undecided. There are ways to get all three “maybe” types on your side.

If your audience isn’t well informed, ask them questions. This motivates them to take part and think for themselves. Encourage them to ask you questions. This helps you to identify information gaps and adapt or improvise. Appear credible and understanding. Give your audience time to understand your answers and help them to keep pace with you.

If some people just don’t seem interested, try including them. 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 they can relate to, to stir their interest. And remember: uninterested people usually get bored by factual and analytical arguments.

Approach undecided audience members with all your powers of conviction! They’re not really against you, they just want to be convinced. Help them by concentrating on as few points as possible and using real, relevant examples.

Yes No Maybe

All three at once? If you often have to give presentations to groups of people with divided opinions, use 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 members play a key role – either because they’ll be the ones making the decisions, or because they influence others. If you really want to be efficient, focus on these individuals and adapt your presentation with them in mind.

The main thing is that you put some thought into your audience’s inner attitudes and opinions in advance of presenting to them. This already makes you better prepared than most.

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