Audience Resistance: If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

You don't need the audience from hell to encounter resistance. Resistance can occur in one-to-one conversations or in  small groups. Sometimes, resistance is subtle as in the passive aggressive participant. It occurs in sales calls all the time. Most presenters think of resistance as negative. Yet, research demonstrates that in sales calls, skepticism is actually a good sign and often leads to a sale. Resistance shows that the audience is engaged. Your job is to embrace the resistance and as in martial arts, use their energy to reverse the situation. In sales presentations you can reverse negative questions. Objection: "You've never worked in our industry."  Answer: "That's exactly why you need me. I'm objective."

Whether you’re managing a team, running a meeting, or giving a formal presentation, it’s not enough to be a good speaker. Effective public speakers must be able to manage the process. Group dynamics are ever changing and dealing with groups can be sticky. A  good leader or facilitator is able to change perspective and use a number of strategies.

I developed the 3D Strategy which works in most situations-Depersonalize, Detach, Defuse.

Step one: depersonalize. People come with their own emotional baggage. One woman walked out of a motivational speech because the speaker was wearing an Elvis costume. The audience member didn't  like Elvis. It had nothing to do with entertainer’s talent or competence. So don’t take it personally.

Step two:  detach. That means that you don’t engage the ego. Once you go head-to-head with that heckler you set up a competitive dynamic. Don’t let your emotions get out of control. Ask questions; don't defend. Use the power of peer pressure.

Step three: defuse. Dissipate the negative energy. One of the best defusers is humor. If you get tense, the negative energy will increase. Take a light, playful approach. You can’t laugh and be angry at the same time.

I've learned that when I embrace resistance, the audience is more engaged. Recently, I gave a speech at the NYXPO at the Javits convention center in New York.  Knowing that people would be checking their cell phones, I created a hash tag #dianediresta,  and told them to tweet any tips they'd like to share with their networks. What once was a negative is a great BIG positive. Now my message is going out to thousands of people.

Just like a grain of sand is an irritant to an oyster, over time that irritant becomes a pearl.

The anonymous author of this quote said it best:

"With every shift, with every change resistance is the natural order.  The tree resists the wind, the egg resists the chicks hatching and the cocoon resists the butterfly’s first flight.  Without resistance there could be no stability and there could be no strength.  Ultimately resistance is the promise of success, never of failure, always of success; yours, mine and every person’s everywhere".