Difficult Audiences

Is Your Difficult Audience in the Workplace?


When you think about difficult audiences, do you envision an audience in an auditorium with you speaking on the stage? Well, you don't have to be a formal public speaker to encounter a difficult audience. Your audience includes your co-workers, employees, management and vendors. When you're dealing with so many different personalities it's inevitable that there will be conflict. Here's where trained  public speakers have an advantage - the skills that are used to handle a difficult audience also apply when you're communicating one-on-one.

But what if you can prevent conflicts in the workplace? That's even better. Nobody has a 100% conflict-free life, but many conflicts can be averted when you understand yourself and others.

The unexamined life isn't worth living." -Socrates

The first step in managing a difficult person or situation is to understand how you're wired. What is your natural behavioral style? This is the way you communicate easily without much conscious effort. It's like being right handed. You don't think about it. When you meet a person or audience who has the same behavioral style as you, communication happens more easily.

But what happens when you encounter people who are your opposite? This is when an audience may be perceived as difficult. It would be great to have a tool that would help you recognize different behavioral styles so you know how to communicate effectively.

The DiSC Behavioral Profile can help you do that quickly and simply. The DiSC Behavioral Profile identifies your natural communication style, shows you how to recognize different styles, and gives you the tools for managing those differences.

In other words, you'll learn to speak their language and have greater influence, better communication, more understanding, and less stress.

Most often, conflicts happen because of differences in style; you're talking apples, they're talking oranges.

This can happen when you're giving a presentation to a group. For example, too often, technical people give too much detail to senior management. Or, a sales presentation lacks the level of data and evidence preferred by a scientific audience.

By knowing how others are wired, you can predict the commonalities you'll share, you'll be able to predict the conflicts that may arise, and you'll have a strategy to compromise.

Here's what one client had to say about DiSC:

Wow... Just signed on to take the DISC program with Diane and she helped me learn how to communicate with style!! Diane was simply amazing and her suggestions were 'spot on'. No one should miss this opportunity!"

-A. Weidberg

Don't know which style you are? Want to know more about DiSC? Contact us and ask for a free sample report.

Don't Monkey Around With Your Presentation

I read an interesting story written by Deborah Grayson Riegel, who was giving a presentation at the Bronx zoo. In addition to her human audience, there were 20 monkeys outside with their faces pressed against the window, watching her presentation. Each time she advanced her PowerPoint slide, the monkeys would bang their fists against the window. Eventually, she had to let go of her PowerPoint presentation, and stopped changing the slides altogether. Most of us are not going to be speaking at the zoo, but we will have our own monkeys to deal with - the usual cast of characters known as a difficult audience - hecklers, people causing distractions, zoning out, and generally interrupting your presentation. It's important to be flexible and work with your audience.

Speaking of monkeys... someone recently threw a monkey wrench into my half day presentation training workshop, which was scheduled from 1:00 - 4:00pm. We were told that four of the participants had to leave by 2:30. The program was designed to build speaking skills so the speakers would be prepared to give their final presentations at the end of the workshop. We had to do a quick redesign on the spot - in 5 minutes. My partner and I huddled and came up with a plan. The goal was to give each participant the opportunity to present, leave on time, and still gain enough learning to succeed in their next presentation. It worked.

In public speaking, as in life, we always need a backup plan. Deborah had no choice - the monkeys forced her to stop using PowerPoint. Your audience may be more subtle, but good public speakers pick up the nuances and can change in a moment to better serve their listeners. Technology will fail. And an audience can quickly tune out. We need to be able to go where the current is taking us. That's the mark of a professional speaker.

Mitt Romney Got Booed - Have You?

Mitt Romney was invited to speak to the NAACP knowing that it's members are  overwhelmingly Democratic.  He acknowledged and thanked his hosts and expressed his honor at being invited. He made an attempt at humor by saying “I hope the Obama campaign doesn’t think you’re playing favorites.“ There was a mild tittering from the crowd.

Governor Romney anticipated the question everybody was thinking.  How did a Republican become governor of Massachusetts?  He explained that he made the case to every single voter as he was doing now and later added, “I know candidates can expect a fair hearing from a venerable  organization like this."

He clearly articulated his goals to provide jobs, improve education, and to help the middle class. His approach was to cut unnecessary spending. And then it happened. He said he would repeal Obama care which was greeted with booing from the crowd. It happens to many speakers.

In the late 1990's I gave a presentation in one of the Southern states. I was talking about behavioral styles and cited Bill Clinton as a typical "Influencing" or sales personality. All of a sudden I heard booing from the class. The South is generally Republican territory and Clinton was not popular. I smiled and made a joke about it and went on.

In the case of Romney, he stayed cool, smiled, and waited for the booing to die down. He didn’t get defensive and was allowed to continue. Romney spoke to the facts and repeated his intention to “create jobs for the American people.”

When he did score points with the crowd it was met with quiet applause. He extolled his record as governor by citing the improvement in reading and math scores and his raising the standards for high school graduation. He was able to successfully veto the bill that would block charter schools in Massachusetts by joining forces with the Black Caucus.

In an effort to build a bond, he told the story of his father, George Romney, who was involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960's. Unfortunately, it wasn't his own experience and didn't hit the mark.

Overall, Romney gave a professional speech. He clearly communicated his message points. You knew what he stood for. He stood on his record of accomplishments in Massachusetts.

Romney tried to influence with facts. As a result, he came from his head and not his heart. The missing ingredient was passion. Governor Romney needed to tell personal stories. It was a good speech, but not a moving speech.  He received a polite standing ovation. The audience didn’t dislike him. They just weren’t moved by him.

It’s difficult enough for any speaker to present before an audience that isn't openly receptive. In an organization, a CEO who is announcing layoffs will not be greeted with enthusiasm. But an outstanding speaker can position a message and speak with such passion and conviction that they can influence an audience. That didn’t happen here. Could it have? Probably not. Romney needs to express more passion and personal connection if he is to win over his audience.

But does it matter that he was booed? Not really. What he accomplished was to get his message out. He didn't need to talk over the crowd and he wasn't forced off stage. Whenever a speaker delivers a message that is unpopular, the risk is rejection. It goes with the territory. The question to ask is this: Did the message get heard?

Have you ever been booed? How did you handle it?


Speaking to a Grieving Audience

The other evening I was preparing for my next Confidence Class for eighth grade girls in my community when an email came across my desk. A mother warned me that the principal of the school died yesterday afternoon suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack.  She alerted me that the girls were shocked and broken up by the news and she wasn’t sure how responsive they would be in the class. I thanked her for letting me know and planned my strategy. I recalled a professional speaker who spoke before an audience that was not responding. No matter what he did he couldn’t get a reaction. They just sat there with blank faces. Finally, he played his last card and said with exasperation, “What’s going on? Did somebody die?

Public Speaking: Entice Your Audience to Come to You

A coaching client called me because she was about to have a performance discussion with her boss. She wanted to be promoted and knew she had to be a clear, confident, and convincing communicator. But there was one presentation obstacle that she wasn't sure she could overcome. Her boss liked to watch financial news on TV when people were in the office. She wondered how she could command his attention, gain his respect, and make herself heard. In keeping with my philosophy, (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), we decided to make a three minute video. That's right! Showing a video would get his attention. My client would speak into the video camera as if she were speaking directly to her boss. She would talk about her credentials and her accomplishments and then add a couple of quick video testimonials from her biggest supporters in the company.  Thinking creatively would get his attention,   position herself as an innovative, outside -the box -thinker, and certainly make her more memorable than any of her colleagues.

Last month, I wrote about Public Speaking: When Science Meets Art, which is a great example of using creativity when presenting. In 2012 the stakes will be higher.  Greater creativity and innovation will be needed for communicators and public speakers to get noticed, stand out, and be heard. And video marketing will play an important role.

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".

Difficult Audiences: The Resister

Every public speaker dreads the resistant participant. This negative person can derail your presentation fairly quickly.  When handling  any difficult audience member, the key is to use the right strategy. In this brief video on handling difficult audiences, you'll learn how to keep control and minimize resistance so that you can give a knockout presentation.

Difficult Audiences: The Poor Loser

What do you do when you encounter a poor loser? If you're giving a keynote speech to a large audience this won't be an issue. But if you facilitate groups, or give seminars you will be interacting with the audience. Although a poor loser may rarely surface, he or she can disrupt the group if you don't know how to handle this difficult audience personality. Watch this brief video to lean how to handle difficult audience members.

Difficult Audiences: The Complainer

One of the most annoying difficult audience members is the complainer, a.k.a., the whiner. Nothing you do pleases them. They complain about everything. Yet, many public speakers make this one mistake when trying to deal with them.  Find out what it is by watching the brief video on handling difficult audiences.

Difficult Audiences: The Sidetalker

Public speakers, facilitators, and trainers are often challenged by disruptive audience members. One of the most irritating disruptions is side-talking.

You have an important message you prepared and while you're delivering your presentation, you're competing with the chattering in the room. It may be a couple of people having a side conversation or there may be a buzz in the audience because the group discussion went off track. What do you do? How do you handle a difficult audience when the issue is side-talking? When should you ignore it and how should you intervene? Watch this brief video to find out.

Difficult Audiences: The Expert

What do you do when you encounter an expert or know-it-all in your seminar? Public speakers must be able to handle difficult audiences, yet each personality is different. It's important to know what is driving the disruptive behavior in order to keep control of the audience.  In this brief video you'll learn how to manage the expert.

Difficult Audiences: The Dominator

Public speakers, facilitators, and trainers must be able to manage difficult audience behavior. One of the more challenging personalities is the dominator. This person can be disruptive because of a need to control. The risk is that the speaker or facilitator may get into a power struggle. And this is a losing strategy. Watch this brief video to learn how to handle the dominator.

Difficult Audiences: The Rambler

Public speakers and trainers need to be able to manage difficult audiences. One difficult audience member is the rambler or storyteller. You'll recognize this personality because they love to talk. During the question and answer period this is the person who can't get to the point. During a discussion they have trouble staying on message and while they may be entertaining, they can dominate a conversation. This can cause the presentation to go off track and for the speaker to lose control. Watch this brief video to learn how to handle the rambler.

Life is a Presentation and Memorials are No Exception

Last night I attended the memorial service for Laurie Meyer, owner of Programs Plus Speakers Bureau in New York City. She died in January at the age of 57 of cancer. It was a shock to all. Laurie was an active member of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and the NY chapter rallied and planned a memorial service for her.

While the purpose of a memorial service is to honor and remember the life of the loved one, how it's staged, and how people communicate can have a major impact. Last night, all the rules of good presentation were fulfilled. The memorial was effectively organized and represented Laurie well. Booking the service in a comedy club was very much in keeping with Laurie's passion for doing stand up. A video of Laurie doing her comedy act made an impactful and attention-getting opener. Laurie's sister thanked everyone and was the first speaker. The emcee kept the evening moving by clearly and concisely announcing each speaker.

The program provided a variety of tributes-songs, poems, comedy acts, personal readings and sharing from the heart. Each person spoke for about three minutes or less and quickly exited the stage. The presenters provided a good balance of laughter and tears. The evening gently ended with people gathering for food and conversation.

As with all presentations, success results from good planning and coordination, choosing the right venue, a strong captivating opening, a variety of messages and styles targeted to the right audience, speaking from the heart to create engagement and an opportunity to meet afterward to bond with the audience.

Laurie will be missed and even in her absence she taught us how to present a great meeting.

Are You Straining To Speak?

speak-238488_1280I just returned from a networking event. The venue was crowded and noisy. The host tried to get our attention by speaking over the crowd. We had difficulty hearing him and he was obviously straining his voice. Straining your voice can cause laryngitis, vocal nodules and inflammation. A vocal pathology affects your image but can also cause you to cancel meetings and lose business. Too many people misuse their voices. To protect your voice, here are some tips for good vocal hygiene:

Never speak above noise. Find a quieter venue or use a microphone or an amplifier. Chattervox or VOISTA digital voice amplifer are two portable, cordless products you can carry with you.

Avoid dairy products 24 hours before a long speech. They create mucus build up. Drink water with lemon at room temperature. Coffee can restrict the veins. Alcohol has a drying effect.

Use abdominal breathing to project your voice and to remove tension from the neck muscles.

Hydrate the day before. Drinking lots of water will reduce dry mouth.

Do some neck roll exercises to relax the muscles.

Pause so you can fill up with enough air before your next sentence.

Take turns speaking. Who said you have to do all the talking? Let a partner have the floor to make announcements or introductions.

Don't speak at full volume. Practice speaking more softly when talking to an individual.

Resist clearing your throat. Take in air and swallow instead.

Practice vocal rest. People are constantly on their cell phones and taxing their vocal folds. Try 1o minutes of silent meditation each morning. Better yet, practice the art of listening. It will save your voice and pay great dividends in building relationships.