This television show is particularly entertaining because the Prime Minister has a hostile audience to deal with.
Many of the questions oppose his party’s positions and aim to undermine his credibility. He has to find ways to outmaneuver opponents and take advantage of this public forum to strengthen the case for his policies.
What goes on during Question Time is an extreme example of a common problem. Every day, presenters deal with hostile audiences in an infinite number of places. For example, a manager announcing a new Human Resources policy, a CEO addressing customer complaints, or a politician explaining how she voted. All these scenarios pose the same challenge: How do you win the hearts and minds of an unreceptive crowd?
Does this sound familiar to you? The tips below can make a big difference!
Set achievable goals.
Presentations can change the world, but you need to have realistic goals. When talking to an audience with a different set of values or beliefs, it is unlikely that the presenter will be able to convert them to their worldview in only one meeting. However, they can begin the process of changing people’s minds on specific issues. It is also possible to create a common understanding about what drives the differences in perspectives. Setting clear goals for your presentation will help you decide if they are achievable. Then, you can determine the steps during your presentations to help you get there.
The best presenters understand that their success depends on the audience. When they recognize the power of their audience, they address and adjust their content accordingly. This strategy is even more important when you are presenting to an unreceptive group of people. You need to understand what motivates their resistance and anticipate their objections. Spend some time thinking about what your audience cares about and why they feel the way they do. You can use this insight to craft an appeal for your idea that speaks to their concerns. Consider asking some friends or coworkers to play the role of the audience during a test run of the presentation to get feedback.
I have never met anyone with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. Sure, sometimes the overlap is small and a little vague, but there is a reason why most pageant contestants settle on world peace as an answer that appeals to everyone. However, it is usually enough to start a conversation. By speaking about shared experiences or appealing to a common value set, you will create a connection with your audience that makes you more relatable and may even make your ideas seem more familiar. It is an important first step to overcoming any difference.
The most important part of delivering a presentation is to be genuine. One of the quickest ways to lose an audience is to be someone you are not. Audiences seek authenticity. They want to hear what you really think and understand why you think that way. Many times, what they really desire is to hear you address their concerns directly. In these situations, it is often best to speak openly about your differences and tackle their complaints as they raise them. Even if you are unable to change their minds in the short-term, your honesty will establish a better rapport to help you convince them in the long-term.
Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian confronted by a critic? Many comedians struggle to deal with antagonistic audiences, and their reactions often become legendary. Do not let a hostile audience turn you into a hostile speaker. Even if you are asked provoking questions, stay level-headed and answer the questions to the best of your ability. When you manage to keep calm even under tough circumstances, the audience will walk away respecting you more than those who didn’t do the same.
No matter how well you present your ideas, it is difficult to convert people who are strongly committed to their own beliefs and values. This is why it is so important to set a realistic goal so you can take the first step toward achieving it. It is unlikely that the British Prime Minister will convert any MPs to the other side of the aisle, but he may pick up a few votes for his initiative or boost his public approval – and sometimes that is exactly the kind of success you need.