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Very often we are in many Presentation in business presentation communicating to different kinds of audience which may include difficult participants. As five fingers are of not same size in a hand, in each presentation we come across different kind of audience. In this article we will be discussing How to handle Difficult Participants. Here I will be sharing my experience which I learnt over many years.





Handling Difficult Participants

This article will be discussing on How to Handle Difficult Participants under following categories.

  • Questions and Interruptions.
  • The Hecklers.
  • The Talker/Know All.
  • The Griper.
  • The Whisperers.
  • The Silent one.
  • Psychological judo.

In the following section we will discuss each one of them in detail.

I.Handling Difficult Participants QUESTION and INTERRUPTIONS

Most participant who are asking questions are not actual questions? They are requesting for the spotlight. If it is a closed real questions than answers it immediately. If not, use following 2 methods to answer the question

1. REFLECT

Get the question back to the delegate who asked the question.
What you thought was the question. Or request the delegate to rephrase and ask the question again.
Depending on how the questioner reformulates the question, answer it.

OR

2. DEFLECT the question:

  • To the GROUP

How does the rest of the group feel?
Has anyone else had a similar challenge?

  • RICOCHET( means rebound, or  bounce or skip off a surface)

Address the question to any other Participant.  Bill, you’re an expert on this, what is your answer?

II.Handling Difficult Participants THE HECKLERS

What is heckling?

Maybe a good place for us to start this discussion is to make sure that we both fully understand just what heckling is. There are two types of heckling that you will have to deal with during one or more of your presentations: active and passive.

Active heckling occurs when someone in the audience starts talking back to you right in the middle of your speech. For a public speaker this often feels like you’ve just hit a speed bump in your speech while you were going 80 miles an hour. Talk about surprising!

Passive heckling is much closer to disrespect. This often shows up as people having their own conversations during your presentation. Normally this is their own call and you don’t really care, but if they are loud enough then it becomes your problem. Talking on a cell phone or having a huddle at the back of the room.

No matter if you are speaking at a wedding, a graduation, or a business function, hecklers will always be in the audience

A heckler is a person who shouts a disparaging comment at a performance or event, or interrupts set-piece speeches, for example at a political meeting, with intent to disturb its performers or participants.

These Participants are smart, may have good knowledge of the subjects, they can be classified into following categories.

  • Probably insecure.
  • Gets satisfaction from needling.
  • Aggressive and argumentative.

In most of the situations we should be able to manage them, here are few points.

What to do:

  • Never get upset.
  • Find merit, express agreement, and move on.
  • Wait for a mis-statement fact and then throw it out to the group for correction.
  • Maintain Silence for few minutes.
  • Tie Your Response To The Event.
  • Add The Heckler To Your Team.

III.Handling Difficult Participants THE TALKER/KNOW ALL

This is another set of difficult audience. They can be classified as

  • An eager beaver (a person who is extremely zealous about performing duties and volunteering for more)/chatterbox.
  • A show-off.
  • Well-informed and anxious to show it.

What to do:

  • Wait till the delegate takes a breath, thank, refocus and move on
  • Try and slow down the person who is asking question with a though question.
  • Jump in  or cut short the question and ask for the others the group to comment

IV.Handling Difficult Participants THE GRIPER

There are 2 types of Griper

  • Doubting Thomas (A variety of great griper)
  • The Great Griper

a. Doubting Thomas

Some of the delegates act like Doubting Thomas, The reason is he/she has developed an all encompassing cynicism, the possible causes are

  • Invariably the doubting Thomas is a senior person in the group.
  • Seen bright ideas tried and failed many times.
  • His ideas were never given a chance till now.
  • He is less receptive.
  • Regards new approach or expected changes as threat.
  • Favorite Phrase – That’ll never work. We have tried that before.

What to do and how to control

  • Gain acceptance step by step.
  • Suggest that Doubting Thomas agrees to suspend his judgment until the session is over.
  • Ask him to be specific

b.  The Great Griper (GG)

Uses every opportunity to air his grievances, undermine the enthusiasm of the group. Some of the reasons are

  • Great Griper convinced himself that he is entitled to feel the way he feels/does.
  • And share his beliefs.
  • He does not want to change anything.
  • Favorite phrase
    • The problem/trouble is..
    • Well, that is good, but……

What to do and how to control

  • Allow him to say ONCE.
  • Take some form of positive action to lay it to rest.
  • Show that purpose of your presentation is to be positive and constructive.
  • Use peer pressure and use others in the group to stop him.

V.Handling Difficult Participants THE WHISPERERS

Whispers are the ones who are misfit in the session. They can be beginners or those with different subject knowledge. They can also be the ones who have missed earlier sessions. They can also be with different cultural back ground or unable to understand your rate of speech.

  • Don’t understand what is going on –clarifying or translating.
  • Sharing anecdotes triggered by your presentation.
  • Bored, mischievous or hypocritical (unusual).

What to do:

  • Stop talking, wait for them to look up and “non-verbally” ask for their permission to continue.
  • Use lighthouse technique (Sweep the audience with your eyes, staying only few seconds with each one, unless in dialogue).

VI.Handling Difficult Participants THE SILENT ONE

Silent ones are those who may need help and attention.

  • Timed, insecure and shy.
  • Bored, indifferent.

What to do:

  • Timed?
    Ask easy question. Boost the delegate ego in discussing answer. Refer to by name when giving examples. Bolster confidence.
  • Bored?
    Ask tough questions. Refer to by name as someone who surely knows the answer. Use as helper in exercises.

VII.Handling Difficult Participants PSYCHOLOGICAL JUDO

When classical methods fail and do not worked use Psychological Judo method.

In physical judo you use the energy of your opponent to cause his downfall by changing your push into pull. In psychological judo you ask the Difficult Participants to be even more difficult. This gives even more of the spotlight and attention than they wanted and they will use their energy to pull back to avoid ridicule or overkill.

Example: The pipe smoker

In order to illustrate psychological judo let`s take a difficult participant, the inveterate, pungently obnoxious pipe smoker.
Instead of asking him to refrain from smoking in class you give him a whistle and having commiserated with him about the intolerance of non-smokers, ask him to blow the whistle hard and loud when he thinks you should stop the class for a smoker to exercise the right! when he blows the whistle he is really saying I’m a drug addict. in fact he will use his energy to prove he can hold out till coffee break!!
Following are the few more examples on how to apply Psychological judo technique when you have the above mentioned situations.

3. The HECKLER

Appoint the Heckler as class devil’s advocate.  Insist that the delegate should criticize whenever the delegate feels you are leading class astray.  Demand negative remarks.

4. THE KNOW –ALL

Agree with and amplify know-all contributions. Ask for expert judgment when none is forthcoming. Get the delegate up front to teach short module. Refer constantly to their expertise in subject matter taught.

5. THE GRIPER

Ask for written list of gripes to help class maintain sense of realism. Get him/her to read at end of day. Add to list whenever possible!

6. THE WHISPERERS

State that time is short and ask those who don`t understand not to interrupt but to ask their neighbor!

7. THE SILENT ONE

State that some people are shy and dare not participate. This does not mean they have not understood. Encourage shy ones not to participate.

We have also created a set of Power point  slides  on the above  points on how to handle difficult audience. For building any presentations you should ensure you have 3 basic components

  • Excellent Power Point Templates,
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  • Creative  Icons, Buttons, Images

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