Archive for June, 2010

Public Speaking: 5 Tips on Handling Hecklers

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Are you intimidated by hostile audiences? Public speaking can be daunting enough, but when you are faced with a tough or hostile audience, it can be petrifying.  Below are some techniques to set the battlefield in your favor.  By employing these, you will gain the upper ground and successfully stave off much of the attack.

1) Stop the attack before it starts.  

If you are afraid of being knocked off track with difficult questions, avoid them up front by saying: “I have 30 minutes with you, and I will keep within that time.  During the presentation I’ll probably answer many of the questions you have, so please make a mental note of questions and save them until the end.  I’ve budgeted 10 minutes at the end; so we can address them.”

2) Don’t give them a chance to pre-empt you.

If you have handouts, wait until your presentation is over to distribute them; otherwise people will read ahead, find mistakes and formulate tougher questions.

3) Stop the monopolizer before he starts.

At the beginning of Q&A say, “we have 10 minutes for all Q&A and I want to make sure that everyone who has a question gets a chance, who would like to go first?” If nobody raises their hand, you start things off by saying, “A question I’m often asked is . . .”

4) No dead time.

Moving briskly and purposefully is a magician’s trick to keep the questioners quiet.  When you are on course and in control, it feels awkward for the heckler to chime in.  Once there is a break in your flow, he’ll jump right in.

5) Give them no fuel to attack by being likeable.

Be there early and greet attendees as they arrive.  Chat with them and make it personal.

Look and act confidently but speak humbly.

Mention in the beginning that you will be sure to keep within your allocated time: “I have thirty minutes to update you, and I’ll be sure to stay within that time period.” They can’t help but to like that.

If you feel you know less than your audience and you are going to be fielding many tough questions: “I may not have all the answers, but I’ll tap into our experts in the audience during Q&A.”

Caveat: Many times you want open discussion and probing questions.  This vlog is not about fostering that environment.  On the contrary it is for those who seek to avoid a challenging or hostile environment.  Not all techniques are universally applicable.  Use your judgment.

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Power of Persuasion: Aura of Authority

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The honey vs. vinegar debate is eternal because in reality they both work. Consider these contradicting bits of wisdom: “You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar”; “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”. Both have roots based on the science of persuasion.  The former relies on the likability factor.  Likeable people tend to be more persuasive.  The latter relies on pain avoidance, wherein someone is likely to accommodate you if it helps him avoid a negative consequence.

Unbeknownst to many, there is another facet to the art of asking for and getting what you want: authority.  Sometimes it is less about honey and vinegar and more about how you ask.

During a cross-country flight, I noticed a young man stop the flight attendant to ask, “Um, could we get some, like, crackers or peanuts here please?”  The attendant curtly responded with a perfunctory smile, “snacks will be served in just a bit.” About five minutes later, a woman stopped the same attendant and said: “Would you please bring us our snack in advance, Jennifer, because it’s been one of those days”.  Surprisingly Jennifer responded, “Sure, would you like chips, peanuts, or cookies?” She promptly returned with the snacks.  About thirty minutes later everyone else was served.

They both said please; so what did the woman do differently that got her a better result?

1) She knew exactly what she was going to say and said it with confidence, while the young man fumbled uttering “um” and “like”.

 2) She used the flight attendant’s name.

 3) She made direct eye contact with the attendant.

 4) She used the word because, which dramatically increases odds of getting a “yes,” even if the reason is redundant.

 5) Her request was framed in a question, but her tone indicated that she expected to be accommodated.

 In short, the woman was polite, yet had an aura of authority.  The young man lacked that quality and appeared whinny and, judging by the attendant’s face, annoying.  This interesting little occurrence 35,000 feet off the ground is a case in point that it is not always about what you ask but how you ask.

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