Are you afraid of naysayers when presenting?

Are you afraid of naysayers when presenting?

Recently I’ve had several clients ask me how to handle naysayers when presenting.

Most of us have heard that presenting and public speaking are some of the world’s greatest fears, often ranking higher than death. Wondering how to handle naysayers can make presenting even more scary.

Presenting internally and externally is one of the best ways to get your message heard.

Here are three tips for handling naysayers:

  • Test your presentation with trusted colleagues.
  • Answer questions calmly and in a straightforward manner.
  • Offer to talk to naysayers after your presentation.

Test your presentation

To ensure you stay on message, create your presentation from a Message Map. This will help ensure you keep your presentation focused on what’s in it for your audience.

Once you’ve created your presentation, do two things before you present: practice, and test your presentation with at least one trusted colleague.

Why? Practicing improves your confidence in your presentation, and the more confident you sound, the less likely you are to encounter naysayers. Testing your messaging with a colleague enables them to give you feedback that may lead you to adjust your presentation to ensure it resonates with your target audience.

Answer questions from naysayers

While it may seem counterintuitive to answer questions from naysayers, I always recommend taking questions after giving a presentation. Questions from your audience let you know how well your message resonated and give you cues about what to adjust in the future.

Always take questions from naysayers when presenting.
Always take questions from naysayers when presenting.

If you get questions from naysayers, think about why they’re asking the question.

Are they challenging your facts or ideas? If so, state evidence or reasoning to back up your claims. And if you’ve prepared and practiced, you should be able to handle the question.

If they disagree with you, that’s okay. We’re all allowed to have a point of view. Acknowledge them and move on quickly.

But if they ask a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t panic. If the question is on topic, simply state that you don’t have the answer now and that you will gladly get back to them later (make sure to get their contact information).

If the question is off-topic, gently remind them that your presentation was on a specific topic, and that’s all you’re prepared to speak on at the moment.

Offer to speak with naysayers later

If naysayers persist, remain calm (and remember that most of the audience is on your side!) Offer to speak with them after your presentation. Sometimes people just want to feel heard.

Naysayers are a natural part of any audience

When you present your message, expect audiences to view it in light of their self-interests. Some people will be for it. Others will be against it. And most people will fall into the middle.

When you speak to audiences, who do you aim to address with your message? Every audience includes three segments, based on a scale of 0 to 10. They include the:

  • 0’s and 1’s, who will never believe your message, no matter what you say or do.
  • 9’s and 10’s, who already agree with your message and believe most of what you say.
  • 2’s through 8’s, who are in the middle. They may lean toward you or away from you, but they’ve taken no firm position one way or the other. What makes them different is that their minds can still be changed. They are

Usually, the majority of your audience consists of this last segment, the 2’s through 8’s. To drive action or change, focus your message on them – precisely because they haven’t made up their minds. Over time, a consistent message helps to bring them around, see what’s in it for them and offer them reasons to believe.

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