By now, I think everyone knows that the biggest fear people have is speaking in front of an audience. But do you know why it is the biggest fear? This fear isn’t based on what will happen if things go right. It’s based on what will happen if things go wrong. Guess what the biggest fear is when it comes to things going wrong? Someone heckling, or to put it in presentation terms, someone “sniping” your presentation. Think about this scenario for just a moment…
You are about to give an important presentation. There’s a lot riding on this presentation, and you’ve worked hard to get ready for it. Maybe your manager is in the room, or perhaps a couple of important clients are there.
Can you feel the butterflies? Take a deep breath because you are about to enter the room. Now, what if right before you walked through that door, I stopped you and whispered into your ear, “I have spoken to every single person in the room. They cannot wait to hear your message, and are genuinely excited you are here. I can personally guarantee that this will be the most cooperative, eager, supportive group you will ever speak in front of.”
How are those butterflies now? Of course I can’t deliver that message to you before you walk through that door. What I can do is take you step-by-step through the most effective moves you can make if someone does have an issue within your presentation. That’s why this had to be series, because there is a sequence and series of moves you can make.
- You can let the first one be free because not every inappropriate action is intentional.
- You can involve the audience utilizing a relay technique, using their words to professionally reply to inappropriate actions.
- You can flush out a sniper by making everyone aware of his or her inappropriate actions.
But there is one final move, and although it must be kept in reserve and only used in dire situations, it must be counted as an option. You can stop the program, clear the room, let every person in the room hear you ask for this one person to remain behind, and calmly ask them to leave.
I know what you are thinking: “That’s it?! That gives you the confidence of a king?!” No. What gives me the confidence of a king is the proactive, often political preparation knowing you have the power to make this particular move, and therein lies the secret. Why do you think you rarely see this done? Why do you think you have seen careers threatened, sales lost, and confidence shattered over sniping scenarios without people being removed? The answer: No one ever asks this question and prepares for this option before they take on an assignment like this!
As a young trainer/speaker, I would never in a million years throw someone out of my training without permission beforehand. That’s why I almost always met with my client and had this conversation before I stepped in front of an audience:
I’m about to conduct a program I’m excited about. I would like to know the policy of this company in the event there is a problem in the training. I am referring to the remote possibility of having someone intentionally sabotage the presentation, and put the message you are asking me to deliver at risk. Needless to say, I will do all in my power to professionally address this situation, but if all else fails, what is the policy?
Most companies will tell you to please remove that person from the room! Occasionally, they will tell you to just do the best you can, and complete the presentation. The key is, don’t guess – find out. Incidentally, in 28 years of presenting to thousands of audiences, I have removed exactly one participant.
So there you have it. With a game plan and a sequence of moves to remove the single, biggest element of concern for any presenter, you should feel better prepared. The next time someone asks you to step in front of a room and deliver a message, get up there and get it done with the confidence of a king!