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Seb Anthony

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Presentation challenges


Recently, we've received some good questions during our Presentation Skills course on some challenging situations when presenting. Would you have any ideas and suggestions on the following situations?

1.) While delivering a presentation, your audience is doing their email on the laptops they have brought with them. This is a company culture issue and it is normal for the audience to do so. Eventhough people are listening, they are not giving the presenter their full attention. Do you continue as though nothing special is happening or do you ask people to close their laptops?

2.) You are presenting to a brand new (potential) customer who makes rude, confrontational and offensive comments during the presentation. You need the account so cannot afford to walk out. Do you stay put and act as an emotional sandbag?

3.) Your presentation is only 15 minutes to a group of colleagues and you are totally stressed out. During a longer presentation, the stress levels usually come down as time passes. What can a presentor do to control their stress during a short presentation?

4) How can you use the 4 muscle levels in short presenations (15 min) where there are no breaks to speak to audience members who you need to asses to see if they are really difficult participants. Do you need to go straight to muscle level 4?

Thanks very much for all your ideas!

Pascal Elzinga

3 Responses

  1. my three ha’penceworth
    1) I would clear this with the client buyer before the event and then, as part of the opening admin; “Please do not pickup e-mails/texts etc whilst attending this event. You can do so during breaks.
    I am being paid to give you my total attention; please get the most from that investment by reciprocating”

    2) Are they just being rude and confrontational or are they testing you? If the former, do you want them as a client? If the latter they will probably be a “good” client.

    3)Take a deep breath, remind myself a)it is only 15 minutes (one coffee break long), b)that I have been in far, far worse situations and c)they will only know that I FEEL stressed if I do FEEL stressed AND I let it show…so
    just get on with it and stop worrying

    4) Sorry I don’t know what the 4 muscle levels are but it is only 15 minutes; they can’t kill me so let’s go with the flow!

    That probably isn’t that helpful!

  2. And my tuppence worth…
    Some great stuff from Rus (as always!). Here are my thoughts:

    1. As part of your intro tell them how long your presentation will last and that you need them, for that period of time, to be free from the day-to-day business in order to focus on this new topic. To help them do that you need them to put their phones on silent mode and their laptops under their chairs (or wherever). You could say you will build in a few extra minutes at coffee break for urgent messages to be answered.

    2. As Rus says this could be a test. I would say something like “I can see you have some concerns that we need to discuss before I leave today. Can I suggest that I carry on with this presentation now and then we can cover the ground you want to over a cup of coffee afterwards”.

    3. My top tip for short presentations is to know EXACTLY how you will start. This includes the words you will say, where you will stand, what body language you will adopt, what you will hold in your hand, where you will put your notes, props etc. Have a few practice sessions of just these first couple of minutes. This means that you will relax quickly and then the rest of the presentation will follow. Another idea is to do something physical like stretching or clenching your fists for a few minutes before your audience arrives in order to get some of the adrenalin out of your body.

    4. Like Rus I have not heard of the 4 muscle levels. If you would like some tips on dealing with difficult participants I am happy to discuss offline.

    Good luck



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