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Whether I’m speaking to a group of university students who are under the delusional assumption that they are going to change the world or a group of board members who have just had their butt handed to them by the shareholders or ‘C’ level executives trying to take a regional or domestic corporation global, the crowd is generally the same.
In every Audience you’ll have the sheep, fox and the over-analytical. The sheep are easy, the over-analytically are even easier but the foxes can pose a challenge so let’s start with them. The fox is the cynical, backstabbing individual who will take what you say and twist your words to shape their argument against you to establish an upper hand but if you can bring the fox onto your side, their flock of sheep will follow. I will typically look for certain ‘tells’ such as intonation, eye contact, gestures, etc., to find the fox in the room and by including these individuals in the conversation you’ll quickly win them over to your side and their flock will follow.
Engage the fox, ask them questions and merge their concepts into your presentation without losing the overall concept but some sacrifice is necessary for your presentation to have a lasting effect on the Audience. Use their first name, use them as an example that can be plugged into certain solution based material. If you do this effectively you’ll win over the fox and the sheep.
That said, don’t leave the sheep out of the customized aspects of your presentation, when you’re not using the names of the foxes you are addressing the room in general terms such as ‘you,’ ‘we’ etc.
Now for the over-analytical, you know the type, they are constantly trying to come up with questions for nothing other than the simple matter of their insecurity. Their reputation for analyzation is all they have and for the most part the topics they bring up and the questions that they have do nothing for additional comprehension by the group and when challenged they are often without a response. This individual will waste your time, don’t let them control the presentation. Challenge them head on at the onset of their attempted inquisition. Use the Socratic method of argument to passively prove to the group that this individual is hardly qualified to be in the same room as you let alone challenge you in public. Crush them quickly and scatter their pieces, but do it with class and distinction. Don’t be a butcher.
Pay close attention to your intonation, posture and vocabulary. Get more power from the individual word as opposed to wasting a paragraph of speech on this individual.
By: James Scott