How to Deal With Difficult Listeners

Adding a Q&A session to any presentation is usually a good idea. But your audience won’t always be as cooperative as you’d like them to be. Here are two situations you might encounter – and how to handle them.

1. Let’s Play "Stump the Presenter." Some people get a kick out of asking super-hard questions about the subject you’re supposedly an expert in. So what do you do if you don’t know the answer?

The last thing you want to do is give them the satisfaction of seeing you sweat. Respond by saying something like, "That’s a great question and I don’t want to give you the wrong information. Let’s exchange contact info and I will get back to you."

2. Attack of the Angry Audience Member. Every once in a while, you’ll run into an audience member who is aggressively confrontational – maybe because he had a bad experience with a product made by the company you’re representing,. The best way to defuse the situation quickly is to acknowledge the problem.

Ask the questioner for his name. Then say, "Leonard, you’re right. But I know for a fact that the engineers are working to get the bugs out. See me after this talk and give me your phone number. I will personally make sure you either get a refund or we satisfy you with another unit that works."

As long as you’re honest with your audience and don’t allow yourself to get flustered, you should have no trouble dealing with any difficult questions that come up during or after your presentation.

[Ed. Note: You don’t have to be a professional speaker to benefit from public speaking techniques. They can help you convey your message better to colleagues, employers, and clients. Get public speaking expert Peter Fogel’s guide to speaking like a pro right here.]