You may present to audiences that have very negative emotions already piqued.
They may be downright hostile. When this is the case, you need to say things
that will reduce the emotional intensity.
I don't often face hostile audiences, but a friend of mine is an expert on them.
Larry Tracy trains business executives to communicate successfully with
skeptical and even hostile audiences. Larry's expertise comes from hard-won
experience. In a previous life in government, he had the job of speaking to
hundreds of emotional, demanding audiences in the 1980s to defend and debate
the Reagan Administration's Central America policy.
Larry tells me that hostile audiences have a great deal of what psychologists
call cognitive dissonance, a tendency to protect existing beliefs and prejudices
and reject contradictory information. He says this emotional baggage has to be
bypassed before a speaker's facts can be comprehended, and that only a speaker
perceived to have empathy has a chance of reaching such an audience. Larry
trains his clients to follow what he calls the KAP method Know your
audience's concerns, and Anticipate their objections and questions with realistic
Practice. The practice consists of a simulated presentation with colleagues role-playing as the more contentious audience members.
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