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The engaging presenter part III

TheEngagingPresenterPartIII
Howtohandlequestionsandinterjections
MichaelDouglasBrown

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Michael Douglas Brown

The Engaging Presenter Part III
How to handle questions and interjections

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The engaging presenter Part III: How to handle questions and interjections
1st edition
© 2013 Michael Douglas Brown & bookboon.com
ISBN 978-87-403-0487-9


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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Contents

Contents


Foreword

6

1

The method

8

1.1

The core of the method

8

1.2

Adopt the attitude

10

1.3

Involve your body in the reply

12


1.4

Involve your tone

15

1.5

Add warmth, interest and energy

15

2

Making the method powerful

2.1

Accept feelings, argue facts

2.2

When the interjection doesn’t need verbal attention

2.3

Mirror negative emotions with intensity

2.4

Open up the hidden agenda

2.5

How to handle audience anger when you deserve it

2.6

How to answer closed, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions

360°
thinking

.

360°
thinking

.

19
19
24
24
26
27
28

360°
thinking

.

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Dis


The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Contents

2.7

How to handle a persistent interjector

29

2.8

Facilitation and how to encourage discussion

30

2.9

What to do when there’s an expert in the audience

39

2.10

When you don’t know the answer

42

2.11

When the farewelled one bites back

42

2.12

Dealing with a drunk interjector

43

2.13

Handling a heckler

43

3

Bibliography

46

4

Endnotes

47

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Foreword

Foreword
You may be surprised by the core method of this guide.
That’s because the best way to handle questions and interjections defies what many of us in the West
were taught as children. But in the West, thousands of people, in hundreds of training workshops,
overwhelmingly agree that it works. They say things like, “I feel in better control of what’s happening. I
don’t seem to have a problem finding an answer. I feel more engaged.” Most never return to the old ways.
When you use the method, you’ll be significantly less nervous of the unexpected.
It will help you build rapport with your audiences, even when your message is unwelcome. It will help
you handle virtually any kind of unexpected event, including questions, interjections, cross-fire amongst
the audience, aggressive comments about your message, hostility and personal attacks on you. It works
for handling attacks on you even when you deserve it.
Your audiences will see you as more believable.
Many see this method as a fast way to executive presence. And why not? Science is now accepting that by
acting in a specific way you can bring about real, significant, internal change. Act it until you become it.
“If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.” Walt Whitman
Audiences are deeply drawn to three qualities: your personal strength, your conviction, and your
connection with them. This model allows you to build all three.
The way you handle the unexpected is inherently fascinating to any audience. Do you like or dislike
questions and interjections? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable? How are you treating the questioner?
Above all: Does your response ignore or incorporate the concerns conveyed by the tone of the question?
And, how well do you connect your answer to the watching and listening audience?
Of course your audience doesn’t consciously analyse. They don’t need to, because they know your level
of comfort with them and their concerns as surely as if they were an x-ray machine. They know, at the
subconscious level where they absorb those crucial impressions about your credibility.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Foreword

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld was talking to a live audience when someone called out.
“Jerry, I love you.”
“And I love you,” he called back. “But I want to go on seeing other people.”
The applause was only partly for his wit. The rest was for his confidence and ease with the unexpected.
This guide may not turn you into an international star, but it should bring you to that joyful discovery
that there is nothing to fear from your audience, no matter how they feel about your topic.
Have fun.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

The method

1 The method
1.1

The core of the method

Here it is in one sentence.
SHARE YOUR REPLY
as if every person in your audience asked that question
(or interjected) and wants to hear the answer.

For a moment, picture doing just that. You’re telling a meeting how the new schedule will work, when
Annette interrupts you. She says, “How will that affect our working conditions?” You nod, and reply,
giving only the first word or two to Annette and then, at random, to the rest of the people in front of
you, returning to Annette for a nod at the end.
That’s the mechanical essence of it.
Wait. Doesn’t it defy normal rules of courtesy? Weren’t most of us taught as youngsters to look at any
adult asking us a question?
So we were (mostly in the West), but for group communication that rule breaks down. The group
psychology is that when someone asks a question (or interjects), the whole audience owns it. It’s as if
the entire group wants your response directed to them even when many already know the answer. To
deny them that is to undermine your own authority and control. And there’s another downside if you
‘lock on’ to one person: you’re effectively saying, Your question is so unimportant to the group, I’m just
giving the answer to you.
It’s rude to talk only to the person
who asked the question (or interjected). Don’t ‘lock on’.

When the going gets tough, you’ll feel a strong urge to do just that. Use every bit of will power to share
the reply, continuing to look after the whole audience.
Still not convinced?

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

WU\WKLV«

The method

A thought experiment. Imagine you’re in the front row of an audience of 200. You ask
a question, but the answer is a long one and the presenter looks at you straight down
the barrel for the entire time with everyone watching both of you. How do you feel?
Uncomfortable, of course. You’ll want to exit under the carpet. And how does the rest
of the audience feel? Impatient. Ignored. Would you two like us to leave the room? Can
we be part of this, or is it a private party for two?

How small does the audience need to be in order to ignore the sharing technique?
That’s right – one. The technique applies to all audiences. It’s not well known because the vast majority
of audiences are small, and the downside of locking on is less obvious. Presenters who lock on lose
credibility without ever realising it.
Let’s begin. Here’s a starter version of the core technique.
STEP 1

Listen to the questioner (or interjector).

STEP 2

Direct only the first word or phrase of your answer to the questioner.

STEP 3

Direct the rest of your answer, at random, to the entire audience.

STEP 4

Return to the questioner for the last word or phrase.

It’s simple in essence and powerful in practice. You can practise it right away, as long as you try it first
with easy, non-emotional questions. Ask someone you trust to give you feedback afterwards.

WU\WKLV«

Better still, persuade at least four friends or colleagues to help you out as a practice
audience. Tell them what you’re doing. Explain that you want someone to interrupt
with a question (a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question is best) about half a minute after you start
speaking. The first time, deliberately do not share the reply – lock on to the questioner
for the whole response. Now ask the questioner to repeat the same question. This time,
share the reply as in the method above. Ask your audience which way looked best. Which
way gave you the greatest personal authority? Which way did you feel in better control?

Now we’re going to build on that ‘starter’ version.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

1.2

The method

Adopt the attitude
Listen on behalf of the audience.

Now’s the time to stop being preoccupied with your own survival. Some presenters fear questions and
interjections even more than they fear one-way speaking. Allowing something unexpected to happen
feels like opening Pandora’s box and releasing all manner of horrors. So this kind of self-talk switches on:
“Excuse me.”
Uh oh. “Yes?”
“I have a question.”
Oh no. A question. It’ll put me off my stride. It’ll put me off what I prepared.
What if I don’t know the answer? I’ll look like a fool.
That self-talk is a destroyer because it shunts your focus right back on your worries. Your fears multiply,
your audience knows instantly that you’ve transferred your focus from them to yourself, and your
credibility takes a hammering before you’ve uttered two words of your response. Instead, develop selftalk like this:
Ah, good. Chances are others will have the same question and this helps
me understand how others in the audience feel. How can I use this to help
everyone understand?
Make that your self-talk even when the questions and interjections are probing or emotionally charged.
Choose to genuinely welcome questions and interjections
as contributions to group understanding.

That’s quite a decision. But once you’re committed to it, you’ll find yourself easily coping with that instant
when you don’t know what your answer is going to be. And when you don’t have an answer? (Look
ahead to When you don’t know the answer p42)

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

WU\WKLV«

The method

Imagine yourself at a party. You’re talking to one person, a glass of your favourite
lubricant at hand. But you’re not enjoying it because the person opposite you is boring.
Which is a puzzle because he has an interesting background, he’s achieved spectacularly
and he’s extremely well-informed. So how can he be boring? Feelings and judgements
like boring or arrogant or I don’t like this bozo often arise when the person in front of
us keeps talking with no sign that he wants to know about us.

It’s the same when a presenter seems reluctant to take our questions.
Let’s get a practical barrier out of the way. For a large audience, it just doesn’t work to take every question
and interjection as they arise, because you would never get through your message. It is better to have a
stated question time. So, still welcome the questions, but manage their timing. More on that later.
And, in case I haven’t made it clear enough, be ready to be open. Be ready to be seen through. You can’t
hide from an audience – they know when you’re dodging. Steve Jobs of Apple fame may not have had
presenting in mind, but his words certainly fit the relationship between presenter and audience.
“Avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are
already naked.” Steve Jobs

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

1.3

The method

Involve your body in the reply

Much of what follows feels awkward when you first try it out. That’s partly because it’s new, and partly
because we’re making bullet points of what will soon be natural. It’s worth persisting and, as always, find
someone to give you specific feedback on how well it’s working.
The body language I’m talking about is subtle, the movements small, the impact large.
The movements are so small,
the audience only takes them in subconsciously,
but they strongly influence decisions about the
credibility of your answer, and of you.

Don’t blame them. It’s called being human, and humans use much more than the face value of your
words to form their opinions. You are also the message, because you are its carrier. As Marshall McLuhan
said, the medium is the message.

WU\WKLV«

An imagination activity. You’re sitting next to one person, side-by-side, talking. He wants
to sell you a new idea for an on-line business. But he conducts the conversation with
his head facing almost forward, maintaining contact only by looking at you sideways.
Want to do business with him?
Of course not. You’d rather do business with a snake in dark glasses. Swivelling his eyes
without turning his head is a trust-and-credibility disaster.
Now imagine that same conversation with one change. You’re still sitting side-on, but
this time he turns his head as well as his eyes. This is more credible. It’s the way most
presenters answer questions at meetings – swivelling their eyes and head, with fixed
torso.
And yet it’s still not enough.
For full credibility and trust,
your eyes, head and body must work together.

Here’s how.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

1.3.1

The method

Home position – with or without interaction

For normal one-way speaking – even before questions and interjections begin – your torso should be
inclined forward. If you’re standing, that’s an almost imperceptible tilt. If you’re sitting, you also rest
the fleshy parts of your arms on the table, with hands slightly apart, or one hand resting lightly on the
other, ready to gesture. Your stance quietly signals that the whole of you wants to be in their company.
Be aware: a backward tilt signals, I don’t want your company. I don’t want to know about you.
1.3.2

Turning to the questioner

If you’re engaged with an audience you’re turning your attention randomly to different individuals. That
means eyes, head and body. And now we need to look at the most subtle yet powerful movement of all.
In the spine. When you look at an individual, tilt head and spine slightly towards that person.
THE TURN (sitting or standing)
When you turn to an individual,
move your eyes fully,
rotate your head almost fully,
rotate your shoulders partly,
and tilt your spine towards that person very slightly.

Don’t mistake me, the tilt is not a bow. We’re not talking 18th century courtly manners here. For directing
your attention to someone in an average-sized meeting, the tilt may be no more than one centimetre.
That’s the thickness of your little finger. If you’re standing in front of a small meeting, then it’s around
two or three centimetres. Small movement, large impact. The individual you’re looking at translates it
subconsciously as This presenter wants to talk to me and respects me. The audience translates it vicariously
as This presenter wants to talk to us and respects us. You could hardly ask for a better way for them to
respect you in return. And all this is under their conscious radar.
That’s subtle. Less than one person in ten does the turn naturally without training. Those who do are
usually already comfortable in front of an audience. If you feel awkward trying it, persist until it feels
natural and then you no longer have to be aware of it at all.

WU\WKLV«

Compare the body language of speakers you know. Especially compare how they make
The Turn. Can you see a correlation between how well they make that turn and how
well they engage individuals and the whole audience?

Now we can expand the core method.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

1.3.3

The method

What to do with your body during interaction

STEP 1

Do THE TURN, then actively listen to the questioner (or interjector).

Now and then give a very small I’m listening nod. Very small means it won’t be mistaken for agreement.
Your eyes should be saying, I’m keen to hear this, even if the interjection is negative. (See Accept feelings
argue facts p19 ) When the question is finished, incline your head (think of a gracious nod) in acceptance,
which says, I’ve heard you and I’m taking you seriously.
You don’t have an instant answer? Don’t even bother with the cliché ‘That’s a good question.’ Everyone
knows you’re covering up your need for time to think. And everyone knows it’s unreasonable to expect
you to have an instant answer for all questions. It’s much better just to think. Openly. In silence. It’s no
problem to the audience.
If you need time to think of an answer,
nod (incline) your head to the questioner,
look away (no eye contact with anyone),
and think in silence.

By thinking in silence, you convey more respect for the question and the questioner. But if you’re
embarrassed, all bets are off. Audiences hate embarrassment.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

STEP 2

The method

Direct only the first word or two to the questioner with extra animation.

Extra animation usually means slightly bigger gestures and head movements. It’s simply a form of
respect, because it demonstrates your interest in the question. Of course when you’re truly engaged, it
won’t be an act.
STEP 3 Direct the rest of your answer, at random, to the entire audience – as if every person
asked that question.
When you look around to the whole audience, go first to the person furthest from the questioner –
that’s the extreme right or left of your audience. Then go to the other extreme. It’s called re-gathering.
You’re re-gathering attention, regaining control, and signalling that the question was so interesting that
everyone might be interested in the answer. It re-enforces fundamental respect for the questioner and,
by implication, to the entire audience.
And then direct your attention randomly as you would for normal speaking.
STEP 4 Return to the questioner for the last word or phrase – and a nod of acknowledgement.
That acknowledgement might also be a ‘thank you’. Or if you’re not sure you actually answered the
question, ask, ‘Did I answer your question?’

1.4

Involve your tone

The key word there is involve. A flat voice carries little personal credibility, with the real danger that
it can sound disinterested in the question or interjection. If you sound disinterested, that’s the end of
rapport with the questioner.
We don’t need extreme remedies. One again – just like the body language – we’re talking about something
so subtle that your audience simply won’t notice that anything special is happening with your voice.
Subtle, yes, but at the subconscious level, most important.
Nor do we need special exercises on your tone and voice modulation. Instead, develop the skills indirectly
by working on appropriate levels of warmth, interest and energy.

1.5

Add warmth, interest and energy

You could revisit Pass the passion test in The Engaging Presenter Part II. But here I’ve selected the ideas
particularly important for questions and interjections.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

1.5.1

The method

Warmth

It’s a warmth that welcomes the question. If your first reaction is apprehensive, your audience cools; if
you are warm, your audience warms. Don’t overdo it. Be warm with your eyes only – this is not the
place for a cheesy smile.
1.5.2

Interest and energy
Be energized by the question or interjection.

It goes naturally with the extra animation. It conveys respect. As you’ll see later that’s important even
when the questioner is totally opposed to you. Your expression must indicate that you really want to
know what’s going on for this person.
Never drop your energy in response to a question. Similar to ‘locking on’, it sends the message, Your
interruption is so unimportant to the audience, I can hardly bother with it. Go away. Not much respect
in that; it would be simpler to stroll over and slap the questioner in the face.
Now we have a full platform for the core method.

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In the following section we see just how powerful it can be for difficult topics and challenging audiences –
for meetings, full presentations and formal speeches. In the meantime, here are some examples for
‘ordinary’ questions and interjections. First a large one where it’s more obvious that this method works.
Large group
We’ll assume that some may not have heard the question, the question is straight-forward, with no
hidden agenda.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

The method

CONVERSATION / MOVEMENT

COMMENTARY

YOU “You have a question?”

Do THE TURN. Show warmth and interest.

Q “Yes. Can you tell is if the Middle East situation is
going to raise prices even further?”
YOU “You mean at the pumps?”

You want to fully understand before you reply.

Q “Yes.”
YOU (Nod, turn to the rest of the audience)
“The question is, ‘Will the Middle East situation
raise petrol prices even further?’
Well I don’t know yet. This may be just another
bump in a very bumpy, very long Middle East
road. I’m reluctant to even guess about prices
until I know what the OPEC nations have to say.
Their opinion…
(Return to questioner on last words, with nod of
thanks)
…may be the best indicator anyone’s going to
get”

Sharing the reply is usually the most difficult part for
beginners.
You’re adding energy, lifting your tone. Everything
about you indicates that this is interesting for
everyone. You have just shown respect for the
questioner.

The questioner needs this acknowledgement as a
mark of respect from you.

Now let’s go to a much smaller group where it’s so tempting to give the answer only to the questioner,
one-to-one. This time, you’re running a meeting with half a dozen people. Assume everyone heard the
interjection.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

The method

Small group
YOU “My feeling is that if we don’t terminate her
contract, the-”
Q “But, Miranda, she’s a solo parent, disabled, and
with three children under five. The press will
make us roast of the day.”

YOU (Incline your head slightly forward.)

You’re listening to this with warmth and interest,
even though you were interrupted. This objection
to your message is actually a gift, because it openly
declares a feeling that might otherwise be silently
undermining you.
It’s not a nod in the usual sense. The forward
inclination indicates that you accept the contribution
and the feeling behind it, but that you don’t
necessarily agree with the face value of the point
made.

“Yes, they will…
(Turn to the others)

Sharing the reply.

“…but what’s the alternative? She’s blackmailing
us with her disadvantaged status so she can go
right on doing it to the same youngsters. The
parents are going to get the press to roast us
anyway.
(Return to the questioner for a nod of thanks)

Sustaining the added energy

“I suggest we…”

The psychological momentum of sharing the reply
with warmth, interest and energy makes it easy to
return to your agenda.

The supposedly negative objection was a gift – a
contribution to everyone’s understanding

Are you wondering if warmth is appropriate for such a serious topic? Warmth is not the same as a smile.
Warmth shows in and around the eyes, and is almost always apSpropriate – for the people in front of you.
Look back at the direction Incline your head slightly forward and the commentary beside it. This
sophisticated, gracious body language is part of the repertoire of leaders with the ability to engage. As
long as they are acting in good faith, they are not threatened by questions and interjections, no matter
how negative.
Does the method still work when the topic is difficult, the audience challenging, the questions and
interjections probing, sceptical, or emotionally charged?
Yes it does. You will need the core method for all of those situations, but you might want to add a few
techniques and nuances from the next pages.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

2 Making the method powerful
Feelings are the great generator of the universe. From the novel,
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

2.1

Accept feelings, argue facts

The toughest questions and interjections are the emotional ones, which can feel like a blow to the stomach.
Yet if you’re really ready to put audience needs first, you’ll find even this much easier than you thought:
if you’re using the core method, you are already handling much of the emotional charge in questions
and interjections. For mild negative emotions, you’re already there.
So let’s make the emotions more charged.
Accept the person and the feelings
without judgement. Argue only facts and logic.

That’s what effective leaders do. All feelings, spoken and unspoken, are valid and beyond judgement.
They are completely natural given that person’s history up to this point. Accept the totality of the person.
There’s a fascinating irony involved – an apparent contradiction.
If you want to change a person’s feelings,
first accept the person,
then accept those feelings as natural,
then introduce facts or logic that might alter the feelings.

Of course you don’t tell them you accept them and their feelings – that’s your internal choice. But when
you’ve truly made that choice, the questioner picks up the tiny signals and something shifts within them.
As the argument continues, he or she respects you.
Even so, the idea of accepting someone’s negative feelings is a stretch for some.
“You mean if Jaron Smith tells me, in front of everyone, that the
project will be a dead duck, I’m supposed to put up with that?”
Yes. In fact you should welcome it. Expressed feelings are a gift, because they bring out into the open
what you’re really dealing with. And what if you discover that half the audience think the same and
are grateful that Smith aired it for them? His gift to you is now priceless. It’s the audience giving you a
reality check – which has nothing to do with who is right and who wrong. Their feeling is the reality in
this highly subjective human world. No more worries about hidden agendas.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

Here’s the opposite, a classic silent disaster: you’re not aware of significant opposition, so you haven’t
allowed for it in your content, and no one speaks up about it when you present. That’s automatic failure
to persuade, even though not a negative word is uttered. Does that put Smith and his ‘negative’ attitude
in a different light? Smith has helped you become ‘real’.
Choose to genuinely welcome as a gift
opposing questions, concerns and objections

In fact making that choice is a priceless gift you can give to yourself. Make it in the midst of strong
emotions and your audience won’t just respect you – they’ll admire you. Take anger, for example. Hidden
anger undermines you; but you can use open anger to increase – yes, increase – the rapport between
you and your audience.
YOU “…so we’re all going to have to sign the vehicles
in and out.”
Q “Oh, great!”

Sarcastic and annoyed

YOU (Incline your head)

Acknowledging and accepting the feeling and the
person. The interjection is a gift to you, bringing
out into the open what might otherwise silently
undermine your message.

“I know…”
(Look around, sharing the reply) …It’s more
bureaucracy. Nobody likes red tape, even at the
best of times…
…but, we would hate the alternative a lot
more. And for everyone’s sake we do have to
stop the system being abused. From tomorrow
morning…”

You’re not threatened by the feeling or the way it was
expressed. You are bigger than the feelings in front
of you.
Adding energy.
Because you have accepted person and feelings,
you can now argue the facts assertively, with full
personal authority and the best chance of winning
the argument.

Would you be hurt or made anxious by the sarcasm of that “Oh, great!” interjection? That’s a serious issue.
If you have more seniority than the interjector, you might be tempted to openly criticize the interjector’s
discourtesy. But that’s pulling rank to compel respect, which is an excellent way to lose it. In the end you
can’t avoid a decision to replace such anxiety with the determination to look after the audience. Better
still, uncover the deeper realization that there is nothing to be anxious about. Don’t give other people
the power to make you feel bad about yourself.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
I like the story of the Buddhist monk who went to his abbot and complained that people in the street
were mocking him by calling him a dog.

20
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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

“Turn around and look at your rear end,” the abbot said. “Do you see
a tail wagging?”
“No,” said the monk.
“Then the matter is settled,” said the abbot.
Let’s extend the technique. When you disagree with the point made by the questioner…
You can say yes and no simultaneously, without conflict.

How does that work? You’re saying yes with your manner and no with your words – and the no can be
assertive, even passionate. It’s not a conflict because the yes and the no operate on two different planes:
feelings and facts. I have seen a presenter passionately disagree with his entire audience (20 people) with
such a warm acceptance of their feelings that they fell silent with respect.
It’s very, very persuasive.
It’s got nothing to do with talking through a stiff smile, of course; an audience will see through that in
a nanosecond. Remember, you’re naked already. You must genuinely abandon defensiveness.

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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

Modern neuroscience accepts that humans are driven by feelings, not by logic. In fact the research has
found that we cannot make a decision without first checking in with our feelings.1 When you show
non-judgemental acceptance of the audience, the audience likes you (right brain), then decides to listen
to you (left brain).
You “…so restructuring of some sort is inevitable.
We’re going to –“
Q “Look, why don’t you just come on out with it?
You’re going to make some of us redundant.
Aren’t you?”
You (Incline your head forward emphatically. Tilt body
slightly forward)
“Absolutely not. There will be no redundancies.
We just don’t need them when…”

You do THE TURN, then you’re listening with warm
attention – despite the aggressive tone. Here’s that
gift again – feelings revealed rather than hidden.
Hidden feelings can silently kill your message.
Incline – not a nod. Your manner is conveys yes
to person and feeling, and an assertive no to the
argument. Simultaneously. It’s not a contradiction
because feelings and facts are on different planes of
communication. The same principle would operate
even if your answer started with, “No, it’s too soon to
know that yet…”

Incline head forward? It may seem more logical to shake your head when you’re going to disagree. And if
you want to rely just on the language of logic, it is. But a good communicator is also fluent in the language
of feelings and uses both simultaneously. A shake of the head can easily be taken as a blanket rejection
of person, feelings and facts, which often means the audience won’t believe your answer about the facts.
In practice, many presenters find it hard to cope with such in-your-face emotion, so they enter what
seems to be an escape tunnel which bears this sign: Answer only the face value of the words, pretending
that no one has any strong feelings. In that last example such a reaction might emerge as a low-energy,
flat-toned, “It’s not the intention of management to make anyone redundant. Now, as I was saying…”
Such a response would raise a howl of disbelief and anger. The escape tunnel leads directly into the lion
enclosure.
It’s just not logical to ignore emotions.
Do you see the beauty of the technique? You can win at all levels. You convey respect, you get respected.
You can enjoy a vigorous, noisy argument with your audience without turning feelings against you. Magic.
Here’s a useful device.
Sometimes check what the rest of
the audience thinks or feels.

22
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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

You “So if you plant this variety a month earlier,
you’re likely to-”
Q “Look that’s crap! I paid good money for
that rubbish last year and I got nothing
out of it.”
You (Incline your head toward the questioner. But
hearing a murmur from someone else, turn
to the entire audience of 50 farmers.)
“Anyone else feel the same?”
(Look around expectantly)

You’re surprised, but still listening with warmth and interest.
Here’s another gift.
Checking with the audience. Adding energy. Accepting
the feelings, showing concern and interest. You’re not
threatened. You genuinely want to know. Note the use of the
word ‘feel’ rather than ‘think’.

“Two… no, three. Thank you… I’d like to
get to the bottom of that. Perhaps the
three of you could have a word with me
afterwards… All right, let’s move on.”

Here’s a tougher test. We’ll use the same example, but this time the majority feel aggressive and are not
interested in anything but sorting out their quarrel with you.
Q “Look that’s crap! I paid good money for
that rubbish last year and I got nothing
out of it.”
You (Incline your head forward. This time there’s
a strong murmur of agreement, so turn to
the audience questioningly.)
“A lot of you feel the same way?”
(There’s an even stronger murmur from a
clear majority. Some scowl at you.

As the extent of the problem becomes clear, you’re
conveying more surprise and more concern.

Q “None of us are going to use that rubbish
again. You’ve got a nerve trying to sell it
to us.”

You’re still listening with warmth and interest – even though
they are now questioning your personal integrity.

You (Incline your head forward again, then look
away in silence while you think.)

Acknowledging, then – by thinking in silence – conveying
that you’re taking it very seriously. It’s a defensive mistake to
think that you have to fill the silence with words.
You’re still checking with audience, adding energy. You’re
keen to resolve this for them. Although there’s a potential
sales disaster looming, you’re not defensive.

(Turn again to the audience.)
“Let me check something. How many of
you had problems? Can you indicate with
your hands…?”
(At least 40 raise hands.)
“Okay. How many of you took a
commercial yield?”
(Four raise hands. A few shrug uncertainly.)
“Thank you. Well, it’ll be a waste of time
dealing with anything else till we sort this
one out. Do you agree?”
(A few nods, then a murmur of assent. Some
expressions show grudging respect.)
“I’m wondering about frost susceptibility.
Can you give me your experience on that?
Who planted early in the foothills?”

Respect? Yes, mostly because in spite of your uncomfortable
situation you’re still looking after their interests.

23
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The engaging presenter Part III:
How to handle questions and interjections

2.2

Making the method powerful

When the interjection doesn’t need verbal attention

Many interjections are so fleeting, so lightweight, that it would be ludicrous to spend words on them.
But there is one element of the technique you still need. Warmth.
You “So, on Thursday night, Rachel and I aim to get
together to –”
Q “Hah!” (Light hearted.)
You (Continue almost without pause, raising one eyebrow, a
hint of amusement in the eyes, no more than a glance
at the interjector.)
“– to work out how to get everyone involved in…”

2.3

You’re taking it in passing, with warm
acceptance. No words are needed at all.

Mirror negative emotions with intensity

First, two don’ts from the extreme ends of the spectrum:
• Don’t respond to aggression with aggression or anger. All you’re demonstrating is your loss
of control. You might as well just throw a tantrum.
Don’t respond to aggression with calm, quiet words.
What? What could possibly be wrong with calm
quiet words? That’s dignified.

The Wake
the only emission we want to leave behind

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