Recently, one of my students asked me a really good question about how to deal with “know-it-alls” who attend your live events. When you get a heckler in the audience or someone who dominates with too many questions, it can be very disconcerting. This and other situations can arise that require you to step up and really manage the room.
Being on stage involves a lot more than just teaching. You have to use your intuition and have the confidence to handle situations as they arise.
1. Manage the Energy. Low energy, restlessness, eyes glazing over–all things you may notice from the stage. Don’t take this personally. It’s often just a normal reaction when there is a lot of information being conveyed. However, you want to keep the energy moving so the audience stays engaged.
To break up the energy and engage people again, you can turn up the music and even have everyone dance! Try varying the pace and volume of your speaking as well. You can also ask people to turn to the person next to them and share for a moment. These actions get the energy moving again.
2. Over-bearing participation. Participation will vary in any group. There will always be people who never speak and then there are those who speak too much. When you have to deal with a know-it-all, they often don’t even realize what they are doing. It’s not their fault, it’s just who they are.
For the frequent hand raiser, you can say, “I hear you, but I want to hear from somebody who hasn’t spoken yet to give everyone a chance.” Then encourage your quieter attendees to come out of their comfort zone a bit by speaking up.
For a person who raises her hand in the middle of a point, you can say, “Let me get back to you in a minute. I want to finish my thought.” Or, “Hey guys, I’ve got so much content, I can’t take any more questions right now.” Always respond and say these things with a smile.
3. Command the Room. As the presenter, you have to drive the train. You have to provide the audience with the content you promised and create the outcome you want. If you allow yourself to get off track, you won’t be able to do that. When they walk out of the room and don’t get the value they could have gotten, you end up feeling like you cheated them. Don’t let that happen.
It’s your job to manage the room and provide the content, so own that. Stand up because that generates more energy and helps you feel in control. If you are around a conference room table, stand to feel like you are on stage. If you sit, you are on the same level and people feel they need to chip in which may cause you to lose control. Standing is the way to be in command of the room.
Next time you deliver a live workshop or give your signature talk, take a moment to review these tips for managing the energy in the room. Anyone can get flustered, but now you know how to deal with a know-it-all, command the room and move through these situations with grace and ease.