Do you cringe when someone hijacks your high-stakes presentation? If so, you’re not alone. But if we go into our presentation understanding why our audience members may take things over and regain that control, we’ll feel stronger—and stay on track. This post outlines ways to stay calm (and centered) when an over-eager attendee hijacks your presentation.
When someone takes over your presentation, they may feel impatient you’re not getting to the point, or, they like to take control. One way to signal you remain in control becomes standing. If we stand vs. sit, we signal to our audience: We’re waiting for the person to finish speaking. We’re still holding the reins. Stand back with neutral body language and welcoming facial expressions; but, avoid sitting down.
Understand your own response
Understand why you respond the way you do. Then, separate that response from your action. This tip helps you feel centered and controlled as you re-navigate things on the fly. Madison, Wisconsin-based executive coach Jennifer Schmeiser reminds us to put ourselves in the driver’s seat. “Do some self-reflection to understand what is causing you to feel frustrated and undermined; then, with that new awareness, come up with your action steps on how to respond,” Schmeiser says. “Once you come up with a strategy that feels authentic, try it out (and modify, if needed) for the next meeting.”
Anyone who has had their meeting taken over knows how disruptive and annoying it feels when someone takes over. We often look upon the hijacker as rude and boorish Even so, try staying calm. Let the person speak for a while; then, thank the attendee for their wisdom and expand on their offering to help get the meeting back on course. You may even compliment the person as you transition. For instance, “I’m so glad you brought up that great idea. Thanks for sharing—and actually, I expand on that very notion here…”
Remember: Your audience dreads a long meeting (and you remain the subject matter expert)
Regardless of who takes over the presentation, the audience has your back when you regain control (and they’d prefer you do so). The Harvard Business Review reports executives spending 23 hours weekly in meetings today vs. 10 hours 50 years ago. Feel empowered to redirect the presentation as a gift to your audience—they’ll feel grateful they can get back to work. Also, remember: You’re the subject matter expert. You’ve researched the topic and spent time understanding things well enough to present to that high-stakes audience. Whatever the hijacker adds, they can’t duplicate your knowledge, in most cases.
Plant a decoy
If you see a pattern, get strategic—and informed. Take note of when (and what) triggers the take over. Provide a teaser slide to hint you may touch on that information; then, expand in more detail on the next slide. When the hijacker steps in, you can counter: “I’m so glad you asked for those numbers—and here you can see—we have them.” Also, ensure you bring all bottom line information up top and keep your slides brief. Offer an appendix of information on which you can expand.
With some tips and tools like these in your back pocket, you can now stay more on track—and feel less flustered—when someone tries hijacking your next presentation. More blogs on business presenting live here.