Use the Ricochet Question to Handle a Hostile Audience Member

One of the unpleasant aspects of giving a presentation is encountering the occasional malcontent. I have a series of methods to handle hostile audience members in my forthcoming book, Present Like a Pro.

Here’s one method:

Use the Ricochet Question to Divert a Troublemaker’s Question to Someone Else in the Audience, a Technique that Defuses Hostility and Buys You Time to Think

A ricochet question (where you take someone’s question and refer it to others) works best in a venue where you know some of the other audience members. It differs from a bounceback question, which will be addressed in my next post.

You can’t always use the ricochet question but when it’s appropriate the technique not only takes the focus off you momentarily but also increases audience involvement — and in the process may actually enliven the presentation.

It works like this:

Question: Our numbers each quarter keep going down. What can we do?
Answer: It’s true that sales are a challenge in this economy, but some departments are holding their own or actually improving. Alyssa’s department had two good years in a row, and she’s been active in training throughout the company. What do you think, Alyssa? What are the options you can identify?

Be careful, because you don’t want to anger people by putting them on the spot, and you don’t want to appear to be ducking questions, but executed correctly this technique can move the audience over to your side.

You can ask an audience-wide ricochet question, too.

Before I answer that, does anybody in the audience have any [thoughts, direct experience with the issue, etc.]?

If the malcontent crosses the line and becomes a heckler, there are several techniques you can employ.   They’ll be posted over the next two weeks.


Author: admin

Carl Hausman is Professor of Journalism at Rowan University, the author of several books about media, and a commentator about the role of media and ethics in civic life.

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