How to starve the presentation vultures (part 2)
by Pierre Morsa —
Last week we saw how presentation vultures can destroy your confidence and ability to present in front of an audience. We saw that the best way to fend them off is to strengthen your vital space anchor. But how can you do that?
If your presentation has an objective, a clear message, it is much easier to use it as an anchor. Let’s imagine for example that the key message is that your presentation is about a new software service that offers necessary services to protect your IT systems. But the vultures—who don’t really understand what it’s about—are out to eat the tech guy. They question every choice, every detail, every functionality. The presentation turns into an endless discussion of details. If that happens, re-anchor the presentation. Remind them of the objective, the message: “Yes, we can discuss about whether we can add the animated dog on the configuration page later, but this is secondary. What is really important is that we guarantee that we have the right level of protection, and this is the best tool to do it.”
Bullies also like to behave like spoiled children. They throw themselves on the ground, kicking and screaming (mostly figuratively, I haven’t seen someone actually throw himself on the ground—that would have been interesting—but I heard plenty of people screaming to try to cover the sound of their incompetence). They won’t take no as an answer. You know what? No is exactly the answer they need, with a short sentence explaining the consequences, no more. For example: “No, we cannot add this because this would increase the budget / increase the risk / increase delivery time.” The longer your justification is, the more it becomes self-justification, the weaker it becomes, the more mouth-watering you become to the vultures. Be sure to do this only for unjustified requests, not for legitimate concerns or needs. Instead of being the prey, you become the bully’s super nanny. You’re the adult in the room, anchored, with a good message to defend. When you do that, something funny happens. Most bullies instinctively understand they’re starting to look immature and are going to lose their power, and they calm down by themselves. Only the slower ones don’t get it. Be kind to them.
The vultures will also try to destabilize you with questions you don’t have the answer. Although not being able to answer any question means you’re not prepared properly (and in that case that’s your problem, not the bully’s problem), it’s perfectly fine and normal not to have 100% of the answers. Just say it. “I don’t have the answer, we will test it and I will come back to you.” See? That simple. You even behaved proactively by proposing to find the answer to the question.
These are only a few examples of the techniques you can use to get out of a presentation slump and gain confidence. Anybody willing to invest the time and effort can change and become a good presenter. This is also what a good coach can do for you. He can help you anchor yourself so Vultures will start starving and look elsewhere. He can help you learn to stay firm in hostile environments. He can help you become the good leader people want to follow.