It’s what people fear most during a presentation: Some smart Alec up the back hijacking your presentation, the clown that leads your audience into a giggling fit and the sniper who wants to shoot you down. We have all experienced them at some time. But you can prevent them from occurring.

Here are 3 reasons you may have a disruptive audience  and what to do about it.  These are great presentation skills.

1. They’re experiencing cognitive overload

Pitching your presentation at the right level is vital. Too much jargon and acronyms quickly increases the cognitive load and can leave your audience feeling overwhelmed. Too simplistic and they get bored and before you know it, the clowns take centre stage to relieve the monotony.

The solution:

  •  Do your homework. Speak to as many people as you can to gauge their understanding of your topic
  • If in doubt, eliminate jargon – as it can alienate people
  • Use stories, metaphors and analogies to explain your topic
  • Watch the body language of your audience and check constantly for understanding

2. They’ve been sitting too long

Have a look at the people in your audience. What is their normal job? If it’s not sitting for eight hours a day you better get them moving!

The solution

  • Get ’em up. Especially after lunch
  • Get them to demonstrate what it is you are discussing
  • Have exercises where they can practice the skill rather than talk about it
  • Move them around the room to interact with other people. An easy way to do this is with coloured stickers on name tags or workbooks

3. They need to talk and contribute

Adult learners bring a lifetime of experience to the table and they all have Google in their pockets. They need to be able to tie in their experience to your message. Talking enables them to develop the link and cement the learning.

The solution

  •  Small group interaction. (Don’t ask ‘any questions?’ to a large group as you you will hear the sound of silence)
  • Give them challenging topics to discuss
  • Ask them how they would apply this to their workplace
  • Ask them what they think – Yes? No? and if not why not?


So there are some presentation skills to implement.  Good luck with handling your snipers, hijackers and clowns and if you have a particular challenge you have, let me know below and I’ll share some recommendations.

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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