Occasionally you will have audience members that will ask negative or hostile questions or make challenging statements. You have to respond positively and non-defensively.

Here is a five-step process for responding to negative questions/statements:

  1. Pause and think, “This is only a test.”
  2. Rephrase the question so that it is neutral rather than negative. This will give you a chance to defuse your own defensiveness.
  3. Reflect the emotion in the question. Let the audience member know that you heard the emotional context surrounding the question as well as the content. If you don’t do this, the questioner may persist thinking that you didn’t “really hear them.”
  4. Answer the entire audience, checking back with the questioner periodically.
  5. Finish your response by looking at anyone in the audience except the questioner. If you finish by looking at the questioner, they may ask a follow-up question. Here’s a tip: Include specific benefits in your answers to continue selling your idea.