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Presentation Mishaps A to Z: A is for Anger

Of all the possible responses to an emergent presentation disaster, I think it’s safe to say anger is the most foolish. Yeah, I know, this isn’t a particularly fresh observation —

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

— but it does bear repeating.

Given a choice between working with someone likely to curl up into a quivering fetal ball when things are going wrong  and working with someone prone to venting their anger in the same situation, I think I would go with the fetal ball rather than the venter. A fetal ball can be guided to a quiet corner somewhere to whimper quietly while everyone else sorts things out.  The anger of your basic hothead tends to spread and escalate in a reflexive feedback loop that has the potential to drag most of your team into dealing with the emotion (including fight and flight responses) rather than working the problem.

The way to deal with feedback loops is to, wait for it, break the loop. Reduce the amplification by responding quietly to the hothead’s outburst (see “The Valium Bubble“). Absorb, don’t reflect. Sometimes the simplest way to deal with audio feedback is to turn the speakers slightly away from the microphone. Sometimes you just need to simply turn away from someones anger in order and avoid sending it right back.

At least until the crisis has passed.

(Disclaimer: This post should not be read as criticism of a tightly controlled tactical anger used on rare occasions to guide and inspire team performance. I am taking to task the uncontrolled, unthinking anger generated by anxiety arising from unexpected, negative events that could lead to a presentation’s failure.)

One last thought (it’s not my thought, but I can’t remember where I heard this): All anger is actually fear, and all fear is fear of loss. Figuring out,  in the most specific way possible, what the angry person is afraid of losing can often put you in a great position to alleviate the fear and to perhaps find the leverage necessary to dial down the anger.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/22/09)

Zallas Technologies: Managing Meeting Mayhem — “You start the meeting, only to be interrupted by two or three latecomers. As you glance around the room, people are busy sending text messages on their cell phones and whispering quietly to each other. What about the meeting? How do you even try to compete with all of these distractions, not to mention the rambling storyteller and the constant disagreement between the two at the end of the table?”

Speak Fearlessly: How to deal with the “Stump the Chump” dynamic in Public Speaking — ““Stump the Chump” refers to an audience member who may be disruptive or hostile; often expressed through repeated questioning meant to challenge a speaker’s authority and possibly steal the spotlight.”

Great Public Speaking: LapTop Volume — “Here’s a quick way to handle the volume when you do not have a sound person in the room.” and BACKWARDS — “The problem was, he started at the wrong end of the pole.”

SpeakerSue Says: The 2 Biggest Mistakes Presenters Can Make — “For example, you could: Faint, throw up, ramble, bore, forget, amble, become parched, blush, not know, say too much, say too little, humiliate yourself, not be funny, stutter, not shut up, patronize, condescend, shake, and in general make a mess of yourself. But wait, there’s more.”

Colorado Communication Coach: What I Learned from Scathing Criticism — “Then, on the backside, he or she typed out a numbered list of all the mistakes I made in my presentation…”

Gathering: don’t poison your attendees — “Seems like an obvious statement, but how often do we consider ALL of the ways we could be harming our guests?!”

Mother Tongue Annoyances: How to Attain Serenity Before Giving a Speech — “However, in my experience as a technical trainer, IT professional, and astute audience member I have seen not an insignificant number of public speakers blow otherwise fine presentations by needlessly psyching themselves out due to mishandled fear or over-jangling nerves.”

Overnight Sensation: Career Success: How a Crisis Can Become Your Opportunity for Greatness –Try to keep this in mind the next time the presentation is going to hell in a handbasket.