Presentation Presence: Audience Connection and Handling Disruptive People

By Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

How do you feel about your ability to speak capably and confidently at the front of the room, in a meeting, or presenting in any circumstance? How about those high stake talks or speeches?  Feel confident and proud of your results?

In the last post, Nervousness and Reading Your Speech were covered. The next two, if not skillfully handled, can ruin any presentation.

  • Not connecting with the audience
  • Inability to handle disruptive people

How to connect with the audience:

  1. 1453418716

    If possible, meet and greet prior to your presentation. Roam the registration desk, hang out in the lobby, and take time to connect with just a few of the audience members. Obviously there will be times when this is not important – but generally, even if you know the group, do it!

  2. As a professional speaker, there are times when I will send out a ‘needs analysis’ to all or even a few of the attendees prior to planning what I’m going to review. Finding out what is important to them, not just what you want to espouse, will make the connection.
  3. Make your presentation about them, not about you and your story. People really don’t care unless your story gives them a framework for what they can do to improve a situation.
  4. Always think about what you want them to do, think, or feel. Consider the action you want them to take. Otherwise your presentation will be reviewed as interesting but not relevant.
  5. Use their lingo. Review their website, press releases, and marketing materials.  Using unfamiliar terms will turn them off because a confused mind stops listening.
  6. Don’t ever say or indicate that you are nervous, not used to doing this, or use phrases that indicate you are not prepared. You are asking for an automatic disconnect.

Managing disruptive people:


  1. If you have someone who is constantly talking during your presentation, and if you are on the floor with your audience, walk up behind their chair.  Your physical presence will typically stop them from talking.
  1. If this ploy doesn’t work, stop mid sentence and ask them a question.  “You seem to know something about what we are talking about. Please enlighten me and the group!” Say it caringly and authentically. And for me, that is the hard part!
  2. Set ground rules, whether formal or informal, at the beginning of your presentation.
    a.    Formal: Using a flip chart or white board, ask the group how they would like to run the meeting. You can begin this simple exercise by saying, “How about ‘One conversation at a time’ – and write that on the board. This should get them started.  If not, offer another such as, “If it has already been said, it doesn’t have to be repeated.” And so on.  If you are interested in establishing meeting ground rules, I can send you my list that many of my clients have applied.
    b.    Informal: After your hook and dynamic opening ask the group, “Can we agree to limit the side conversations? Our time is limited and I want to make sure you get information that will help you succeed. And if you write down your comments and questions, we will have time later to answer your concerns.

Send this on to friends. And if you want more, email me at and I’ll send you an audio download on Presentation Skills. We will be covering the remainder of the issues in upcoming newsletters, so stay posted:

  • When writing a speech, not knowing how to start
  • Uncomfortable standing without a Lectern
  • No idea how to introduce yourself
  • Fidgeting because you have no clue what to do with your hands
  • Inability to have the group take action on your information
  • Using humor

Need help with your presentations? Do you want to capture every audience every time? Contact me and we will make great changes in a short amount of time!

Cheers, Marsha
Cell: 602 418-1991
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Professional Speaker, Executive Coach, Best Selling Author
Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA
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