If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
- General George S. Patton
General Patton was known for his ruthlessness during the Second World War, but he was also a mastermind tactician and a great leader. Remarkably, he also taught us to think for ourselves and question consensus.
The dreaded Q&A
Whether you’re presenting for co-workers, a classroom full of 8-year-olds or a TED talk, you should always welcome questions and critique. There are very few people who actually ask questions to ‘take you down’, most just want a clarification or more information. Instead of dreading these questions, you should welcome them. They might just clarify something half your audience was wondering about, and when answered adequately and to the point, you and your presentation will be perceived better by your audience.
Don’t be afraid of dissention
Sometimes you’ll encounter people who don’t agree with you. They have a different opinion on the subject, and they’ll let you know about it. Oftentimes, this can be your time to shine. The key is to listen to the actual meaning of the question or opinion, and respond in a friendly and insightful manner. Respect a person and their opinions, and engage in a constructive and interesting conversation. When done right, your audience will be loving it.
Don’t lose your cool
Whatever happens, don’t let your temper get away with you. Opinionated people can become really annoying sometimes, but the only way to deal with them is the calm way. And if they’re being really disruptive, just tell them that. Say that they’re not contributing, or that you don’t know how to respond to a personal attack. Worst case scenario: conclude your talk, thank you audience and walk away. But whatever you do, don’t fight fire with fire, it’s a battle you can’t win.