Talking about difficult topics takes courage, tact and humor, especially when you go into a situation already knowing there might be antagonism. But it's important to remember that your audience can also be receptive, responsive and grateful--don't forget that! Don't assume with a hostile or difficult audience that there aren't people there whose lives you're going to change.
Even in difficult situations, the presenter is responsible for the audience's understanding and if you, as the speaker, are not able to get your message across, then you need to find a way to improve! What is most important is meeting the needs of your audience. It's not about YOU; it's about getting your message across to your audience and anyone can do this with proper preparation.
Know Your Objective & Your Audience
In order to know the objective of your talk, you have to know your audience. Are they beginners? Do they know absolutely nothing about your topic, or are they experts? Are they contrarian? Knowing the answers to these questions will affect the type of presentation you give.
There are three basic questions you should try to answer about your audience:
- Why are they there?
- What are their needs?
- What do you want them to do as a result of your talk?
Think about these issues before you even start creating your presentation: know who you're talking to, why, what they want, and what you want them to do. Then you'll have a real objective, and you can create a presentation for that specific audience.
Check back soon for Tough Topics, Tough Audiences Part II: Prepare, prepare prepare!