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5Add warmth, interest and energy

5Add warmth, interest and energy

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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections


The method


It’s a warmth that welcomes the question. If your first reaction is apprehensive, your audience cools; if

you are warm, your audience warms. Don’t overdo it. Be warm with your eyes only – this is not the

place for a cheesy smile.


Interest and energy

Be energized by the question or interjection.

It goes naturally with the extra animation. It conveys respect. As you’ll see later that’s important even

when the questioner is totally opposed to you. Your expression must indicate that you really want to

know what’s going on for this person.

Never drop your energy in response to a question. Similar to ‘locking on’, it sends the message, Your

interruption is so unimportant to the audience, I can hardly bother with it. Go away. Not much respect

in that; it would be simpler to stroll over and slap the questioner in the face.

Now we have a full platform for the core method.

















In the following section we see just how powerful it can be for difficult topics and challenging audiences –

for meetings, full presentations and formal speeches. In the meantime, here are some examples for

‘ordinary’ questions and interjections. First a large one where it’s more obvious that this method works.

Large group

We’ll assume that some may not have heard the question, the question is straight-forward, with no

hidden agenda.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

The method



YOU “You have a question?”

Do THE TURN. Show warmth and interest.

Q “Yes. Can you tell is if the Middle East situation is

going to raise prices even further?”

YOU “You mean at the pumps?”

You want to fully understand before you reply.

Q “Yes.”

YOU (Nod, turn to the rest of the audience)

“The question is, ‘Will the Middle East situation

raise petrol prices even further?’

Well I don’t know yet. This may be just another

bump in a very bumpy, very long Middle East

road. I’m reluctant to even guess about prices

until I know what the OPEC nations have to say.

Their opinion…

(Return to questioner on last words, with nod of


…may be the best indicator anyone’s going to


Sharing the reply is usually the most difficult part for


You’re adding energy, lifting your tone. Everything

about you indicates that this is interesting for

everyone. You have just shown respect for the


The questioner needs this acknowledgement as a

mark of respect from you.

Now let’s go to a much smaller group where it’s so tempting to give the answer only to the questioner,

one-to-one. This time, you’re running a meeting with half a dozen people. Assume everyone heard the



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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

The method

Small group

YOU “My feeling is that if we don’t terminate her

contract, the-”

Q “But, Miranda, she’s a solo parent, disabled, and

with three children under five. The press will

make us roast of the day.”

YOU (Incline your head slightly forward.)

You’re listening to this with warmth and interest,

even though you were interrupted. This objection

to your message is actually a gift, because it openly

declares a feeling that might otherwise be silently

undermining you.

It’s not a nod in the usual sense. The forward

inclination indicates that you accept the contribution

and the feeling behind it, but that you don’t

necessarily agree with the face value of the point


“Yes, they will…

(Turn to the others)

Sharing the reply.

“…but what’s the alternative? She’s blackmailing

us with her disadvantaged status so she can go

right on doing it to the same youngsters. The

parents are going to get the press to roast us


(Return to the questioner for a nod of thanks)

Sustaining the added energy

“I suggest we…”

The psychological momentum of sharing the reply

with warmth, interest and energy makes it easy to

return to your agenda.

The supposedly negative objection was a gift – a

contribution to everyone’s understanding

Are you wondering if warmth is appropriate for such a serious topic? Warmth is not the same as a smile.

Warmth shows in and around the eyes, and is almost always apSpropriate – for the people in front of you.

Look back at the direction Incline your head slightly forward and the commentary beside it. This

sophisticated, gracious body language is part of the repertoire of leaders with the ability to engage. As

long as they are acting in good faith, they are not threatened by questions and interjections, no matter

how negative.

Does the method still work when the topic is difficult, the audience challenging, the questions and

interjections probing, sceptical, or emotionally charged?

Yes it does. You will need the core method for all of those situations, but you might want to add a few

techniques and nuances from the next pages.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

2 Making the method powerful

Feelings are the great generator of the universe. From the novel,

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


Accept feelings, argue facts

The toughest questions and interjections are the emotional ones, which can feel like a blow to the stomach.

Yet if you’re really ready to put audience needs first, you’ll find even this much easier than you thought:

if you’re using the core method, you are already handling much of the emotional charge in questions

and interjections. For mild negative emotions, you’re already there.

So let’s make the emotions more charged.

Accept the person and the feelings

without judgement. Argue only facts and logic.

That’s what effective leaders do. All feelings, spoken and unspoken, are valid and beyond judgement.

They are completely natural given that person’s history up to this point. Accept the totality of the person.

There’s a fascinating irony involved – an apparent contradiction.

If you want to change a person’s feelings,

first accept the person,

then accept those feelings as natural,

then introduce facts or logic that might alter the feelings.

Of course you don’t tell them you accept them and their feelings – that’s your internal choice. But when

you’ve truly made that choice, the questioner picks up the tiny signals and something shifts within them.

As the argument continues, he or she respects you.

Even so, the idea of accepting someone’s negative feelings is a stretch for some.

“You mean if Jaron Smith tells me, in front of everyone, that the

project will be a dead duck, I’m supposed to put up with that?”

Yes. In fact you should welcome it. Expressed feelings are a gift, because they bring out into the open

what you’re really dealing with. And what if you discover that half the audience think the same and

are grateful that Smith aired it for them? His gift to you is now priceless. It’s the audience giving you a

reality check – which has nothing to do with who is right and who wrong. Their feeling is the reality in

this highly subjective human world. No more worries about hidden agendas.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

Here’s the opposite, a classic silent disaster: you’re not aware of significant opposition, so you haven’t

allowed for it in your content, and no one speaks up about it when you present. That’s automatic failure

to persuade, even though not a negative word is uttered. Does that put Smith and his ‘negative’ attitude

in a different light? Smith has helped you become ‘real’.

Choose to genuinely welcome as a gift

opposing questions, concerns and objections

In fact making that choice is a priceless gift you can give to yourself. Make it in the midst of strong

emotions and your audience won’t just respect you – they’ll admire you. Take anger, for example. Hidden

anger undermines you; but you can use open anger to increase – yes, increase – the rapport between

you and your audience.

YOU “…so we’re all going to have to sign the vehicles

in and out.”

Q “Oh, great!”

Sarcastic and annoyed

YOU (Incline your head)

Acknowledging and accepting the feeling and the

person. The interjection is a gift to you, bringing

out into the open what might otherwise silently

undermine your message.

“I know…”

(Look around, sharing the reply) …It’s more

bureaucracy. Nobody likes red tape, even at the

best of times…

…but, we would hate the alternative a lot

more. And for everyone’s sake we do have to

stop the system being abused. From tomorrow


You’re not threatened by the feeling or the way it was

expressed. You are bigger than the feelings in front

of you.

Adding energy.

Because you have accepted person and feelings,

you can now argue the facts assertively, with full

personal authority and the best chance of winning

the argument.

Would you be hurt or made anxious by the sarcasm of that “Oh, great!” interjection? That’s a serious issue.

If you have more seniority than the interjector, you might be tempted to openly criticize the interjector’s

discourtesy. But that’s pulling rank to compel respect, which is an excellent way to lose it. In the end you

can’t avoid a decision to replace such anxiety with the determination to look after the audience. Better

still, uncover the deeper realization that there is nothing to be anxious about. Don’t give other people

the power to make you feel bad about yourself.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I like the story of the Buddhist monk who went to his abbot and complained that people in the street

were mocking him by calling him a dog.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

“Turn around and look at your rear end,” the abbot said. “Do you see

a tail wagging?”

“No,” said the monk.

“Then the matter is settled,” said the abbot.

Let’s extend the technique. When you disagree with the point made by the questioner…

You can say yes and no simultaneously, without conflict.

How does that work? You’re saying yes with your manner and no with your words – and the no can be

assertive, even passionate. It’s not a conflict because the yes and the no operate on two different planes:

feelings and facts. I have seen a presenter passionately disagree with his entire audience (20 people) with

such a warm acceptance of their feelings that they fell silent with respect.

It’s very, very persuasive.

It’s got nothing to do with talking through a stiff smile, of course; an audience will see through that in

a nanosecond. Remember, you’re naked already. You must genuinely abandon defensiveness.

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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

Modern neuroscience accepts that humans are driven by feelings, not by logic. In fact the research has

found that we cannot make a decision without first checking in with our feelings.1 When you show

non-judgemental acceptance of the audience, the audience likes you (right brain), then decides to listen

to you (left brain).

You “…so restructuring of some sort is inevitable.

We’re going to –“

Q “Look, why don’t you just come on out with it?

You’re going to make some of us redundant.

Aren’t you?”

You (Incline your head forward emphatically. Tilt body

slightly forward)

“Absolutely not. There will be no redundancies.

We just don’t need them when…”

You do THE TURN, then you’re listening with warm

attention – despite the aggressive tone. Here’s that

gift again – feelings revealed rather than hidden.

Hidden feelings can silently kill your message.

Incline – not a nod. Your manner is conveys yes

to person and feeling, and an assertive no to the

argument. Simultaneously. It’s not a contradiction

because feelings and facts are on different planes of

communication. The same principle would operate

even if your answer started with, “No, it’s too soon to

know that yet…”

Incline head forward? It may seem more logical to shake your head when you’re going to disagree. And if

you want to rely just on the language of logic, it is. But a good communicator is also fluent in the language

of feelings and uses both simultaneously. A shake of the head can easily be taken as a blanket rejection

of person, feelings and facts, which often means the audience won’t believe your answer about the facts.

In practice, many presenters find it hard to cope with such in-your-face emotion, so they enter what

seems to be an escape tunnel which bears this sign: Answer only the face value of the words, pretending

that no one has any strong feelings. In that last example such a reaction might emerge as a low-energy,

flat-toned, “It’s not the intention of management to make anyone redundant. Now, as I was saying…”

Such a response would raise a howl of disbelief and anger. The escape tunnel leads directly into the lion


It’s just not logical to ignore emotions.

Do you see the beauty of the technique? You can win at all levels. You convey respect, you get respected.

You can enjoy a vigorous, noisy argument with your audience without turning feelings against you. Magic.

Here’s a useful device.

Sometimes check what the rest of

the audience thinks or feels.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections

Making the method powerful

You “So if you plant this variety a month earlier,

you’re likely to-”

Q “Look that’s crap! I paid good money for

that rubbish last year and I got nothing

out of it.”

You (Incline your head toward the questioner. But

hearing a murmur from someone else, turn

to the entire audience of 50 farmers.)

“Anyone else feel the same?”

(Look around expectantly)

You’re surprised, but still listening with warmth and interest.

Here’s another gift.

Checking with the audience. Adding energy. Accepting

the feelings, showing concern and interest. You’re not

threatened. You genuinely want to know. Note the use of the

word ‘feel’ rather than ‘think’.

“Two… no, three. Thank you… I’d like to

get to the bottom of that. Perhaps the

three of you could have a word with me

afterwards… All right, let’s move on.”

Here’s a tougher test. We’ll use the same example, but this time the majority feel aggressive and are not

interested in anything but sorting out their quarrel with you.

Q “Look that’s crap! I paid good money for

that rubbish last year and I got nothing

out of it.”

You (Incline your head forward. This time there’s

a strong murmur of agreement, so turn to

the audience questioningly.)

“A lot of you feel the same way?”

(There’s an even stronger murmur from a

clear majority. Some scowl at you.

As the extent of the problem becomes clear, you’re

conveying more surprise and more concern.

Q “None of us are going to use that rubbish

again. You’ve got a nerve trying to sell it

to us.”

You’re still listening with warmth and interest – even though

they are now questioning your personal integrity.

You (Incline your head forward again, then look

away in silence while you think.)

Acknowledging, then – by thinking in silence – conveying

that you’re taking it very seriously. It’s a defensive mistake to

think that you have to fill the silence with words.

You’re still checking with audience, adding energy. You’re

keen to resolve this for them. Although there’s a potential

sales disaster looming, you’re not defensive.

(Turn again to the audience.)

“Let me check something. How many of

you had problems? Can you indicate with

your hands…?”

(At least 40 raise hands.)

“Okay. How many of you took a

commercial yield?”

(Four raise hands. A few shrug uncertainly.)

“Thank you. Well, it’ll be a waste of time

dealing with anything else till we sort this

one out. Do you agree?”

(A few nods, then a murmur of assent. Some

expressions show grudging respect.)

“I’m wondering about frost susceptibility.

Can you give me your experience on that?

Who planted early in the foothills?”

Respect? Yes, mostly because in spite of your uncomfortable

situation you’re still looking after their interests.


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The engaging presenter Part III:

How to handle questions and interjections


Making the method powerful

When the interjection doesn’t need verbal attention

Many interjections are so fleeting, so lightweight, that it would be ludicrous to spend words on them.

But there is one element of the technique you still need. Warmth.

You “So, on Thursday night, Rachel and I aim to get

together to –”

Q “Hah!” (Light hearted.)

You (Continue almost without pause, raising one eyebrow, a

hint of amusement in the eyes, no more than a glance

at the interjector.)

“– to work out how to get everyone involved in…”


You’re taking it in passing, with warm

acceptance. No words are needed at all.

Mirror negative emotions with intensity

First, two don’ts from the extreme ends of the spectrum:

• Don’t respond to aggression with aggression or anger. All you’re demonstrating is your loss

of control. You might as well just throw a tantrum.

Don’t respond to aggression with calm, quiet words.
What? What could possibly be wrong with calm

quiet words? That’s dignified.

The Wake

the only emission we want to leave behind








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