Being faced with a hostile audience is probably a fear shared by all speakers. Obviously, the term “hostile” can take on many realities. Even if we often play at scaring ourselves by anticipating hostility, where there isn’t any, the situation is so stressful that we forget the essential: defining a good position to take. Yet, the day you will objectively face a hostile audience, it is the strategic choice of your positioning that will make the difference and, despite everything, ensure the successful delivery of your presentation.
There are two main types of positions you can adopt depending on whether your audience seems willing to change its mind or it is firmly entrenched.
If your audience is “hostile-swayable,” we can deduct that it doesn’t particularly like you, but it is obviously ready to hear your idea. The best position to take is to sympathize. Whether you audience is experiencing setbacks or success, you must follow in its wake, take into account what it feels and present your idea as a continuity of the actions it is taking to get over the tight spot, or improve results.
If your audience is “hostile-entrenched,” it’s a little trickier. Not only does it not like you, it doesn’t intend to change its mind either. The most effective position to take is to assert your arguments and disregard any attempts to interrupt. It would be a mistake to try to argue to convince. Since your audience is already convinced, it will argue in turn and make you lose track of your presentation. The more you assert you remarks, the more your detractors will want to profess their point of view to oppose your arguments. Thus, you’ll increase the chance that, at one point or another, the others will disavow them.