How To Deal With Difficult Audience Members with Dave Benson

Hi powerful public speaker in the making. This is Ryan from  And today I am sitting down again with Dave Benson who is the National Sales Trainer for Mitsubishi Motors here in Australia. So I sat down with him and we recorded two podcasts back to back and the last one was yesterday so if you are interested in learning more about how to create and run live training events or training workshops then I suggest you check out yesterday’s podcast.

But in this podcast today, we’re going to be talking about how to deal with audience members who don’t necessarily want to be there.  We called them the hard nut, the hard nut to crack.  How do we deal with those people who are either openly negative or you can tell just aren’t really getting anything out of the session and don’t really want be there?  And so Dave, given the fact that he does training sessions all over the country in many many dealerships every now and then he will get someone who doesn’t necessarily want to be at a training session that thinks they know more than him; that maybe their manager forced them to go along.  So he’s had a lot of experience in this. So I picked his brains about how we can become better at dealing with those people that don’t necessarily want to be there or that we are having trouble with that aren’t  pumped up and engaged from the get-go like we want our entire audience to be.  And as Dave  said  usually you are going to have a minimum of at least one person in any audience and so I’m really excited to share this with you guys. Just as a heads up,  my audio has a bit of a  kind of feedback in it, a bit of an echo which I think is feedback coming through Dave’s microphone but I apologize for that but Dave sounds crystal clear which is what we like to hear because the goad is coming from him.  So it’s all listenable, it’s all fine but it’s just not a hundred percent so I just want to give you guys a heads up. So without further ado I’m going to hand over to Dave Benson and me.  We are hanging out at Norah Head doing an interview there and if you want the show notes for today you can head over to  and so you can check it out there.  A bit of a funny name for the show notes but hey it was what we were talking about and it’s what we have decided to call these sort of people. It was a fun interview. I enjoyed it and it  is a good thing to talk about because it’s not something that I have spoken to anyone about really before.

Ryan: Let’s go on and we will talk about how de we engage people who don’t  want to be there.

Dave: Let me give you an example because you love stories.

Ryan: I love stories so give me a fun story.

Dave: Before I was working at Mitsubishi I was doing a bit of a contract work teaching presentation skills and one session I walked into a large building corporation with experienced engineers, experienced people in that trade.  The average age that was probably in the room was between 50 and 60, so those guys were not little juniors that have never done a presentation before. They have given tenders and have given some massive presentations over their career.  I at the age that I was,  28 years of age,  walking into a room and teaching them how to give effective presentations.

Ryan: They didn’t seem that _________(3:33 unclear)

Dave: Sortly. A bunch of American engineers as well, the big A guys and there is nothing wrong with Americans, my brother lives in America and loves America. One of the guys at the back he said to me, so how old are you, 18? I said no, I am actually nearly thirty and look it’s not about how young or how old I am, it’s about some of the learning that we are going to achieve today and I am sure that if you just take one thing out of today it’s going to be beneficial, would you agree? And so getting them to buy in, getting him to buy in from the start and you know that of course he sat there with his arms crossed and ready to judge for the next hours  in the workshop for two days with this guy.  And of course he thought that he knew it all  and many people do when I come to training but at the same time it was just towering things to say, you know how can I help you better because I heard this saying many years ago and I have always adopted it to my training, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Ryan: That’s great.

Dave: And so I can stand up the front and I can tell them everything I know about presentation skills but that guy didn’t want to hear that he just wanted to hear how I could personally help him to be more effective in his tenders and in his presentation. The long and short of it is that after two days he was the biggest advocate of the training and got some real tangible things that helped him in his presentations and I stayed in contact with that guy and got a really good relationship with him so you know you get that hard nut, but the hard nut that  you crack is always the best asset inside.

Ryan: Yes and I had that many times throughout my career in pharmaceutical sales where because I am around 25 but I look 15 when I got my hand over and the previous rep was taking me around and introducing me he was saying that I was a part of new direction and so that was the introduction that I got into my new account and I go in and people said how old are you? I am like guess and they say 12.  I got to grow a beard it’s still patchy, I am 25 I still got to grow a beard but then turning that on a ____(6:06 – unclear)  it’s not an easy thing to do but for me but that was a one on one account so it’s not necessary public speaking or presentation but I would then overcome that with the knowledge I had about history and I would draw them into a conversation much in the same way you did with this guy  about I care about you, I care about your business, I have something to share and if you can just take something away from that we will both benefit.

Dave: Absolutely.

Ryan: So I think taking what may be not a big deal which is you need to do this entire presentation as someone who is engaged and make it more simplify, make it more personal and the fact that I am here to help  you, I care about you, I may not be able to assist you in everything but sometimes a fresh approach helps sometimes. One thing I say might change your life or it might just improve something a little bit so if you could get people to buy in that way.  Have you had any other experiences whether people haven’t bought in even though you don’t know how to become an advocate of what you have done.

Dave: I always say there is usually one in every session that is that hard nut and it is that person that may or will not initially want to take something on board and obviously the longer that you are with somebody they open the greater opportunity that there is in order to build rapport with somebody.  It can be tough if you’ve only got forty five minutes or if you’ve got an hour or if you’ve got a couple of hours with that person and you may not see them again in order impact them but one key way that I have learnt how to do that and make sure that they do have something and I call it a gold nugget. Something they can take away like a gold nugget and apply to their businesses that are going to give them tangible outcomes.  One way that I have made sure that everybody gets one, even the hart nut is by asking them what they’re hoping to get out of this session. Hopefully I can do that before they come into the session because then I can pre-planned on what they are hoping to get out of it but often I have to do that a lot and so I ‘m being able to go around the room, let’s all talk about some of the areas.  Today’s three topics we are going to talk about networking, we are going to talk about prospecting and we’re going to talk about follow-up process. So what are three things or maybe even one thing that you would like to to get out of each of those subjects in order to help you succeed.  Let’s go around the room.

Ryan: And so you getting that hard nut.  Well, you are getting everyone it’s one of those approach or peer pressure or whatever you want people say they want to get this out of it and as soon as the hard nut says I want to get something out of it  we are going to just commit to getting something out of the training.

Dave: Absolutely and you know what if you concentrate on one thing you are going to make sure that that hard nut gets his one good thing, so not the same but it just as if you just tell everything to him but you make sure that he has got something tangible because you know the only way that you can build a successful training session or a training company or a successful presentation is by people walking away saying that was worth it, that was worthwhile, that I got something out of it and getting that feedback.

Ryan: I think even that idea of how to tailor by  going around the room and saying this is what we are going to  talk about and what something do youwant to get out of it, you have to ask it then you already all of a sudden know. I think there was a training session where we talked about tailoring your presentation to your audience and so I think knowing what we want to get out of it before you start speaking is something that could dramatically increases your chances of having a good presentation if you know your content well enough and deliver and be flexible with it. And so when you got that difficult person, let’s say we can’t win them over completely, do we decide to ignore, do we just go on and hope for the best or de we keep trying throughout the presentation to engage them because I think it is important not to focus on than.

Dave: For sure.

Ryan: How do you manage disengagement with those who are engaged and still give a good all-round presentation?

Dave: It’s a good question. Well, all I said I do with the exception and so if I can get the majority of people buying into one, two or three things that they are actually going to get out of it but then of one, it’s been a successful presentation; it’s been a successful workshop.  I found out that I am a very – looking for the right word, maybe emotional being in regards to the motivation and the energy that I feel back  from my participants, from people in the room and so sometimes it is just steering your eyes away from that person and if they are sitting there with their arms fold or sitting there playing solitaire on their playing solitaire on their phone or all sorts of things.  However, if it becomes distracting for other people I think you have got to be able to combat and address that and it might be having another break and going up and having a chat with them in the break.  I have had to  do that many a times but look I am happy if you don’t want to be here that’s more than fine with me but a the end of the day there are other people that want to get something out of this session so if you don’t mind leave that I can actually make it.

Ryan: And what happen when you have done that, does it help?

Dave: I have had people leave.

Ryan: Its not always a bad thing.

Dave: It’s not always a bad thing.  The only way to get something out of training is to actually want to be there because if you don’t want to be there you may as well not.  So often I’ve had that and I’ve had other people who continue to be disruptive and that’s a challenge I guess I am still learning my way through that but making sure that you keep people asking them a whole lot of questions and even throughout the course of the presentation, throughout the course of the workshop saying: Are we on the right track here?  Is this stuff applicable to you? Asking some questions like that to make sure that number one that the masses are listening or even that exception, that hard nut you actually get him nodding, you get him at least sort of inclining his ear somehow.  I think some power words like that, how is this a part of you? What are your experiences? You tell me.

Ryan: And sometimes I think as you might know. Sometimes they would be as the hard nut and maybe they not giving are negative feedback and maybe they just don’t seem to be engaged but at the end of the day they might be the person getting the most out of it and you just don’t know maybe that is how they might see it

Dave: Absolutely.

Ryan: And so who knows what happen and so I think they might be able to benefit at the end of the day is important.  But for you it is not the same, that emotional feedback and getting good feedback. If I do a presentation and it falls back I am often very disheartened, feels like crap, and want to get out fast and do it again.  It’s only like out of necessity I’m going to do it again.  I do have a passion for presenting and so I do want to get back on that horseback. How do you manage your motivation with the positive and the negative feedback and to stay positive whether there is no feedback or whether there is negative feedback?  Is there anything that you do to stay positive after a bad presentation?

Dave: I think it comes down to the inner self belief in the fact that you are actually good at what you do and that you are actually purposed and designed in order to be doing the job that you are doing.  I think if anybody is doing a job that they  are sort of a half baked on, if you are giving a presentation and you are not fully sort out on the content I think that you are wasting your time and everybody else’s time and I think the same with any career if you’re not happy with the career that you give or that you are in  go and find something else to do. And that gives you the motivation to get back up because you say I don’t care what happen to me in the last session and there is definitely doubt especially when I am about to embark on  the next four-five months of every week and four days a week training, 8 hours a day training.  That sort of schedule, that sort of calendar is very very taxing on you personally, even on you physically.

Ryan: I can imagine.

Dave: And there are going be some sessions that I’d say  good there’s no doubt but its maintaining that that drive to say this is what I am purpose to do,  this is what I love doing and regardless of what somebody  says or one piece of feedback or regardless of how tired or good or how bad I feel I’m going to keep pushing through because it’s all about the perseverance.

Ryan: And I think being passionate about the message that you give is one of the most important things as well because sometimes the presentation will fall flat, not because the message isn’t important not because people aren’t ready to receive that message but because of the way we presented it to negate with those people so maybe we need to customize maybe we need to tailor it correctly to the type of audience are talking to but I think that passion about your message helps carry you through.  I think it’s okay if you are disheartened.  I think it is okay to get down.  I think we need to firstly be very careful about who you take feedback from.

Dave: Absolutely.

Ryan: What Jesse was saying when I interviewed him, when you are taking  feedback  seek feedback from people who are experienced in presenting the way you are.

Dave: Most definitely.

Ryan: Don’t just seek feedback from people who are in the audience because they may not have any experience in presenting and you may not have appealed to them and they may critique you and be downright rude to you about your presentation but don’t take that too seriously but get people in your life who you do trust who have the same mission as you who are engaged enough for you to help move your life forward and they can give you helpful advice on that.   So be passionate about your mission so you want to communicate that across because I think that opens up your mind to say okay today it felt flat but this is how I am going to get this message across, how can I improve it and by looking at how you can improve it you can pull yourself out of the dust.

Dave: Absolutely but I think it is about even personalizing it down for the people and actually caring, giving stuff about the people in the audience to say that sometimes the only way to improve is to be made to feel uncomfortable about where you are and I am a strong believer in that and that doesn’t mean that I yell and scream and carry on in front of an audience but sometimes people need to be, you know you need to stretch their friendship, you need to stretch the  elastic band until you are ready to snap it hard. If  you want to improve your sales skills, if you want to improve your life skills, if you want to improve your career or your personal life you need to do something different to what you are currently doing.  The old saying that if you do the same thing over and over again and are expecting different result, what is?

Ryan: Insanity.

Dave: Insanity indeed.  So sometimes you have got to be made to feel a little bit uncomfortable in a training environment in order to get the best results.  I just get a little bit more further as far as my fitness since I have been getting help from the Inspire online support groups,  as far as my health is concern and when my personal trainer comes into the gym with me he makes me feel markedly uncomfortable, I rather stay at home using the jamaican black castor oil.  I actually had a chat from the other day and at the end of the session he said well that’s it for today.   I said oh I thought you were  going to push me harder. Anybody listening that is the worst thing to say to a  personal trainer that is about three times the size of you  because he will make you hit the floor and do an extra hours with the abs. Why? Because he said the only way to  improve is to be made to feel uncomfortable.  And I will tell you that for the last three days my abs extremely uncomfortable.  I have been unable to pick up my children and  I do more exercise.   But that’s the way to improve, that’s the way to actually change, is to be made  to feel a little bit uncomfortable to say where I am is not where I want to be.

Ryan: And to be happy with that.  To be happy to say as a speaker, Ryan, this is not where I want to be and it’s not going to be perfect, I am not going to get it right every time.  The same with this podcast when it started, even now it’s not where I want it to be but that’s a journey we are all on and I think to be okay with that. To actually get up and present  you are putting yourself ahead of 95%, 98%, 99% of people anyway because not many people would get up in front of a crowd and speak so I think  understanding that you’re in a minority of people who are willing to do that and a big  company doing that be happy with that and you can grow from there. Thank you so much Dave for coming on the podcast.

Dave: It’s been a pleasure.

Ryan: I have been a listener and for giving me some positive feedback and encouragement.    I am going to put Dave’s contact details on the show notes for this episode.  You just want to talk a little bit about yourself and what you do and then I will tell people where they can contact you.

Dave: I am on all about seeing people reach their potential.  I am all about seeing them reaching their potential both in their personal life and professionally so in regards to your career I know that I haven’t reach my potential and you are  saying the same thing in regards to where you want to take the podcast and how you want to improve in your public speaking skills. I want to do exactly the same thing and I want to take people on that journey.  I want to have climbing companions, people that are alongside the journey alongside the mountain climb as we will climb the rocks this morning.  I want to take people on that journey to make sure that you’re reaching your potential in your life, in your personal life and in your professional life.  I think it is just so important that you maximize everything that you can now, to make sure that you are constantly pushing forward, you keep moving forward and so you are proud of yourself at the end of day.  You are proud of yourself at the end of your career and also that your kids can be proud of you. So that’s what I am passionate about and if you would like to know more you can definitely get in contact with me.

Ryan: So I will put Dave’s detail on the show notes.  Go to  and you can get the show notes there as well as  Dave’s contact details as well.  Thank you so much Dave for coming on the show.  I really appreciate it and I had a lot of fun today.

Dave: It’s a pleasure. Good stuff.  Thanks for listening in everybody.


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