How to Handle a Hostile Audience: Realize There’s Only One Audience in the World

The Question of How to Handle a Hostile Audience

My Sandra Zimmer Method public speaking clients ask, “What if I speak to a hostile audience? How do I handle a hostile audience?”

This question usually comes up after my public speaking clients have transformed a lot of stage fright. My clients have gotten out of their heads and released some public speaking anxiety. They are feeling really comfortable at the center of attention in their class group and they have become accustomed to having a supportive audience in their classmates.

Now that they are more comfortable in their SZM public speaking class, they are getting back in their heads and starting to worry about the audiences they will be speaking to in their business settings. The implication of their question is that there will be people who don’t love, respect and accept them when they speak. The root of this question is their own judgment about their audience members. They are assuming that people in their work environments will judge them harshly, treat them disrespectfully and maybe even attack them outright.

Only One Audience in the World

I tell them that there is only one audience in the world. That is the audience they create by how they relate to those audience members. People are mostly alike. For the most part, they care about other people and want to be supportive. If they are treated with respect and honesty, they respond in kind. Handle a hostile audience by treating them gently.

If you share this concern about potential hostile audiences, realize that there is only one audience in your world. Audiences are the same as individual people. If you step up to the podium or speak in a meeting and you open to receive your listeners, they will be charmed by you. They will be compelled to pay attention and to support you. A few individuals may disagree with what you are saying, but they will respect you if you expect them to respect you.

Use A Receptive Soft Eye Contact

It’s all in how you look at them, literally how you use your eyes to look at them. If you tense up to protect yourself from attack, you unconsciously invite them to attack you. You are looking at them as dangerous, and they will sense that. They will see it in your eyes. Your eye focus will be hard and your face tense. But if you look at them through the eyes of love and acceptance, they will sense that and give supportive attention back to you. Create a supportive audience by looking at them with acceptance and being there to support them.

I teach my clients to use a special type of soft eye contact that shifts how you see people. I ask clients to look at audience members with a soft eye contact in order to see them with acceptance. You literally look softly at your audience members. Land your eyes gently on one person at a time, taking in the flow of attention from each individual you make eye contact with. I call this “receiving” the audience. It allows you to be with them rather than talk at them. It makes you feel safer to connect with them. It makes you feel safe to audience members.

How to Look at your Audience with a Soft Eye Contact

Pay attention to how you are using your eyes to look at people. Instead of looking at them with hard-focused eyes, open yourself to take in their attention, love and support. Let your eyes be slightly unfocused. Because you are looking with friendly, soft eyes, people are instantly transformed and respond in kind. You have to practice this, but you’ll be surprised at how much more positively you will experience your audience members.

Soft eye connection gives others permission to be who they are with whatever feelings and thoughts they currently have. When people are given permission to feel their feelings and think their real thoughts, they relax and become kinder and more open. If you are willing to take the risk to be receptive with your audience, they will be open with you. Because they sense your authenticity, they become your supportive audience. This can happen every time you speak. You create your only audience in the world.

If you’d like some support from me to learn how to make receptive, soft eye contact, reach out to me. Visit my website and fill out the contact form. I’m Sandra Zimmer. I coach professionals to shine when they speak, simply by being authentic.