I was speaking at the SOHO Entrepreneur’s conference this week. The room was packed. I had a tiny speaking time slot I’d begged my way into and the organizers were frantically giving me the ‘you’re out of time’ gestures. At the end of my talk, something unexpected happened. A very angry older woman stood up and waved her notebook at me saying “you didn’t get to half the points you said you’d cover, I’m still waiting!”
What would you do if this happened to you? Here are a few lessons that I learned from my brush with audience fury.
When You’re In The Public Eye, Unpleasant Things Could Happen
Public Speaking is a huge fear for most people. No wonder because even though I LOVE to speak, I wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy as I was being verbally mauled by this audience member. I blog, speak, appear on TV and radio shows touting that it’s ok to be yourself. Well, here was a reminder that if I’m up for doing all those things, I have to be prepared that not everyone might agree with or like what I’m doing.
Ride the A-Train
My fave coach Sam Horne advises that when someone complains, we should ride what she calls the A-train: Apologize, Acknowledge and Act. So when angry lady caused a ruckus, I told her that I was sorry that we’d run out of time and that she hadn’t gotten to the part she came for (all true and valid complaints). Then I offered to stay behind and answer any questions she had for her business. She booted out as soon as the lights went up so I don’t think she was impressed but I’ve found the A-train invaluable in my business dealings.
Having someone angry at me isn’t fun. Having someone yell at me in front of a packed room full of people I’m trying to convert into clients is even more nerve wracking. The best thing I did was to keep my cool in that situation and keep repeating the A-train like a robot and quickly move onto other matters. My best advice for you if you’re a small biz owner who is hit head-on with negativity is to think about something that makes you gooey inside (I thought of my 4 year old and how he was waiting for me in his pj’s at home in his bed). It works every time.
The angry audience lady was actually right. I should’ve completely changed up my speech and my usual keynote speaking summary to realistically reflect what I could present in that very small amount of time. It was a bitter way to remind me once again that no matter how many times I do this, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.
So the next time someone rants on you in public in front of potential clients, take my advice and you’ll look forward to the next flaying with more fortitude.