Public speaking can be difficult at the best of times. It’s hard for some people to overcome the nervousness involved with speaking in front of a roomful of people, as well as making sure that your voice is clear enough and loud enough that people at the very back can hear what you’re saying. Then there’s also the matter of knowing your subject well enough that you can speak off the cuff about it if something were to happen to your notes. To top it all off, you’re expected to readily answer questions from the audience during the Q&A period. All of these things are tough. But it’s even tougher when you’re going to deliver bad news. In public. Despite the difficulty of this task, it can be done, and done with grace. (By the way, if you relate to any of these situations, make sure to check out the Fearless Presentations ® upcoming class schedule. We can help!) These tips show how presenters can deliver bad news with poise.
How Presenters can Deliver Bad News, and Not Get Attacked by a Mob
Allow Yourself to Get Used to it Before the Announcement
Whether you’re delivering news about a death or layoffs within a company, you need time to accept what’s happening before you deliver a speech. You don’t want to be emotional during the announcement, right?
The audience relies on you to set the tone of how they are supposed to feel, so be strong. Go over the notes thoroughly, and give yourself time to let the idea soak in. Then take a deep breath and try to be objective, and not overly emotional. It’s fine – even good – to be sympathetic, but you don’t want to be breaking down at the podium. That’s just not professional.
Pay Attention to the Room’s Atmosphere
You need to be a good judge of how the people in the room, your audience, are feeling about the subject. If everyone is broken up, you will need to be more sympathetic. If people are angry and look ready to riot over the news, you need to temper your speech to keep their emotions under control. Choose your language carefully – don’t use inflammatory words, and keep everything as neutral as possible.
Be Ready to Answer Questions, and Identify Possible Solutions
This all goes back to knowing your material inside and out before you start. Know the bad news, the reason behind it, who’s affected, and then a little more on top of that.
When the news is bad, people will have questions. It’s inevitable. They will want to know how the issue affects them, what happens next, if they’re in any danger, and the list goes on. Write down a list of possible questions the audience might have, and identify possible solutions to their problems.
Look on the Bright Side of Things
After getting bad news, people need to see the bright side to keep on going. It’s your job to close the speech with a silver lining (although you might really have to look for this one) so that you don’t end your speech on a note of doom and gloom.
Even if it’s only “management is doing everything we can to rectify the situation so that nothing similar to this ever occurs again” or, “we have to comfort each other in this time of sadness,” people need to know that something is being done on their behalf.
Again, it’s not easy to deliver bad news, but with practice and empathy, you can do it successfully. After all, someone has to be the messenger, and it’s best that someone with training, poise and control do it. Are you up to the challenge?