Then head them off at the pass!  The fancy communications industry term for it is “stakeholder management” which requires an “audience analysis.”  A stakeholder is someone else who has an interest, or stake in whatever it is you are communicating about.  These stakeholders are most likely to have something to say when you are up presenting.  They could be happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and/or feeling political about whatever it is you have to say.  And can frequently derail your presentations if you disagree.

So, instead of waiting for your presentation to find out what these folks are going to say, why not do a little bit of management?  An great way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with 4 columns (this process is called doing an audience analysis):

  1. one listing the stakeholders,
  2. another with what you think they will think
  3. other stakeholders they are linked to and how
  4. finally an empty column for strategy

Start with everyone who’s going to be at your meeting.  Then go through and add everyone that will be affected by your content (be as broad as you think you need to without getting too crazy).  Then, fill in what you know about their feelings.  After you do that, imagine you are them, put yourself in their shoes and list what you’d think they’d feel.  If you have no idea, hold on that for now.

List all of the relationships they have.  Maybe there’s someone you find difficult that someone you really likes and have a great relationship is also friendly with the difficult person?

Last, develop your strategies to deal with them.  It could be having a department meeting before hand, making individual calls before the meeting, asking someone to speak to the more difficult person, changing the wording in your content a little bit, etc.  Get creative and try to be sensitive when doing an audience analysis!  You’ll have a much more awesome presentation as a result because everyone will feel like they had a role in your content development.