Picture this … your firm is bidding on a large municipal or industrial project; as part of the process, you’re meeting with ten people involved with the project to present and discuss your proposal. Or, maybe you’re in front of a homeowners’ association. Tomorrow, it’s simply an individual homeowner. In any of these scenarios, you can run into the personality known as the “technical sniper”. Technical snipers lie in wait, looking for an opening to ask a technical question that only they know the answer to. This is their opportunity to elevate themselves and look knowledgable and brilliant in front of everyone else. You are their tool to accomplish this, and they can barely wait to demonstrate that they know something that you don’t.
I’ve seen a fair number of these types over the years and since they’re always lurking out there, the question is, “how do you handle?” Here are a couple of things that I’ve seen work well.
To begin with, nothing builds confidence more than simply knowing what you’re talking about. There is no substitute. Do your homework and know your material cold. Then, before your meeting, ask yourself, “what’s the most difficult question someone could ask?” Have an answer for it. Also, figure out what part of your presentation is the weakest and then go to work on that.
It is critical to hear the technical sniper out. More than anything, he wants to be heard and be credible in front of his peers or perhaps his boss. Give him that opportunity, at least for a short amount of time. Here’s what I saw work very well a couple of years ago at a Franklin Electric seminar: an attendee sat in the front row (nothing wrong with that in itself) and every 2 minutes had something to add or dispute in a loud, condescending voice. As a presenter, you want engagement, but this was ridiculous. Continue reading