Just as there are differences in culture, nationality, religion, and beliefs, there is also an equal number, if not greater, the difference in opinion. Let’s face it when you stand there on the podium as the keynote speaker and you pour your soul along with your thoughts and heart out for everyone to see, not every single member of the audience will tend to agree with you. So now, the question arises: how does a keynote speaker make a convincing argument? Read on to find out.
First and probably the most important rule: do not openly oppose them. Raising your voice, cutting their speech or making any possible negative gesture is an almost always assurance that you will never convince them. If you are not receptive to their efforts to make you listen, why should they, in turn, listen to you? A lot of times, it is not in the content of what the keynote speaker says; rather, it is on how the ideas are said. Same goes in receiving what is being said to us. Be warm to others if you want others to be warm to you.
Also, a direct oppositional approach will trigger their subconscious defense system. In their minds, you are already labeled as “the opposition.” Once such a mentality has taken root, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to move forward or at least convince them to listen to you.
SO, HOW CAN A KEYNOTE SPEAKER APPROACH THE OPPOSITION?
A good step is doing the opposite of what you should not do: be receptive. Give the opposition the chance to present their side. Listen carefully and note the points on their arguments. If they see a receptive attitude, they will be more likely to expound and have a friendlier approach.
This step is crucial for the idea that follows and that is…
Acknowledge the points the opposition have made. Not only will this demonstrate your willingness to learn, it will also show to the audience your openness, that you are not guided by dogma or a stiff, unreasonable stand. Do not forget to clarify points or ideas that may be too vague or very open to interpretation. Basically, you’re establishing a rapport with your opposition.
Next step would be to point out the points in which you converge. This will include first pointing out the ideas that you both agree on. Such action can build mutual trust and understanding on both parties. Carefully explain the similarities and expound on them to gain the confidence of the opposition.
After pointing out the similarities, you now tackle the points of interest, or, frankly speaking, the points in which you disagree on. Acknowledge the difference in opinion at the same time, open up and expound better on your side. It will also be better if you can pinpoint the root of the disagreements. Simply put it, you are presenting their side and you are presenting your side. Now is your chance to explain why your side is better without necessarily putting the side of the opposition down.
This approach will not only convince other people about your arguments, it will also serve as a testament to your calm and collected character, which would then be associated with the contents of your ideas and speech. Once such association is made, you may not entirely win the hearts of the opposition but you certainly have opened up the communication.
Remember that being a keynote speaker takes craft and tact. You are not here to win arguments; you are here to convince and to induce action. Nothing shows conviction and reason in one package better than a calm, reasonable and analytic speaker whose character is being shown in public.