Negotiation Strategies That Absolutely Stop A Bully – Negotiation Tip of the Week

How can you absolutely stop a bully during a negotiation? First, you have to ask yourself, what does he want? The answer will give you insight into his mindset, which will allow you to adopt strategies to combat him. From there, you can use the following strategies to stop a bully in your negotiations.

What a bully wants:

A bully wants recognition and positive attention. He wants to be recognized by others as possessing traits that enhance his image; that image serves to enhance his self-esteem. In a negotiation, you can play to his need by lavishing praise upon him. That may allow you to be invited into his good graces. It may also be the setup for more bullying. Know the probability of the outcome you seek and that will give you the insight into which strategy to employ.

Bully’s mindset:

A bully has to have others perceive him as being strong, impressive, and important. He’ll attempt to intimidate you to obtain that recognition. To alter his mindset during negotiations, use pattern interrupts (e.g. he makes a take-it-or-leave-it offer and you get up to leave without saying a word.) Doing so will confound him, which will cause him to rethink his strategy. If you can alter his mind, you can change the way the bully thinks. Do so by confounding him and you’ll deprive him of the tools he needs to promote his bullying efforts.

Strategies to stop a bully:

You should always confront a bully. Doing so will let him know that you’re aware of his tactics. It’ll also send a signal that you may retaliate. Depending on the bully’s perception of your strength, you can confront him openly or behind closed doors. Do so with a calm or aggressive demeanor. The choice you make is very important. If you confront him in front of others, he may do/say something that’s irrational; he doesn’t want to be embarrassed. If you believe confronting him in front of others is your best course of action, leave him with a way to save face. Some bullies love to ‘get even’ by doing things behind your back and you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder.

If you fight back against the bully do so with a force that he’ll perceive as being significantly greater than his power. A bully wants to pick on easy targets. Don’t make yourself easy.

What are the characteristics of a bully? They are of someone that wants to be respected, liked, and recognized. To deal with him either feed or starve the beast. The way you initially engage him will determine the interaction that occurs past that point. Thus, at the first sign of bullying, confront the aggressor. Doing so will put him on guard to the fact that he’s not going to have an easy time in his attempts to bully you… and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating.

Improving Presentation Skills – Lessons Learned From the 2009 Web 2.0 Conference

I was not at the Web 2.0 conference but like many, I’ve read the twitters, blogs, and articles that sprung from Danah Boyd’s presentation. In watching the video of the event on YouTube and reading Danah’s own blog post on the incident, there are several lessons we can learn that will make all conference speakers – with or without Twitter – better, more effective presenters.

But first, before addressing what presenters can do, a quick shout out to the conference planners. The idea of having the Twitter stream become part of the frontchannel – streaming live behind a presenter (such as Boyd had as she presented) – is not a good thing. Regardless of how much we’d like to believe we modern humans are “super good” at multi-tasking, the fact is, we’re not. No one can read and listen at the same time. That’s why a bullet-filled PowerPoint slides is so naturally annoying! So for those of you with the power to determine such decision: leave the backchannel in the backchannel!

And now, back to the original point, what are the mistakes Boyd and many of us make and what can we learn.

Mistake #1 – The Presentation is about Me (the Presenter)

One of the errors that many presenters make is to think the presentation is about them. It’s not. It’s about the audience. In Boyd’s case, she was giving a new speech, rather than using the tried and true speech she’d given many, many times before. She says in her blog “Personally, I love the challenge and I get bored of giving the same talk over and over and over again.” While she later justified the decision as being good for both existing fans and new audience members, I suspect that she really just wanted the change for herself.

The Fix

Be willing to repeat the same speech you’ve given over and over again if that’s what’s best for the audience. But if you believe a new speech is in order than follow these steps.

Preview the speech in front of a friendly audience.

Make sure it’s not the first time you’ve presented the material publicly, particularly if it’s a high profile event. Present to a group of colleagues, family members, or a good Toastmasters club. Ensure your friendly audience includes people who are willing to provide you with honest feedback. The individual elements of Danah Boyd’s Web 2.0 speech were interesting but the overall speech had no framework, no indication of where this topic was going. And because she was going so quickly, and mysteriously, the Twitter chatter started. Getting feedback from a friendly audience would have given Boyd a clue that if she didn’t modify her approach, her audience was going to be lost.

Rehearse religiously

While dedicated rehearsal is no guarantee that you’ll not be nervous or stumble over a word or two, it sure can go a long way to having the kind of delivery that you want. With Boyd, the fact that she stumbled over several key words within the first two minutes of her presentation hinted to me that she did not adequately rehearse the speech. And from the sounds of her normal approach, it doesn’t feel like she rehearses her speeches. Quoting Boyd again, “The dirty secret is that I actually read a lot of my talks but the audience doesn’t actually realize this because scanning between my computer and the audience is usually pretty easy. So it doesn’t look like I’m reading.”

Actually, I beg to differ with Boyd on this point. I’m guessing that her audiences know she’s reading when she has her screen in front of her. Rehearsal tells the audience that you care about the presentation. And when you don’t rehearse – whether reading or not (and please, please don’t read!) – the audience knows it.

Mistake #2 – Not Arriving Early and Previewing the Speaking Location

From Boyd’s blog, “I only learned about the Twitter feed shortly before my talk. I didn’t know whether or not it was filtered. I also didn’t get to see the talks by the previous speakers so I didn’t know anything about what was going up on the screen. When I walked out on stage, I was also in for a new shock: the lights were painfully bright… Taken aback by this, my talk started out rough.”

Because Boyd didn’t arrive early, she found things out as she went, rather than having time to think through and prepare herself for the unexpected.

The Fix

Arrive early

For an in-town engagement, visit the venue prior to the meeting. Ask the meeting planner or the facility’s staff how the location will be set up on the day of the speech. Arrive at least an hour early, preferably more, and test out everything. Test the microphone – and always use a microphone in a large room, even if you think you’re loud enough – do this for the audience’s comfort, not yours. Test the lights – know whether or not you’ll be able to see past the first row. If you won’t see past the front row, then get a feel for where the seats are so that you can look at the parts of the room where chairs will be located. This will help the audience feel like you’re making eye contact, even if you can’t see them. If possible, ask for the house lights to remain up so you can see the audience. Check out getting on and off the stage. Watch for small cracks that you could get a heal stuck in and wobbly hand rails that aren’t attached to the stairs. Find out which side of the platform the steps are. Check out the stage to see if it squeaks – that’s something you don’t want to be distracted by during your speech if you didn’t see it coming. Check out that the audio video equipment is working for slides and videos you plan to show. If there’s something you don’t expect (such as the fact they won’t be able to project your slides) then you’ll have time to adjust for a different approach without the PowerPoint deck.

For an out-of-town engagement, you’ll want to arrive the day before your speech (to hopefully avoid issues caused by flight delays). Repeat all the same action above, preferable the day before when the room’s not being used, or before the events begin in the room for that day. Make sure you have plenty of time to figure out a fix if there are any problems. Have back up plans to your back up plans. Use the conference or venue staff to help you adjust for the unexpected. Be a boy-scout – be prepared.

Mistake # 3 – Assuming the Worst

During the Web 2.0 conference, Danah Boyd sensed something was happening in the audience, and immediately went to a bad place. You can see it in her face when you watch the video. The way she glances at the audience between reading the lines of her speech definitely changes during the speech. When she went off stage, she learned the truth about what was happening on the Twitter stream. Said Boyd, “The Twitter stream was initially upset that I was talking too fast. My first response to this was: OMG, seriously? That was it? Cuz that’s not how I read the situation on stage.”

Like many of us, if things don’t go the way we expected that they should, we assume the worst. Those worst-case assumptions can cause us to turn ugly or to retreat into ourselves – both of which make the matter worse. Things are rarely as bad as they seem.

The Fix

Remember – the audience thinks you’re doing much better than you think you’re doing

Most of us know the speech we wanted to give. And when a speech doesn’t go as well as we imagined it, we feel like we’re failing. But here’s the thing — it doesn’t matter what we think as a speaker. What matters is what the audience hears as listeners. If you are speaking at a conference with a live Twitter stream (backchannel or frontchannel) plan for that in advance. (See Olivia Mitchell’s excellent e-book on the topic at Have someone monitoring the tweets and plan in breaks to check for simple fixes like “she’s talking too fast” or more serious chatter like multiple tweets and retweeks asking to cover a certain aspect of the topic. That will help you as a speaker ensure you’re meeting the audience needs, and keep you from spiraling out of control when you’re getting an unanticipated response from the audience.

The Twitter backchannel can be an extremely powerful tool when used correctly. It’s wrong to think that people are rude because they have a tool like Twitter where the feel they can get away with it. The truth is, in the age before Twitter and still today in non-technology conferences, people have had and are still having the same negative thoughts when a speaker is focusing too much on themselves and not on the needs of the audience. The difference between what Boyd experienced and the no-Twitter environment is that the only people a dissatisfied non-Twitter audience member can complain to are themselves and the people sitting next to them. Twitter gives people a tool to complain more widely. What Twitter can do for speakers is give us another avenue to get feedback from the audience so we pay more attention to their needs. If the Twitter backchannel isn’t there, and if you’re being a self-centered speaker, rather than an audience focused speaker, the results are the same – a dissatisfied audience – just fewer people know about it!

Spicing Up Your Presentation

You made your checklists, did your research, organized your information, and wrote out your speech. You have all the makings of an informative presentation. The only problem is, nobody will be informed, persuaded, or otherwise moved by your presentation if it fails to capture and maintain attention.

The very first step is to pick a medium. If possible, a PowerPoint presentation is typically ideal. Not only is the digital medium unmatched in versatility, but it also allows for printed supplemental materials that serve to support your presentation as opposed to weighing it down. A well-made PowerPoint consists of clear and concise slides that are organized for maximum impact. A great PowerPoint, however, takes things a step further. Employ carefully selected images and stock video footage, sparingly-applied music and sound effects, and even an occasional nudge of humor, and you will be looking at a truly effective presentation.

Be warned! Spicing up a droll presentation is just like spicing up a bland dish: too much spice, and it becomes impossible to consume. Stock video footage can add tremendously to the value of a presentation, but throw moderation to the wind and you will find yourself with a product that spends far too much time on the peripheries and fails to effectively deliver the pertinent message. If music and sound effects are inserted judiciously, the presentation will come off as unprofessional and even obnoxious. Moderation is especially key in the use of humor; if there is a place for it, err heavily on the side of subtlety and caution.

A good rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to add something to your presentation is to ask yourself, “What am I trying to do by adding this?” For example, if the addition is meant to lighten the mood, ensure that the mood needs lightening, and that your addition is appropriately structured and placed to do so.