Most people shy away from speaking about controversial topics for fear that people won’t receive the message well or that conflict will arise. However, there are times when you simply cannot avoid it. Although presenting a controversial topic can be intimidating, there are ways to communicate using methods that promote open-minded, positive discussion. Here are a few tips that can help you create a positive environment when presenting controversial material.
Make Sure You Are Well Versed on the Topic
Speaking about any topic requires research beforehand but it’s even more important when you are speaking about something that is controversial. Before you step on stage to present, you need to make sure you have all the facts and are well versed on the topic. That way, if people question what you are saying, you will have the facts to back up your points.
Put Yourself in the Audience’s Shoes
It is extremely important that you are open-minded when you present on a controversial topic. Acknowledge that the topic is controversial and consider how the information might be difficult for the audience to understand and put yourself in their shoes. Instead of presenting from a defensive point of view, use your platform to inform. Think of analogies, stories, or anecdotes that can help you illustrate your points and avoid unnecessary jargon or technical terminology. Chances are the audience will have questions and will want to discuss the topic with you at the end, so be prepared to hear their opinions, address their concerns, and debunk any common myths about the topic.
Consider Your Audience
Before you create a controversial presentation, you must think about your audience. Consider things like age, gender, and ethnic background. Does your audience have any prior knowledge on the topic? Would your topic offend persons of certain religious or ethnic backgrounds? Does the audience have an opinion on the topic? How does this topic affect the specific members of this audience? Plan ahead and consider how the audience will perceive the content and whether or not you anticipate conflict. Preparing ahead of time allows you to come up with a solution so you don’t have to scramble for a solution on the spot.
Any time you are giving a presentation it is important to establish credibility with your audience, but this is especially true when your topic is controversial. In order for the audience to trust and respect you, you must establish yourself as a credible source. You can establish credibility by presenting factual information and sharing stories that are relevant to the topic. If your audience sees you as a credible source, it will reduce the chance for conflict.
Present Both Sides of the Argument
Even if you don’t agree with the other side, it’s important to address both sides of the argument. You want to acknowledge the other’s point of view, and you also want to be able to debunk it with factual information. Use language that is neutral and avoid asserting your own beliefs and opinions into the topic. If you want to encourage open-minded discussion, it’s best to let the audience form their own opinion.