Innovative Presentations: How to Handle Audience Reluctance to Change

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

People automatically reject change of any type — it’s a part of the human psyche and that doesn’t change because of a great innovative presentation. Something new or different, whether it’s starting a novel training program, buying a product or service from a new vendor, restructuring an organization, purchasing a new company, or implementing a different strategy, policy, or procedure creates fear, anxiety, or some kind of mental or emotional discomfort.

People may sense the change would involve more work on their part (without a proportionately larger reward or payback), or jeopardize their job or their current position and power. Maybe they see risk or new obstacles resulting from a change to their satisfactory status quo. Unknowns and unpredictable possibilities (however unlikely) are scary.

On the other hand, if you propose a viable solution to rid people of pain and problems that have been vexing them for some time and that have a stinging negative effect upon their jobs and lives, there’s an excellent chance that they will jump on your proposal.

But if there is little or no perceived pain, problems, hassles, or annoyances in their business, then convincing them you have something better to improve their operations, satisfy their customers, or improve their financials may very well incur apathy, which is a form of resistance to your goals.

The more creative, bold, different, or daring your idea, plan, or proposed solution is, the more innovative your presentation must be to get it accepted.

Even though some objections can be very specific to some factors in your presentation, look at the following list of common, general excuses, objections, and put-downs and ask yourself how many seemingly endless times you’ve heard them at meetings or even spouted them yourself. Think of how you can best answer each one as it relates to your presentation:

  • It won’t work.

  • It’s too radical a change.

  • No one else has done it.

  • The company doesn’t need it.

  • Another company tried it before.

  • The company’s done it this way for years.

  • It isn’t in the budget.

  • It’s against company policy.

  • The company’s competitors aren’t doing it.

  • Let’s not rock the boat.

  • The company’s overstretched as it is.

  • This business is different.

  • Let’s think about it some more.

  • The company doesn’t have enough time (people, resources, expertise).

  • Three people said it was a bad idea.

  • People around here don’t want to change.

  • Management won’t go for it.

  • The idea (concept, plan, proposal) is way too far out.

  • Let’s play devil’s advocate.

  • It’s not our problem.

  • The timing isn’t right.

  • This business can’t take a chance.

  • It’s more trouble than it’s worth.