Big Presentations in Small Rooms book cover

Big Presentations in Small Rooms

helping ordinary people communicate with extraordinary effectiveness



You know the audience. You are well prepared.  Your content is solid.  You have practiced the delivery, and now you are standing at the front of the room.  What do you see?

You notice some positive expressions, some neutral ones, and then you notice.  There are a few crossed arms and skeptical faces.  These people seem negative. Their body language, tone, and words can be distracting! 

You have spotted the guardians.

It can be challenging to maintain focus, stay positive, and not be derailed by them. It isn’t easy, but it is important.

Here are three scenarios that can shape our thinking in situations like this.


It is a common scene in political movies.  Bodyguards are clearing a path for a very important person.  People want to get close for various reasons. 

Maybe they love the VIP. 

Maybe they hate the person. 

Perhaps there are simply curious and want to get a closer look. 

The bodyguards cannot know the myriad motivations, so they push everyone back.  They are guardians, and they are intimidating because of their size, demeanor, and weapons.  The guardians have a job to do, and they take that responsibility seriously. 

The safety of their client depends on the security they provide.  This security allows the subject to pay attention to other things.  They can smile, wave, and interact because they feel protected.

Bodyguard on duty
Bodyguards provide security for the client. Photo by Job Moses on Unsplash;


7:45 am.  All was quiet.  My wife and I were enjoying a walk before breakfast.

Suddenly, the stillness was shattered by a loud command.  It was our first encounter with Ruger.  The experience was startling and intimidating. Ruger is a guardian, and he is serious about his job.

And we were in his way. He came at us and kept coming until we backed up far enough to pose no threat to his clients. The things he said, his posture, the display of his weapons all served to keep up away. 

The safety of his clients depended on his security, which allowed the clients to pay attention to other things.  And they did. 

The beneficiaries of his services playfully romped by without any fear because Ruger was on duty.  They occasionally looked our way, but there was no fear.  They were safe.

Those clients were goats who live at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.  Ruger is an  Anatolian shepherd who is the local head of goat security. 

Guard dog on duty.
Anatolian Shepherds are great guardians.


You are delivering a presentation, and there are audience members who are no more welcoming than the security detail of a VIP or a guard dog of a local herd.  They look and sound critical.  They ask pointed questions.  They can be intimidating and offensive. 

Perhaps it is helpful to think of them as guardians.

Some are guarding a budget. The limitations of funding mean that we cannot do all that we want to do.  We have to say no to some things. 

Some are guarding workloads, both their workload and the workloads of their employees.  There are limitations of time that mean we cannot do all we want to do. We have to say no to some things.

Some are guarding the mission of the organization.  The limitations of focus protect the organizations’ identity and keep us all heading in the same directions.  These limitations mean we cannot do everything we want.  We have to say no to some things.

All of these guardians are protecting the organization.  They are pushing back to ensure the present and future health of both the organization and the people who work there. 


When delivering Big Presentation in Small Rooms, get to know your audience.  Seek to understand their concerns.  Ask yourself, “What is each person protecting?”  Find out what they are guarding. 

This will allow you to see your content from their perspective.  It will equip you to predict the questions they might ask and the elements that might cause stress for them.

Man looking skeptical.
Guardians at work protect budgets, employees, and the mission. Photo by Jonas Kakaroto on Unsplash;

Then you can craft your presentation to answer those questions and address those concerns.  It also sets you up to better emphasize the benefits of your proposal.    

When you can see each audience member as a person with their own motivations and concerns, it is easier to assume positive intent and be less defensive when questions are asked, and concerns are stated. 

See them as guardians who are doing their job. 

Your job is to be a helpful part of the organization and present information that will respect the budget, acknowledge workloads, and stay true to the mission. 

This mindset takes the focus off you and makes it much bigger—big enough to include the guardians.


You can do it.  We can help.

Want to know more? 

Join the Workplace Presentations Hub and receive free resources and the encouragement and guidance of other people whose work includes presentations.

You will also enjoy the Big Presentations Podcast where we laugh, learn, and share stories that encourage you as a presenter.

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