A major fear of my mentoring clients is how to handle a combative question.  Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often, but you should prepare.  One bad situation caught on camera can damage your reputation.

Outspoken basketball dad LaVar Ball questioned the extent of President Donald Trump’s involvement in securing his son’s release from the custody of Chinese authorities during a combative 20-minute CNN interview with Chris Cuomo.

Ball suggested that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had more to do with securing his son’s release than the president.

“Did (Trump) help the boys get out? I don’t know. If I was going to thank somebody, I probably would thank President Xi. He’s in China. He’s the president of China,” Ball said, later adding: “I helped my son get out of China. I had some people that had boots on the ground that knew the situation.”

Ball also pushed back against Trump’s suggestion that shoplifting “is a very big deal in China.”

“It wasn’t a big deal because being raised in South Central LA, I’ve seen harsher things. I’ve seen 16-, 17-year-old kids that have had to go to jail for life, that were my friends,” Ball said. “He wasn’t physical. He returned it. He fessed up to it.”

Yes, this is high profile TV, but the principles are the same for speaking engagements.

How to Deal with a Combative Audience Member:  What to Look For

  • Focus on the issue rather than the personality of the person challenging you.
  • Challenge the other person’s claims before they come across to your audience as facts.
  • If the questioner or guest challenges you, respond with facts.
  • If the person is simply trying t provoke you or change the subject, say “That’s nice, but let’s get back to my question.”
  • Be persistent trying to get answers.
  • Keep control of the questioner so he doesn’t take over or simply move on.


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