Our consulting team recently went through a bad experience with a client presentation where one of the client team harassed us about details of the engagement that weren't germane to the presentation, which really took us off our game and made us look bad. How should we have dealt with this?
Without more details it is hard to say but consultants do face this occasionally from hostile client staff. This is often a person who has something at stake by your being called in or as a result of your recommendations. First, regardless of how they behave, they are still the client's representative and you owe them a certain amount of respect. Second, this is the kind of thing you would have discussed with your client sponsor during project planning. Dealing with resistance among staff, either during the engagement, at a presentation, or after you leave are considered standard topics on which to advise clients.
However, this does not mean you can't defend yourself against a hostile client by being prepared. If you suspect you are going to be ambushed, an excellent tactic is to role play the presentation with one member of the consulting team acting as the hostile staff member. This will both give you a chance to surface possible objections and challenges and make sure you have the data, logic and response ready. A second benefit of role playing is to give you confidence that you have an even more solid handle on your findings and recommendations than you would otherwise. Tip:
Expanding your role playing to include a strong challenger (the original basis of the "devil's advocate" to challenge candidates for sainthood) goes beyond just a traditional dry run. Make sure you are ready for anything during your preparation by anticipating the worst and role playing to be sure you deliver a solid response. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA