Whenever you get up in front of an audience to speak, there’s a chance you’ll either get heckled or someone will attempt to hog the floor by asking too many questions. Here are some tips for maintaining control of the situation with poise and aplomb.
Manage your thoughts and emotions
You need to stay in a position of power. If you lose your cool in this situation, you lose … period. Therefore, you can’t let the heckler get under your skin and make you angry or upset. Stay calm so that you can respond, if necessary, without emotion.
Go with it
Believe it or not, letting the heckler have his or her say may actually be the best way to prevent the heckling throughout your presentation. Hecklers can be overly sensitive to being shut down. Let the heckler feel listened to and the heckling will stop. Just balance that with the needs of the audience … don’t let the heckler go on for way too long.
Reflect the heckler
Repeating the gist of what the heckler said in your own words back to him or her, will help the heckler feel listened to. It also makes sure you understood the points made correctly and gives you time to formulate an appropriate response.
Respond to everyone
When you respond to the heckler, respond as you would any normal question … to the entire audience. Also, when you conclude your response, be sure to be looking at someone other than the heckler, that way he or she will not feel encouraged to respond back.
More interruptions? Take it up a notch
If the above tactics don’t stop the heckler, you’re going to have to step things up a bit.
First, let the heckler know he or she is disrupting your presentation in a non-judgmental way. For example, you can say something like, “You made some interesting points. However, I’m finding it hard to progress with the presentation I’ve been invited here to give. Would you please hold onto any further comments until the end?”
If this doesn’t work, ask the audience to help you out. Say something like, “Would you prefer that I carry on with my presentation, or would you like to here more from …” name the person or simply call him/her “this gentleman,” “this lady” or “this individual”. More than likely the audience will be just as fed up and will tell you to carry on. It would take a pretty ballsy heckler to continue against the wishes of the majority.
If, for some reason, the audience sides with the heckler, gracefully bow out of the presentation. They were obviously not willing to hear your message and your time would be better spent elsewhere.