How To Deal With Hecklers Or Troublemakers When Public Speaking
By Anubhav Srivastava. (Register For His Workshop – Super Confidence For Super Success)
By Anubhav Srivastava (Register for his Confidence Building Workshop Here!)
Most people are nice or at least pretend to be nice. When you are giving a speech they will not say anything bad to your face. They may even come up to you in the end and tell you that you were great. But once they are talking about you amongst their friends it is quite possible, they may say to them “That guy sucked!” or “That guy was boring as hell.”
Now don’t worry, there are going to be a lot of people who feel genuinely inspired by your speech as well and can’t stop raving about you. That’s just how people are. A percentage of people will love you, a percentage will hate you behind your back and many will be indifferent.
However, there is one category of negative people that are going to interrupt your speech and annoy the heck out of you (and the rest of their audience) by intentionally trying to make you look bad in public.
Most people are not going to be like that, but from time to time you are gonna deal with such people. These troublemakers are called hecklers.
So what to do about them?
Well there are two ways to deal with them because there are two categories of hecklers.
1 – Those who actually have a serious opposing point of view
They may have a problem with you or what you are saying but in their eyes the reason maybe valid. A group of audience members may even agree with their views. The way you would deal with this sort of a heckler would be completely different from the way you would deal with a heckler who just wants to annoy the heck out of you.
So how do you deal with the first kind of heckler, who has a serious point but intentionally or unintentionally tries to bring you down?
Well to begin with, if they are not particularly audible to the entire group, you can ignore them. If they say it again or are audible to the entire audience and are not just creating a scene for the heck of it, you can request them to get up and ask them if they have a question.
At this point it is extremely important to not be rude because remember, heckler has nothing to lose, it is you who has the position of authority and will be judged the most for a harsh reaction.
If they have a question, give your answer to it, if they are dissatisfied with it,
Try not to appear angry with them, even if you are irritated from inside. Calmly listen to them, then make your point, if they don’t agree you can just say “well that’s my point of view and you have a right to yours. So let’s move on now because we have a lot to cover.”
Most reasonable people will sit back quietly at this point but some may continue.
You may then say “A lot of other people have come here to get useful and valuable information and have invested a lot of time (and money if it is a paid seminar). It’s okay if you don’t agree with me but I and everyone else would now be grateful if you sit down so that we can continue with this presentation so that people’s time is not wasted further. If you have any issues we can talk separately later.”
Most people will sit down after you say that. But if you encounter the super rare breed that still doesn’t shut up, ask the security or any of your assistants in the event to escort the person out. Don’t let one rotting fish ruin the whole pond.
If the heckler happened to pay for the event and then annoyed the heck out of you (which is going to be very very rare by the way) because people who pay to come to your event are serious, you can either give them a refund or talk to them after the event gets over. You may not want to have a conversation with a troublemaker who did it for the heck of it, but you may want to do it with a paying client because that is still a potential future customer. But this is going to be extremely rare, at least in a public event.
2) The One Who Does it for cheap laughs or attention.
The second kind of heckler is a person who has absolutely no valid point or reason to disagree with you except the fact that he/she enjoys attention and derives pleasure by trying to bring others down. Ironically, these types of people actually have low self esteem which is why they can only feel good about themselves by pulling others down and ruining everyone’s day.
Some of them might think they are being funny and entertaining the audience. The only people would be entertained with their antics would be people as immature as them.
So here is what you can do. Two of the strategies I am going to suggest will be similar to what I suggested for the first kind of Heckler
You can Ignore them. Some of them shut up after just one or two comments. If they shut up after that, it’s okay. You can’t waste your energy on every Dog That barks.
However if they are the kind that won’t shut up. You can again point to them and ask them to get up. Then you can tell them the same thing that most people here are here to learn and that most people in the room would appreciate if they don’t ruin the experience for everyone. And if they don’t like it, they can leave.
Now some of them might shut up but then there will be others that act try to act like a smart ass, and crack jokes on your expense. It may even elicit a few laughs, so it’s now your call as to what you want to do. Someone who has a valid point should never be treated with disrespect but if someone is just trying to act over smart and trying to bring you down for no reason, you may decide and give it back to them.
Ask them to come up on the stage. Most of these people acting like a boss in the audience, will absolutely go weak in their knees when they are asked to come on stage.
Tell them to repeat what they said they the back in front of everyone. Most of them will be so embarrassed that they will have a hard time saying things in front of everyone when the spotlight is on them.
Tell them that you hope they are proud of themselves for trying to bring someone else down, or using abusive language in public. Ask the audience members to have a good look at them and clap for the person for using such beautiful language.
If they continue to act funny or say they only wanted to entertain others, ask them if they think they are a stand up comedian or would like a career in standup comedy?
Then Ask them to take the mic and for two minutes and entertain the audience. I guarantee you that 9 times out of 10, they will either be frozen of shame and fear and have nothing to say or will try to act funny but make a complete fool out of themselves and receive scornful stares or ridicule from the audience.
You might think this is a bit harsh, but some people deserve it. They tried to bring someone else down so Karma got back at them. And best of all, they bring themselves down through their own actions, not your words.
Now do make sure, this doesn’t go on too long because the audience is not there to see that drama.
Also use this only sparingly when you have no other option. In most cases you should ask them to have some courtesy and not annoy everyone else in the room or get the escorted out.
However, in rare cases, for the second category of people who enjoy troublemaking, you can use this as a strategy to put them back in their place, without making yourself look bad by arguing.
Next time, they will think a hundred times before trying to pull someone else down in public.
Hope these two tips have been useful to you and given you effective ways to deal with trouble makers.
Now let me ask you a question? This question is especially for those who have been publicly speaking before. Do you have anything you want to add to this or have you tried other strategies that worked with such trouble makers?
Be Sure to email me your responses and if it makes sense, I will add your comments to the article, with credit of course!
About the Author
Anubhav Srivastava is an author, speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields. It has been seen by over 1 Million People on Youtube. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
For one on one consulting or a motivational workshop at your organization please email firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to write a guest blog post on Anubhavsrivastava.com you contact on the same email address.
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