The talk is going brilliantly – then a heckler starts interjecting. What do you do?
One of the big fears in public speaking is the fear of being interrupted by a heckler.
You’ve done all the hard work prepared perfectly, the talk is going brilliantly then out of nowhere someone starts throwing in comments.
What do you do? First line of attack is just to ignore – in the most part the heckler will be happy with their effort and then shut up. But what if they don’t.
Often as not the audience will spring to your aid and shush the interjector and make them feel unwelcome.
Remember 99% of the audience are on your side and want you to succeed so they won’t welcome the interjections either.
Engaging in light banter will often just encourage them to continue , keep your calm and your dignity – and keep your mind on your speech.
If they continue to talk – you just keep on with your presentation – remember you have the microphone – they can all hear you – usually the interjector realising they are having no impact will just shut up.
Comedians are renowned for loving to be heckled – it gives them some of their best material – but be warned – unless you are a professional comedian don’t try to win the battle with humour it could fall horribly flat – and worse the heckler might be funnier than you are.
Always maintain your dignity – if the heckle deserves a response – suggest you will speak to them after the talk or get them to email you – and then get back quickly to your speech.
I can honestly say in literally thousands of public addresses I’ve been heckled half a dozen times at the most so don’t overthink it.
Being prepared and having a plan to handle heckling will help your nerves ,even though it may never happen.
Preparation in public speaking is the key to success