A to Z Challenge: H is for Hecklers

Sometimes there are people in the audience that may try to interrupt you. This is not always ill-intentioned, Sometimes people just want to ask questions.

At the beginning of a talk or presentation, it is useful to let your audience know if your talk  is an interactive one or whether all questions should be saved until the end. You will need to make this decision based on the goal and outcome of your talk.

At an event where drinks are served people may feel bolder and interrupt anyway. Off course, if you are speaking at a wedding or other social occasion, expect heckling – it is all part of the fun. Some speakers even invite heckling.

Before providing tips to deal with hecklers, the definition of “heckler” according to Wikipedia is:

heckler is a person who harasses and tries to disconcert others with questions, challenges, or gibes. Hecklers are often known to shout disparaging comments at a performance or event, or to interrupt set-piece speeches, with the intent of disturbing performers and/or participants. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler)

There are many examples of how public figures have dealt with hecklers. British Prime Minister in the 1960s, Harold Wilson, was particularly good at dealing with hecklers as evidenced by the exchange below:

Heckler: (interrupting a passage in a Wilson speech about Labour’s spending plans) What about Vietnam?

Wilson: The government has no plans to increase public expenditure in Vietnam.

Heckler: Rubbish!

Wilson: I’ll come to your special interest in a minute, sir.

The above example is both courteous and funny. Rowan Atkinson from Mr Bean fame dealt with a heckler who interrupted his play “The School Master” in a very elegant way:

In one of Rowan Atkinson‘s plays ‘The School Master’, a heckler interrupted his play by shouting “Here!” after Atkinson had read out an amusing name on his register. Atkinson incorporated it into his act by saying “I have a detention book…”

Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean

Keep these in mind when hecklers make their presence felt:

Maintain your cool

Keep your talk goal and outcome in mind

Deal with hecklers with courtesy and humour

Be yourself

Prepare a few possible GENERIC RESPONSES and memorise them to make them easier to remember them under pressure.

See you tomorrow for I is for Industry Specific Speeches and presentations.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

 Note: Click on Rowan Atkinson photo to go to its source.


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