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EP132 How to Deal with Hecklers

Eleanor Beaton
Eleanor Beaton
EP132 How to Deal with Hecklers

Recently I was coaching a very successful, experienced, and established woman in business about speaking and taking the stage more, and she expressed to me that one of her number one concerns around doing that is opening herself up to public criticism.

When you are on a stage and somebody raises their hand to ask a question, there is always the possibility that you may encounter some kickback from an audience member.  Here’s what you can do if you find yourself face-to-face with a dreaded heckler:

5 Tips to Handle Hecklers:

  1. Breathe. This is an opportunity for you to step into your leadership and demonstrate your poise. Do that by making sure that your brain is filled with good clean oxygen. 
  2. Determine if the person is simply asking a tough question or if it is a personal attack. If it’s a tough question, you have several choices:
    1. You made endeavour to answer that question,
    2. You may respond with a question,
    3. You may pivot the question to something you actually want to talk about,
    4. Or you may simply say” let me get back to you on that, I don’t have that information right now.”
  3. Don’t engage, disengage. Do not respond to them by staring at them directly but by looking around at the audience while you are responding. Do not give a heckler energy and focus because that is what they feed on.
  4. If there is a rant, interrupt the rant. Say “Excuse me sir/ma’am, what is your question?” If they start ranting again you ask them to use the words “My question is” to receive more clarity.
  5. Ask for support. You may ask someone from your team to speak with this person individually or you may choose to involve the audience. You may say respectfully, to the audience, “Should I go on with the rest of my presentation, or do you want to hear more from this person?” At this point you will likely receive support to move on with your presentation.


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