Managing hecklers

. 1 min read

How to manage hecklers, or well-meaning people who happen to speak at the wrong time.

People fear public speaking, in large part due to the fear of hecklers. Nobody wants a tough question or comment that makes us look stupid.

I needed more than a decade to get over the fear of hecklers, but it shouldn't take you any longer than the end of this post. This is how I deal with hecklers at comedy clubs, software engineering meetups, and in company meetings.

Offer to answer questions at the end

Everyone likes to hear the sound of their own voice, which can disrupt the momentum and flow of your presentation. Politely ask participants to ask their questions at the end of the presentation.

Offer to continue the discussion later

"Let's take this offline".

When a heckler keeps talking about a topic of no interest to the rest of the meeting, extend an invitation to continue the discussion later. You are acknowledging the importance of the topic, and you are respecting everyone else's time.

You have the power

When a heckler says something rude or hurtful, remember that you are the one on stage. You're holding the microphone, you have the spotlight, and you have the power.

The rude heckler looks stupid. The crowd is on your side.

Don't be tempted to craft a witty comeback. Instead, stay respectful and stay on track. Being professional is the greatest comeback.

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash.