Heckler in the House

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Has this ever happened to you?


Just as you’re getting ready to wrap up your presentation, the one person in the office who loves to ask the difficult question, raises their hand. Sweat breaks out on your forehead and you think it’s quite possible that you could lose your lunch right there at the podium because you know that “Bob” loves to ask those persnickety questions. You’ve been there when he’s thrown a bomb at your boss…so unfortunately, you know what’s coming.

What do you do? How do you deal with audience pushback?

The key is to maintain control of the room and the presentation. First and foremost, it’s best to always the  repeat a question that’s been asked. This way the entire audience hears the question and it becomes a discussion with the whole group, not just one person. However, if the question is negative or aggressive then you want to rephrase it so that the tone of the discussion remains positive.


Here’s an example:

Aggressive Question“Why should we make these changes to our enrollment process?”

Restated: “What will be the benefits of implementing these new procedures?”

By restating the question in a positive tone, you maintain control of the room, keep the conversation moving forward and can tie your answer back to a point in your presentation.

And remember…say it with a smile.

“Bob” won’t know what hit him.

–Sara Humphreys

President, Taney Speaker Training

One thought on “Heckler in the House

    Rhonda Lane said:
    August 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Wow. Thanks. Control is all in the body language and inflection. I suspect I may get some heckling depending upon the venue. I also suspect working to show respect to the heckler might take some steam out of the interruption.

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