I’m sure you’ve seen comedy shows where someone in the audience has something to say that is meant to disrupt the comedian. Who would have ever thought it could happen to an ordinary every day business speaker?
Well, it does, and it happens more often than you might think. But when you learn to control the speaking environment, you can diminish their effect.
In truth, they are just looking for attention. They want the audience to look at them, recognize them for their wit. But what they are doing is creating the opposite effect. No one respects someone who is disruptive or one who strives to gain attention.
The first time I had a heckler was at a Lion’s Club. No matter what I said, this man had something to say about it. He would interrupt every chance he got.
I looked to the club President and other officers but no one said anything to help out. Finally I walked around the table and put my hand on his shoulder and said “I understand they don’t have a speaker next week, it will be your turn to speak then.”
I turned and walked back to the front of the room and after about 15 seconds of silence, everyone laughed. Needless to say, he had nothing else to offer the rest of my presentation. And when I was finished, several people came up to me and thanked me for putting him in his place. Apparently he always heckled the speaker.
The point being, you must take control of your audience and environment. No matter what you have to do, be in charge.