Giving a speech in front of an audience can be one of the most nerve racking things that you’ll ever do. I’d like to be able to tell you to just take your time, focus on the words that you want to say and everything will turn out ok. However, all too often events conspire against us speakers. Here are three situations that every speaker will probably encounter someday that can’t be solved by using clever presentation tips and what you can do about them…
Dealing With The Heckler
When pubic speakers wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, it’s generally because they’ve had a nightmare about having to face a heckler. A heckler is a member of your audience who has a disagreement with what you are saying and isn’t being shy about making their opinion heard. We all know about the importance of public speaking and a heckler can easily get in the way of what we’re trying to say.
As a speaker, when you encounter a heckler you run into a classic problem. Ignore them and they’ll derail your speech; however, if you take them on directly you are just going to come across as looking mean. Your goal needs to be to get your audience on your side in order to deal with the heckler.
The best way to deal with a heckler is to cut them off at the pass: prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place. Let everyone in your audience know how they can contact you and use this as a way to direct unwanted inputs during your speech.
If a heckler still pops up, then deal with it by acknowledging the person. Then move on and tell them that you’ll be available after the presentation to talk about their issue.
Dealing With Audience Anger
When I’m working with speakers who want to become better, one of the first things that I always assure them of is that the audience that they’ll be speaking to really wants them to succeed. It turns out that real life is a bit more complicated than this – there will be times that your audience is really out for your blood.
The reasons for your audience’s resentment of you can be many. It may be that you’ve just stepped into a hostile environment in which layoffs or cutbacks have just been announced. Alternatively, the audience may blame you for some event. No matter, anger is anger and right now it’s directed towards you.
The most important thing is that you should never be surprised by your audience’s mood. One way that you can determine the mood of your audience is to contact the person who invited you to speak. They should be able to let you know how the audience feels. Alternatively you can show up early before you are scheduled to speak and talk with your audience in order to measure their mood.
When it comes time for you to give your speech to an angry audience, you are going to want to move through your speech as quickly as possible. The audience is in no mood to hear you speak. Instead, they really want you to get to the Q&A part of your presentation so that they can begin to vent their frustration. Oblige them by cutting out as much of your speech as you can and wrapping it up quickly. The more time that you can spend answering questions, the better everyone will feel after you are done.
Dealing With The Never-Ending Question
All too often public speakers encounter an audience member who desperately wants to ask them a question. There is no problem with these people’s listening skills, rather the problem is that they haven’t taken the time to completely form the question that they want to ask.
This means that when they standup to ask you the question, what comes out is a long rambling series of words that vaguely sound like a question but which really are not. What’s a speaker to do now?
It turns out that the answer is pretty simple. I think that the best thing to do is to create your own question from what the person has said, answer it, and let the person know that if they have any additional questions you’ll be available after your speech to speak with them more.
What All Of This Means For You
I believe that it’s the Boy Scouts who have the motto “Be Prepared”. This is good advice for public speakers also – you can never anticipate what’s going to happen when you are giving your next speech.
Since we can’t control our audience, we can’t control who comes to hear our speech. This means that at some point in time during your speaking career you’ll end up having to deal with hecklers, angry audiences, and people who ask questions that seem to go on and on. Use the tips that we’ve provided you with here to deftly deal with these distractions.
Good speakers know how to go with the flow in order to maximize the benefits of public speaking for their audiences. This means that they realize that there will always be things that occur that they can’t control. Instead of becoming upset or allowing this to disrupt your speech, instead deal with it and then get back to your speech.
Question For You: What role do you think that the host of the event that you are speaking at has to deal with these types of disruptions?
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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
One of the reasons that I love public speaking so much is that it gives me a thrill every time I stand up in front of an audience. The big question is where does this thrill come from? I believe that at least in part it comes from the simple fact that there is a lot of risk involved in giving a speech – many, many things can go wrong. You can never prevent anything from going wrong, but you can learn how to deal with them so that your speech can go on…