• "Hoping for Heckling"

    In my presentation skills class, we explore how to manage distracting audience behavior. This may include people arriving late, leaving early, having side conversations, eating noisy or stinky food, rummaging through their belongings, asking irrelevant questions, and more. The most dreaded is the person who heckles the speaker. 

    I teach that a heckler is a helper disguised as a jerk.

    Nate Burgoyne (Integrity Online Marketing), was a participant in my class. He said that sometimes people heckle him by asking, "Who would pay for something they can get for free on the Internet?" (To make it a heckle, please add a nasty tone of voice and negative body language.)

    I asked the class, "How are these people helpers? What do they allow Nate to do that he might not otherwise have done?"

    We discovered that because of these Helpful Hecklers, Nate gets to say, "I'd be HAPPY to tell you who pays for my services instead of getting it for free on the Internet. My clients include people who ______ and companies which ________ and small business owners who _________."

    At the end of the session, Nate rubbed his hands together eagerly and said, "Ooh. Now I'm hoping for heckling!"



  • Mastering the Q&A

    Most speakers look forward to the Q&A. It's exciting when people show interest in your topic.

    But if you don't handle this segment well, your presentation can end on a weak note. Here are some challenges and how to handle them:

    There aren't any questions. You've generously saved ten minutes for questions, but there aren't any. Instead of, "Do you have any questions?" ask, "What questions do you have about _______ or _________? This assumes that they have questions, and that now is the time to ask them.

    Still nothing?

    Without bullying or begging, say, "A common question is _______. The answer is ______." This will get the ball rolling. 

    What if you don't know the answer? There are two ways to not know the answer: the wimpy way and the confident way. Instead of cringing and weakly admitting that you don't know, be bold: "Now there's something I don't know. But I know where to get the answer. Leave your business card with me and I'll get back to you within two days." 

    A hostile question from the audience can be unnerving. But you should accept and appreciate a heckler. Here is the ideal attitude: This person is a helper disguised as a jerk.

    Once a man in my audience rudely asked, "Why should we listen to you? What are your credentials?" What a great question! Though I didn't love his tone of voice, inwardly I was excited. I got to talk about my work without appearing to brag.