How to Handle a Heckler

Dealing with hecklers is never fun. Fortunately for us, they rarely show themselves during presentations (most people are afraid of looking bad in front of large groups).

That said, it’s good to be prepared. As a presenter, hecklers can really throw you off and distract your audience. So what’s the best way to handle one?

We’ve rounded up five tips to help you get started:

  1. Never reward interrupting. When someone starts talking over you or chatting with their neighbor, keep going. Make them look rude.

  2. Respond if you need to. Sometimes you just have to respond to the comments. When this happens, make sure you’re addressing the whole audience and not just the heckler. If you only address the heckler, it may invite them to continue.

    • That said, at a certain point, it is okay to make a firm, direct request to the heckler to stop. Revert to Tip #3 and #4 for this.

  3. Don’t try to be funny. Unless you have experience doing stand-up, avoid trying to come up with a witty response - it may fall flat. You can still be pleasant, but deal with the heckler head-on.

  4. Stay calm and gracious. Shake off whatever the heckler has to say, and don’t let them ruin the rest of your presentation. Remember that you want to be the most mature and positive person in the room. Lose your cool and you might lose your momentum - as well as the rest of your audience.

  5. Don’t let it get personal. Focus on the subject matter, instead of attacking the individual. Avoid trying to get even.

Finally, remember that you’re serving the group’s needs - not the individual’s. Don’t let one naysayer drive a wedge between you and your audience!

Need more advice?

Check out these posts on dealing with hecklers and restoring order.