Presenting can be difficult enough when you're speaking to a respectful crowd. But what if you've got an audience member that, for whatever reason, is bound and determined to disrupt the proceedings? The answer to today's presentation skills training "What if..." comes to you directly from the pages of Presentation Skills for Managers: (Remember you can download the full "What if..." chapter HERE.)
What if... you have a disruptive participant?
Answer from Kerri: Here's how I answered this very popular question in my book:
"The bane of standup comedians around the world, on occasion you may have one person in your audience who feels they simply MUST be heard. More often than not, this kind of response erupts during smaller presentations or meetings. (It takes a lot of nerve to disrupt a keynote!) It might be because they disagree with your stance, or they think their responses are too hilarious not to share (newsflash: they’re usually not…), or they feel they know your topic better than you, and attempt to take over your presentation. Whatever the reason, a heckler or a hijacker can be a thorn in the side of a presenter. Anyone can simply nod and laugh off a single comment. But if you’re faced with persistent dissension from an audience member, call it out, and offer to talk more later: 'Nick, I can see you’ve got a lot of feelings on this topic. I appreciate that. Can we chat more about them later on, so we can cover all of the content on my agenda?' If that’s not good enough, don’t be afraid to politely take a stand. 'I’ve got to ask you to hold it back a bit now, for the benefit of the rest of the group.'
Some folks with an especially quick wit might be tempted to joke back, but don’t feel that you have to join in any way. Bear in mind, the disrupter may get a rise out of riling you; you don’t have to give them the pleasure.