It was an ordinary sunny Wednesday morning and the last thing I expected was an email from the Washington Post
It was the day that Michelle Obama was heckled and there was a certain amount of discussion as to how she had handled the situation. Journalists and editors were now scurrying around to try and find some experts to interview and quote. Thanks to my book ‘How to Handle Hecklers’ I became one of those experts.
You can read the full Washington Post article here:
As Michelle Obama discovered, how to respond to a heckler can either make or break a situation. Luckily the press will only be interested if you are a) a celebrity, and b) you get it wrong. For most of us this is quite a relief.
The truth is that heckling situations, for most entertainers and speakers are few and far between. But you still need to be ready and prepared for that moment, because sooner or later it will happen. And the most important moment happens inside your head just after the heckle is delivered.
This is a moment when the fight or flight reflex can kick in (the same reflex that causes a rabbit to skip away to safer territory when it hears a movement in the grass). If the heckler is also running towards you with a weapon then the rabbit option is a good one. For most other situations the first thing you need to do is take a moment to assess the situation and deliver a balanced and considered response.
If you are not prepared then it is very easy to make a bad decision in the heat of the moment. One example would be to assume that the whole audience is against you and that the heckler is speaking for the whole audience. This is rarely the case. Usually it is the heckler who stands alone, and audience is on your side, and they will stay there if you handle the situation well. The way you deal with an unexpected interruption can turn a meeting round, make a good show into a great show, it can even close a sale or get a contract signed!
She may need it again in the future so I sent Michelle a signed copy of my book.
How To Handle Hecklers by Keith Fields