How you manage interruptions in your speech can define you as a speaker. That's because your mastery of these essential techniques will mark you out from the crowd and give you the confidence to really perform.
Now, first things first. Your speech isn't a comedy club routine. So, you shouldn't expect hecklers in the traditional after-hours sense. But, heckling can and does happen. There's often some discontent in an audience.
Just think of an example. Your speech to the construction business Annual General Meeting might well be interrupted by a heckler with a view about building on the Green Belt. Or, someone might interrupt your talk to the distributors with a comment about the smaller incentives on offer.
You can expect to keep your audience on your side when you combat a heckler with politeness and obvious well-meaning. They lose their "rage" with this approach.
When it happens, you have the aim to keep your audience on-side. So, you want their support and attention. And they, in turn, don't want to waste their time having to listen to hecklers for the rest of your speech. Therefore, you have a fine balancing act to perform! Jacob Rees-Mogg showed how to deal with hecklers during a speech only last month. This is a good technique for you to manage interruptions.
There's every chance that you could be interrupted by a question from your audience. That's a good thing, really it is. Appreciate it. Because it shows how your audience is engaging with you and your speech. The real trick is, of course, to know how to manage interruptions such as questions from your audience.
When you take a question from your audience during your speech it pays to keep focused on the one questioner. So, don't be tempted into starting a Q and A session. No, take the question, answer it directly and start your speech where you left off.
Once you know how to manage interruptions such as a heckler or a question from your audience then you can cover most scenarios on the conference podium.
But what happens with other interruptions? Because they can happen. How do you manage these interruptions?
For example, you might come across:
You certainly can't expect these type of interruptions. But you should prepare yourself with ways to manage them.
For example, Bill Clinton had to cope with a mobile phone ringing during one of his speeches. It happened to be his phone, so that was more worrying. But, he handled the interruption using all the charm you'd expect. So, with Bill Clinton in mind, we have some pointers for dealing with interruptions caused by mobile phones.
Then, of course, there's the medical emergency. You don't expect them to happen, but they are possible. So you really should know what to do. Because when you stand on the podium with a microphone, bizarrely, your audience reacts as if you are in charge. Yes, they expect you to manage the situation. Expect you to take control. Now, that can be tricky if you are the guest speaker. But, you can do it.
You should aim to know what to do if there's a medical emergency during your speech.
Your task is to "manage" the situation for the obvious benefit of the patient. And, of course, for the slighter benefit of your audience. A Joe Biden speech illustrates perfectly how you can do this.
When you know how to manage interruptions you might also want to consider how to deal with a prankster. We saw this last month with the Theresa May conference speech in Manchester. Yes, there was some interaction with the prankster, but then again she kept it very limited and polite. Because you never really know what type of misdemeanour is on their mind. It's best that you keep your cool in these circumstances.
You might well come across a podium or a stage malfunction when you have to give a speech. It's most likely that there's nothing untoward or wildly dangerous going on. But, you might well be embarrassed by the interruption.
Fortunately Theresa May was blissfully oblivious to the set of the Conservative party Conference falling to pieces as she spoke in Manchester in October. Her conference speech was already affected by her coughing and a prankster!
A few years ago, President Obama was giving a speech when there was a stage malfunction. His reaction to there being no Presidential seal on the lectern was priceless.
Again, a cool and non-bothered demeanour works every time you come across such a scenario. You shouldn't let it bother you because you can probably get some value from the laughs that will occur.
You can discover a whole series of public speaking tips from Time to Market. Read them, listen to the podcasts or watch the videos. And, when you want to give your own public speaking skills a further boost, please don't hesitate to consider some training or coaching. You can always contact us when the time is right.
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