The lonely podium: How to deal with a hostile audience

Techniques for handling interruptions to your speech.

Techniques for handling interruptions to your speech

There’s a long tradition of heckling at political events in the U.K. and in many other countries where deliberately interrupting public speakers is seen as a legitimate form of protest.

In the 1960s, of course, America saw a number of heated interruptions in courtrooms and conventions to protest the Vietnam War, and this summer we’ve seen the well publicized brouhaha at Democrats’ town hall meetings on health care reform. But disruptions of this kind are rare in the United States, and we’re surprised when they happen.

In corporate settings, too, disruption during executive speeches is an uncommon occurrence. Sure, CEOs presenting at company town hall meetings might have to deal with a few aggressive questions or mutterings of discontent; and yes, unruly crowds occasionally interrupt shareholder meetings or protest outside plant gates. But overall, employees are pretty well behaved, and executives rarely have to worry about heckling and harassment. 

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