Handling a Tough Crowd with Humor
If you have spoken publicly you may have faced tough crowds. While some are tougher than others, the worst ones actually groan or boo to show their disapproval. As a speaker, it is at these moments where using humor can be your best defense. Here are three tips to handle your unruly audience during these uncomfortable situations:
1) Earn some compassion with irony. Remember, the audience will be able to relate to you only if they see you as a real human being who experiences emotions. A one-liner such as “When I get back to the office to tell my boss how things went I am going to put an unbelievably positive spin on this.” This one-liner shows your vulnerability, ability to laugh at yourself, and may even garner you some laughter.
2) Don’t heckle back at the audience. When an audience is reacting to something you have said by groaning or relaying disapproval, they are reacting to the opinion, not to you personally. Resist the temptation to heckle the audience back with insults as this is a sure way to lose them completely.
3) Make a joke. If the wheels are really starting to come off, then it’s time to let humor take over. Don’t take the situation too seriously, just let your personality and humor shine through. A favorite of mine I learned from a comedian is “Recently the crowds I have been speaking to have all been applauding and laughing – you guys are a really nice change of pace.” You never know, a lighthearted joke just might win them back!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out your local comedy theatres. You may be able to take an Improv for Business Leaders class. These classes help with creative communication methods for those who speak to groups.
Break a leg!
The Author, Kari Glennon, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.