Dealing with Hecklers in the Audience

Heckle To harass, badger, bait, provoke or needle a public speaker or performer with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like (

Hecklers are also known as “mis-matchers“ in NLP & HNLP. These are the people in your audience who try to one-up you or regularly provide counter examples to your information, or try to prove you wrong.

Don’t let these people ruin your presentation! Here’s how to deal with them:

  • Develop rapport with your audience as a whole. Once you have rapport with your audience, they will take care of the odd heckler. Therefore, avoid rushing to defend your point of view against that of the mismatchers’ (as this can break rapport with others in the audience). First listen them out, when you reply match their physiology and language. Sooner or later their challenge will loose energy or be handled by others in the audience.
  • Avoid trying to address a hecklers’ challenge prematurely. Elicit exactly what he/she is asking or addressing with: “What specifically is it that you’re trying to____________?” Or: How is what you’re saying relevant to achieving the outcome___________?” Listen for the question behind their question and address that.
  • Address the heckler with: “You probably won’t agree with the following____________.” Starting your statement in this manner usually gets them to mismatch that opening line, thereby forcing them into the bind of having to accept the relevant information that follows. Its also useful to finish off a statement to the group, by turning you attention to the potential heckler and saying: “____________but you probably won’t agree with that.”
  • Be mindful not to target the heckler or treat him/her disrespectfully. Fighting fire with fire may burn you. Aim to establish the positive motivations behind the mismatchers’ words and actions, these are their values. Then in your response to him/her, appeal to these underlying motivations rather than their distracting behaviours.
  • Recognize that a heckler probably has a low sense of self worth/esteem, hence needing to prove themselves publicly. With the right kind of encouragement and support they can become your ally instead of enemy. See the diamond inside them, and eventually they will shine.

NLP is well know for effective rapport building skills, rapid state changing techniques, and ways to sharpen your sensory acuity. These are all vital skills when it comes to high caliber training and presenting.

When having to deal with hecklers in your audience, make sure that you’re in a resourceful state by assuming a resourceful posture, and analyze the situation from a multi-sensory perspective (as opposed to reacting on interpretations). You will find that NLP is a great skill set to have in such contexts.

Written by Jevon Dangeli – NLP/Hypnotherapy Trainer & Coach

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