There is nothing more irritating to a speaker than having to deal with some wise guy in the audience who hollers out during a presentation. Once I was addressing a group of network marketers on the subject of effective marketing techniques. My speech was illustrated with a carefully prepared computer slide presentation with a view to adding impact to the spoken word. At a critical moment of my speech I would refer back to a quote made earlier that you can sell dog excrement on a stick to people if the marketing campaign was right (please excuse the graphic imagery). Just then, as I asked the audience if this was possible, I would have an image of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo (a cartoon character) appear on the screen. I had given this speech many times, and this moment always got a huge laugh and enabled me to drive home the point I was making. (Mr. Hanky, a talking piece of human excrement, was at that time being sold throughout the country as key rings, fluffy children’s toys and fridge magnets.) Unfortunately for me there was a wise guy sitting third row centre with a huge voice. He had being causing disruption throughout the speech by his “humourous” comments, some of which were not very bright. Just as I asked the audience of the likelihood of someone making a living out of selling excrement, this loud-mouthed wise-ace yelled out the name of a popular world-wide fast-food chain. It was too late to stop the progression of the slides, and Mr. Hanky appeared on the screen before the audience as they were laughing at this moron’s joke. Obviously the thunder was stolen. My point was lost, and as the audience missed the impact of the rather daring illustration totally, the speech was all but gone. Try as I could I was not able to get them back. All because of a distracting wisecrack from a well intentioned but rather stupid heckler. How to handle them? Well, in reality there is probably very little that you can do. But there are some suggestions that may help: Do not answer them. Responding to a “humourous” heckler will only encourage them. It will justify their position in your speech. Speaking up in such a way in a public assembly is extremely bad mannered. Treat their comments (funny though they may be) with contempt. Ignore them. If the audience laughs, stop talking and wait for calm to be restored. They will soon get the message. Remember, you’re the boss. Particularly if you are speaking with the use of a microphone. Do not talk over them; wait for them to finish then carry on with what you were saying anyway. Do not even look at them. If they are contradictory or abusive: Speak directly to them and tell them you will address their concerns privately following the speech. Remember that it is not the unalienable right for anyone to come in and break up a public meeting. The laws in most lands protect the right to peaceful assembly and will back up your right to finish the speech unhindered. Ask any attendants present to handle the situation. Then continue your speech and leave it to them. It is your right as speaker to request such an action from any attendants or from the chairperson or MC on hand. If action looks threatening call the police immediately. Tell them that the implied invitation this individual has to the public meeting has been revoked and they are not leaving. Let the law-enforcement authorities handle the matter from there. Apologise to your audience for the disruption. This will win the majority of them over onto your side even if the heckler has a good point to make. Excerpt From: Mark Porter. “The Way With Words.” iBooks. This discussion is continued in detail in “The Way With Words”, by Mark Porter.