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How to deal with interruptions


We've all seen it happen. Everything was going so well. An otherwise debonair speaker becomes more than a bit passive aggressive when someone in the audience arrives too late or gets up to answer their phone. The mood in the room shifts from mild interest to indignation. The speaker loses part of their audience, if not all of it.

You don't want that time you threw your microphone at the helpless intern who changed your slides too slowly or couldn't buffer your video in time to be the only thing people remember about your talk. No matter how important you think you are, no audience, millennial or otherwise, warms to a sorry display of entitlement.


Never insult or make personal comments about members of your audience. I once witnessed an elected member of staff spend four minutes on a tangent about how hard her job was because "people" were asking her "stupid questions". My colleagues were astonished, but for all the wrong reasons. Your audience is not your therapist.

If you face an uninformed question, don't talk down to the person asking it. If the room is tittering or groaning, thank the person and reassure them, then use their question to reframe and repeat your point. Maybe they're asking the wrong question, because you haven't provided the right answer yet.


When confronted with protesters don't worry, be happy. You're not a despot. You don't rule over the feudal state of the conference hall. Why not invite the protesters to join the event or share their thoughts? If they came all that way to be heard, you can afford a pause in proceedings to hear them. Above all, be patient and be kind. Not only is it the proper way to conduct yourself as a leader, you will come across as one too.

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