5 tips from Michelle Obama on handling hecklers

The first lady confronts a heckler at a fundraiser with great success.

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She approached the heckler and said: You can keep on speaking, but if you take the mic, I’m leaving.

She left the choice up to the audience, which began chanting to get her to stay. The heckler was ushered out, and the speech was finished to loud applause.

The exchange is making news today in part because it’s unusual for a high-level speaker to confront a heckler directly, or with such finality, in the moment. Many speakers opt for a tense silence while the heckler is ushered out, attempt to ignore the heckler or just keep talking. I suspect that many executives, faced with a heckler, hesitate to let that speaking gig unravel, and choose the path of least resistance as a “safe” approach.

Ignoring a heckler, however, is just as difficult as ignoring an elephant in your office. I’d rather see you develop some graceful ways with Q&A and interruptions, instead. Here are five things you can learn about handling hecklers from Michelle Obama:

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