3 Tips for Handling a Hostile Crowd

Clayton Fletcher

Stand-up comedian Clayton Fletcher (@claytoncomic) has had his share of bad moments on stage. It’s how you turn those moments around that defines a good comic. As chief comedy officer at Peppercom, Fletcher shares his insights with clients on comedy’s many business applications. Here, he offers three ways to diffuse a hostile audience:

  1. Use irony to garner sympathy. An audience can only relate a real human being with actual emotions. Reverse psychology statements such as “I am going to put such a positive spin on this when I get home” can greatly enhance a speaker’s vulnerability, and, by extension, charisma.

  2. Never hit them harder than they’re hitting you. A crowd that is groaning or otherwise expressing disapproval is not necessarily turned off completely; often it’s just a reaction to your opinion. Beating them up in return, e.g. “Maybe you people are just too stupid to understand me,” is a surefire way to lose them.

  3. If things are really flying off the rails, you may as well joke about it. If an audience seems to have turned against you, there is nothing left to lose. Be yourself and let your genuine sense of humor shine through. You just might turn things around after all. I might say, “Lately the crowds have all been laughing and clapping a lot—you guys are a nice change of pace.” Whatever you say should be lighthearted and in the spirit of levity.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01; Clayton Fletcher: @claytoncomic


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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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