Communispond® Offers 5 Steps to Handle Booing If You’re Not Donald Trump
November 18, 2015

ROCHESTER, NY | EAST HAMPTON, NY, Nov 18, 2015 – At last week's Republican presidential primary debate, Carly Fiorina interrupted Rand Paul's foreign policy commentary. Paul found himself struggling to talk over her in order to regain his allotted time. Then Donald Trump weighed in: "Why does she keep interrupting everybody?" The audience laughed, and Trump followed up with a one-word remark: “Terrible.” At this, the audience booed.

Trump betrayed no sign of concern or self-doubt in response to this booing. It’s not clear he even noticed it. But when you give a speech or a presentation and the audience responds to a point with booing, if you’re not Donald Trump, it is devastating. So, how do you deal with it?

  1. First, don’t get defensive. If the audience is booing you, it means you’re in conflict with them in some way. Anything you do now other than calm acceptance of this “feedback” will likely escalate the conflict. 
  1. Second, understand the mentality of those doing the booing. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “boo” originally described the lowing of oxen. It’s the sound of a herd. In other words, booing is anonymous. As we’ve seen time and again in modern online discussions, anonymity is often a refuge of cowards and bullies. Knowing the likely character of the people who are booing will help you get some perspective on it. Do you really care about the disapproval of such people?
  1. Third, try to understand why it’s happening. If something you said caused this reaction, that may be grounds for reconsidering it. At the very least, you can be prepared to be booed if you say the same thing to a similar audience in the future. Then again, maybe it’s not what you said but how you said it. Is there something in your style that provoked it? Audiences boo when they want to take the speaker or performer down a peg. Are you doing something that the audience interprets as feelings of superiority? Are you a know-it-all? Are you dismissive of other viewpoints or arguments? Are you sarcastic? Are you engaging in inappropriate humor?
  1. Fourth, try to assess how much of the audience is engaged in the booing. This can help you understand whether you’ve really stepped on the collective toes of the audience or there’s just a handful of people who disagree with you. Remember, there’s always going to be somebody who objects to what you have to say. If you can, poll the audience to find out what proportion object to what you are saying. If it’s a majority, you'll have to address it. If it doesn’t apply to anyone but the handful who are booing, offer to take it off-line so as to make the best use of the group’s time.
  1. Finally, understand that, while being booed may realize your worst fear, it’s not as dreadful as you imagine. At gladiatorial matches in ancient Rome, audience jeering could determine whether a competitor lived or died. Being booed may be painful, but you will survive it, and in fact, you will be a stronger speaker and presenter as a result. When you speak publicly again, you will go in knowing you survived the worst a modern audience can dish out.