If you’ve ever spoken in front of people, odds are you experienced people talking or being distracting while you were trying to pass on the wisdom of the ages (or just make an announcement about bathroom usage). Speaking to students (7-12) presents many challenges and one of which is dealing with students who seem to live to distract.
Here are some ways to “Handle the Hecklers” (see how I re-used the title for emphasis?) Look for the next installment called “The Leader” as I throw out some ideas for adult leaders who are out in the group to handle distracting students.
1. The Evil Eye – To avoid distraction beyond their immediate viscinity, try looking at one or more of them for an extended period with a look that says, “If you keep talking, I will make life real uncomfortable for you.” It is subtle enough to be missed by the rest of the group, and for the most part, the “offending parties” get the message.
2. Awkward Closeness – This allows you to single out the distractors, but doesn’t require you to even miss a beat in what you are saying. Just slowly make your way over to the talkers and stand about a foot away from them. Everyone else will think you are just moving around randomly, but for the kid that you are almost standing on his foot, he knows exactly what’s going on. This is much easier if you have wireless capabilities, because even the guys in the back aren’t off limits. This is most effective for groups of 5-200 (the bigger the group, the harder it is to maneuver around).
3. The Call Out – This is the least discreet because you are literally stopping what you are saying and calling out the talkers in front of everyone. While somewhat effective, it’s the riskiest of them all. Before you use this method, make sure you know have some sort of relationship with the student(s) because you’re about to publicly embarrass them. If it’s a visitor, I would discourage this method because I doubt this will make them want to come back. I have used “The Call Out” before, but only as a last resort. Use your judgment, but if the situation calls for it, then giddeyup.
Anything to add? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?