Dealing With ParticipantsClassroom or audience management is a very necessary skill for public speaking professionals. We expect to be listened to with respect, and engaged with eagerness. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Therefore, it is best to be prepared for the difficult audience participants with an arsenal of tools to extinguish even the most distasteful behavior.

Learning is a social experience, and recent research reveals that over 75% of all learners prefer to learn as a group. Social dynamics can be very unpredictable, and may include some of these personalities: the elder, the prisoner, the skeptic, the latecomer, the preoccupied, the know-it-all, and the sleeper. There are easy strategies to counter all of these personalities, and use them to the classroom’s advantage.

A myth of classroom management is never involve students in the teaching process or allow them to talk amongst themselves as you will ultimately lose control of the class. When you adopt a participant-centered training technique, they students are so engaged in class that there is little opportunity for disruption. That is your first tactic to dealing with difficult participants.

By leading a participant centered training, you will maximize the involvement of each participant, significantly reduce difficult participant behavior, increase the self- esteem of participants, and increase the retention of information. Small groups can also manage poor behavior through peer influence.

Here are some additional tips to manage some of the aforementioned personalities:

The Elder – Lean on their experience and wisdom for a more enriched classroom experience. This will let them know that you respect their experience, and value their input. While keeping yourself in the driver’s seat by managing the elder’s comments.

The Latecomer – Do not start your session late in anticipation of latecomers. This will negate the importance of the session, and reinforce bad habits with the latecomer. Rather, start the session as scheduled with some soft-opening activities. This will keep the audience occupied, and will never notice the impact of the latecomer. This will also encourage the latecomer to be on time for future events.

The Preoccupied – This person may be the chronic smartphone checker, or could just be zoned out. Bring them back to reality by engaging them with a task. Have them turn down the lights, suggest a ground rule for the session, or distribute session materials. This will passive engage them, and let them know to take you seriously. Auto-pilot does not fly in your class.

The Sleeper – Unexpected movements in class can wake up sleeping beauty. For example, have participants stand once a task is completed, or have them participate in a “high five review”. Review the last section of class with another participant, and finish with a “high five”. All of these movements can break the monotony of a lecture while engaging participants without them realizing you are just waking them up.

Give these tips a try to experience an energized class experience.