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Mob Rule: Reacting to an Angry Crowd

Sometimes it's difficult to feel sorry for our elected leaders in Washington. But when you watch video after video of legislators getting shouted down by angry constituents/actors at recent forums on health care reform, it's hard not to wonder:

How would I handle a similar situation?

Not well, I fear. So I turned to communications expert John Baldoni, who recently wrote How to Speak to an Unruly Crowd on Harvard Business Publishing.

I liked this tip the best.

  • "Be resolute. If the shouters will not be silenced, then give the rest of the audience an opportunity to voice their opinions. Negotiate time to continue but promise to take questions from the audience as soon as you finish your remarks. If this occurs, abandon the script and speak directly to the audience. Be brief. And keep your cool. Shouting back makes you one of the mob; speaking with confidence acknowledges your authority over the message."
Keep your cool is the best advice here. The exact moment politicos lost their temper at health care demonstrators was the moment you knew they had also lost control of the debate. Baldoni says be prepared to walk off stage if need be.

But do it with dignity.