HANDLING AUDIENCE and/or PANELIST PROBLEMS

 


Candidate Overrunning time limits. 
Interrupt gently, but firmly. "Excuse me, Mr. Candidate, but you have used your time." You can let people finish their sentences, but some people's sentences never end. If you permit one candidate to go over his/her time, the others will never let you forget it. (Nor will the audience.) 

Candidate is rowdy.  
Address him/her directly. "Ms. Candidate, you are out of order." "Dr. Candidate, I must remind you once again that you are not being fair to the other candidates." If your admonitions don't work, console yourself with the thought that the evening is accomplishing its purpose: revealing the candidate's true character! 

Audience member is rowdy. 
Address him/her directly. "Sir, please sit down and wait your turn." or "Please respect the rules we have established so that we may have an orderly discussion of the issues." Usually, your comments and growing peer pressure from the audience will do the trick. If it doesn't,  
call a brief recess and speak to the rabble-rouser yourself. (There have even been occasions, fortunately rare, when a member of the audience was drunk & disorderly and the police had to be summoned.) 

Audience is unruly 
Remind the audience that this is not a rally for voters who have already made up their minds, but a non-partisan meeting for those who have not. You can use such comments as: 

  • "We understand that many of you have strong feelings about this election (issue), but others have come tonight to help them decide how to vote. Please let us use all our time for discussion of the issues." 

OR

  • "Please, let's not waste time that should be spent discussing the issues." 

Remember that you have the authority to call a recess to review the ground rules with co- sponsors and participants. You even have the authority to decide that conditions just do not exist for a useful discussion of the issues and so to adjourn the meeting. 

Challenge to your authority.  
Calmly restate the ground rules and proceed (You can even read from the letter of invitation.) If the challenge continues, you can call a recess and caucus with the candidates and sponsors. With careful preparations this shouldn't happen. 

Run out of Questions.  
Adjourn. Sometimes the audience is small or the race lacks hot issues. Just move ahead to the closing statements and send the grateful audience home to bed.