It seems like you can never be fully preparedÂ forÂ distractions while speaking or giving a presentation. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced everything from loud coughing to a person walking across the room to ask someone else a question WHILE I was speaking.
Not calling attention to such things takes experience and practice — it’s the mark of a true professional. Most audiences are courteous and respect the speaker, so it may take years of speaking before you run into major distractions. But the first time it happens, you find it breaks your concentration to the point where it negatively affects the rest of your speech.
To better prepare for this situation, I recommend practicing your speech or presentation in front of a mock hostile crowd. This is a group of people that can attempt to distract you while you speak. I did this recently with one of my Toastmasters Clubs and it was a lot of fun for both me and the audience.
You can create a hostile crowd with friends, family, co-workers or anyone else that you can get to watch you practice.Â Feed them some ideas like cell phones ringing, coughing and eating loud foods, but also let them be creative. A crunching sound that you’ve never heard before will tempt you to turn your attention to it. If you can resist, that’s excellent. Otherwise, keep practicing. It’ll probably only take three or four tries at most, but once you’ve got this down you’ll look more professional when distractions happen.