In the days when presenting on a stage to a group of outdoor enthusiasts was the main method of getting your message across, rather than posting your knowledge and values across the realm of social media, I would, from time to time, be soapboxed during a presentation. Some hater would make a point rather than ask a question during my talk. It was rare, thankfully. But it did happen.
The worst-ever soapbox moment happened while I was speaking to an outdoor club at a university. About halfway through, one of the profs stood up, surrounded by her undergraduates, and made a distasteful statement about my lack of knowledge and values. I handed it fairly well and prompted the person to come up on stage and replace me as the evening speaker. It’s usually a good defensive tactic. You take the attention off the attention seeker and back onto you, the person who was asked to speak to the audience in the first place.
The audience and event organizers reacted in my favour, and I won the dispute. Of the 200 plus people attending, it seems this person was the only one in the crowd that felt negatively towards what I was presenting—and I survived the ordeal.
Catapult into the present day where social media platforms and live podcasts are taking over stage performances, and the soapbox standoffs are now characterized by internet trolls. And once again, I am thankful it doesn't happen to me very often; when it does, I react with the same method as in the past. You basically take the wind out of the person’s sails, give them little attention (because it’s attention they want), and use the positive energy of the audience to excel through it all.
Last week I didn’t do that. I succumbed to an attention-seeking troll during a live interview on Raindance Bushcraft’s podcast. If you watch it, you’ll notice me read the side chat now and then and react to what some lost soul was printing, basically mocking me anyway they could.
I’m not sure why it got to me so much. But it did. It might be because I had spent a full day volunteering to get youth outdoors, and all the positive energy I had gained from that was being sucked out of me from this provocative online posting. My emotions ran amuck. You can clearly see me shut down during the interview, and let the other guests carry on, spreading their knowledge and values while I sat there with arms crossed; a clear sign of feeling anxious, resistant, tense, angry, uncomfortable and overwhelmed. (Main moments are at the 1:24,1:50, 2:09 marks.)
Near the end, one more comment annoyed me so much that I came very close to leaving the show as a sign of discontent. But I managed to stick through it all; and once again, the audience and event organizers came to my rescue. The person was banned from ever being on the show again, and their comments were removed from the chat.
The next morning, however, that same person changed their name and profile online and was at it again, mocking me throughout other social media platforms. The evil witch wasn’t dead, just reincarnated.
If you’re an outdoor influencer, ambassador or outdoor enthusiast who shares your love of time spent in wilderness with an audience, whether it’s on a physical stage or across the internet, and you happen to have a solitary jealous narcissist in the audience trying to belittle you—just remember that Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, after dethroning the wicked witch, had the winged monkeys transport her and her companions to the Emerald City.
Believe me, you will prevail.