Conclusion, Review Questions, and Activities

Audience members

“ photo essay” by Elaine Wilson. Public domain.

Admittedly, this discussion of listening may add a layer of intimidation for public speakers. After all, it can be daunting to think of having to get an audience to not only hear, but also truly listen.

Nevertheless, once we recognize the difference and become aware of active listening and its barriers, we can better tailor our spoken words to captivate and engage an audience. A broader awareness of the importance of effective listening is another weapon in your arsenal as a public speaker. At the same time, building up your own effective listening skills can enhance your academic, professional, and personal success. Being heard is one thing, but speakers need listeners to complete the communication loop. Reap the rewards: Instead of saying “I hear you,” try out “I’m listening.”

Review Questions

  1. What distinguishes listening from hearing?
  2. What are some benefits for you personally from effective listening?
  3. Name and give an example of each of the three A’s of active listening.
  4. Identify the three main barriers to listening. Which of these barriers is most problematic for you? What 
can you do about it?
  5. What does an effective listener do with the extra thought process time while a speaker is speaking only 
150 words-per-minute?
  6. How can you communicate non-verbally that you are listening?
  7. What are some considerations in offering constructive feedback?
  8. What are strategies that help hold your listeners’ attention during your speech?


  1. Discuss the following in small groups. How do your listening behaviors change in the following situations: A) At a concert, B) In class, C) At the dinner table with your parents, D) In a doctor’s office? What are the distractions and other barriers to listening you might encounter in each setting? What might you do to overcome the barriers to effective listening in each situation?
  2. Listen to someone you disagree with (maybe a politician from the opposing party) and work to listen actively with an open mind. Try to pay attention to the person’s argument and the reasons he offers in support of his point of view. Your goal is to identify why the speaker believes what he does and how he proves it. You need not be converted by this person’s argument.
  3. Reflect on a situation in your personal life where poor listening skills created a problem. Briefly describe the situation, then spend the bulk of your reflection analyzing what went wrong in terms of listening and how, specifically, effective listening would have made a difference. Share your observations in small group class discussion.
  4. Spend a few minutes brainstorming your trigger words. What are the words that would provoke a strong emotional response in you? List three concrete strategies you might use to combat this while being an effective listener.