How to be Sure Your Listeners are “Getting it”

a+Whether you are training, leading a meeting, or giving a formal presentation, effective speaking is more than just “telling.” It is also about making sure your listeners get the message you intend.

To be sure your listeners understand and remember what you have said, select from these strategies, depending on the situation and your comfort level:

  1. Ask rhetorical questions. This is attention-getting, often easy and non-threatening, and makes them think. You also have the advantage of being able to read the room.
  2. Ask for a show of hands. Again, easy to do, easy to get involved, and gives you immediate feedback. There is also a certain power in seeing hands go up all around you in a room.
  3. Ask open ended questions. These questions are designed to elicit discussion. Plan them ahead of time. Start with easy-to-answer questions before asking challenging ones.
  4. Ask them to team up and summarize what they heard. Teams of two or tables of ten can use this technique. You could ask them to make a flipchart and present it to the rest of the listeners.
  5. Begin a discussion. Ask them to tell their seat partner what they heard or what they think about what you just said. Quick and easy, this is also an energizer.
  6. Walk and talk. Before a break, assign teams to take a walk during the break and discuss a question or problem you have posted by the door or on a slide. They can all work on the same issue, or you can assign them different discussion questions, then when they return, ask them to summarize their discussions.
  7. Ask them a question or pose a problem that requires them to apply what you just said. This is particularly helpful when the subject matter is applied to their worlds, such as “What would you do if…..”
  8. Ask them to solve a problem. Again, be sure it applies to their situation or their work. This is great when they are learning a new process, or when you want to keep them engaged.
  9. Ask them to guess what happened, or what the solution was. This turns your example into a case study and is a great way to engage listeners in real learning. You can also find out if and where they get stuck, and then walk them through the solution.
  10. Ask them to provide an example as a case study. Be specific about what you are asking so that you get an example that is illustrative of your content. Be sure to get the whole group brainstorming solutions.
  11. Ask them to teach part of the content. Toward the end of a meeting or training session, assign parts of the content and have people teach it back or review it for the rest of the listeners. Again you will have a chance to correct misinformation or fill in any blanks as needed.
  12. Give them a quick quiz or test. Letting listeners know there will be a quiz at the end is generally a great motivator for them to listen well. In addition, it is a chance to see how well they have learned the content, and can act as a review and reinforcement.
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