23May 2020

Questions at the end please.

Questions are a key tool for any trainer.
They can be used in many ways and for many reasons: finding out information; developing rapport; establishing direction or even asserting authority.
Sometimes you may wish to stimulate interaction: other times not.
Sometimes you may wish to encourage free expression: other times not.
Understanding our approach to questions will go a long way to setting the tone of our training.

Firstly: do we want to encourage questions?
Normally the answer would be 'Yes'
However before we can answer 'Yes' we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve.
In the simplest terms - will lots of enthusiastic and stimulating questions accelerate the flow of the training or slow it down?
On occasions a raft of free-flowing questions can be a recipe for chaos.

Clearly - the statement:
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
will set a certain level of expectation within the room.
It suggests that free unfettered interaction is not the aim of the session; it also puts the trainer in the role of 'Leader' and signals that there is an agenda to be followed.
With a large group, or limited time, putting off questions until the end may be the only practical solution to guarantee all the material is covered properly.

'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
can be used when there is a danger that regular interruptions could detract from the flow of complex material; or maybe with material that may seem unclear at the outset, but where the trainer is confident that most of the likely questions will be answered along the way.
In which case putting a brake on spontaneous questions would probably enable the students to benefit more from the session.

'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
is also a useful way of indicating gently that the tone of the session is more aimed at offering information than opening up a free discussion.  It also suggests that any subsequent questions are probably for further clarification rather than dissection of the material itself.

9 times out of 10 'effective communication' would suggest that we would want to enable our students to express themselves freely during the session;
however we need to be clear about how best to achieve the aims of the session.
Is it better to relinquish or maintain full control?

If the content of the training is broadly set and non-negotiable;
if the time available is limited;
if the purpose of the training is simply to pass on information efficiently,
then a polite
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
at the beginning of the session will set the right tone.
It indicates to the attendees:
I am in charge; you follow me; and any questions later are intended for clarification, not discussion.


This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at The Art of Training and Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course.

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• Very great example; how to express yourself, how to be engaging and how to match body language with what is said.