Deciding When to Take Questions

One of the features that distinguishes training courses from other sources of learning, such as reading books and trial and error, is the opportunity for trainees to ask questions to the trainer. A competent trainer not only knows how to handle trainee questions well but also knows when to allow for questions to be asked in the first place and when to answer them.

At End of Session

There are several ways in which to select the time for answering trainee questions. One approach is to inform trainees from the very beginning of the training session, perhaps during the part where you are setting ground rules, that you will be providing time for questions, let’s say half an hour or so, at the very end of the training session and that they are not allowed to ask any questions during the session itself. You can ask trainees to write down any questions that may come to their minds during the session in order not to forget them by the end of the session when the time for questions comes. You may even supply participants with paper in order for them to use it for that purpose.

The beauty of this method is that the training session goes on smoothly without interruptions or getting sidetracked to other unrelated topics. This allows the rest of the trainees to keep their focus and be happy. However, one drawback of postponing all trainee questions to the very end of the training session is that some trainees would just skip writing down some of the questions they may have and thus such questions would probably go unanswered. Moreover, the energy, mood and state of mind for wanting to ask the question and being fully receptive to receive its answer might change or vanish completely as the time for questions at the end of the training session comes.

All the Time

On the other extreme side lies an opposite way for specifying the time for answering questions where the trainer allows trainees to ask whatever question they might have at whatever time they like during the training session even if this means repeatedly interrupting the trainer in mid speech. The biggest drawback of this approach clearly is disturbing the flow of the session and making the rest of the trainees unable to follow, unfocused and unhappy. The advantage of this approach is that it allows trainees to ask all questions they might have and do so when the state of their mind is best suited for receiving and absorbing an answer. After answering the question, the trainer must have the ability to instantly continue from where he had been stopped right before the question was asked.

At End of Each Part

The third and final approach is the one I like most and have found to be the most productive. The third approach takes the best of the two worlds to strike a balance between the previously mentioned two methods. The trainer simply states that he would be taking questions after finishing each part of the training session. After fully explaining something, the trainer then asks trainees if they have any questions about what he has just finished explaining. This approach provides trainees ample opportunity for asking questions when such questions are still fresh in their minds while guarding against any interruptions on the middle of explanations by the trainer.

Conclusion

Although the third approach is usually the best one overall yet for short presentations, in contrast to a long training day, the first approach of keeping questions to the very end of the session should be more suitable. In some occasions as well the second approach of allowing questions at any time might be tolerated if it dose not bother the rest of the participants.

Which of the three methods for setting training time do you prefer? Is there a fourth method you have experienced?

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