Question Tags

Little questions distributed through the training are great for keeping things on track:
Does that make sense?
Are we OK?
Is that clear?

They are particularly useful for the little ground rules that might meet resistance.

If you know at the beginning of a session that you have a room full of avid texters, tweeters or technology junkies, the sensible strategy would be to handle that straight away.
Typically one would say:
'We will have regular breaks during the session, so could I ask you to put phones on silent or even switch them off while we are in class.'
As the trainer, you now think the issue has been resolved!
But No!
Why? - because the students have not had to respond.
A simple little follow up question makes all the difference:
'Is that OK with everyone?'

Now as a student, I have been asked a direct question and I will probably at least nod in response.

Depending on the character and style of the trainer, the statement:
'We will have regular breaks during the session, so could I ask you to put phones on silent or even switch them off while we are in class.'
could sound a bit imperious.  Most of us don't like to be told what to do and even though that statement is phrased as a conditional question, it still sounds like a command.

So now I am probably sitting there thinking:
'I don't agree with that. I love my phone.  I don't like being told what to do.  In fact I am going to pretend that I have not heard and keep my phone switched on.'

The value of the follow up question:
'Is that OK with everyone?'
is that it sounds less like an order and it requires a response.

Therefore the trainer asks the question and looks around the room for the response.
Most people will nod. 
Sometimes you will see no physical reaction at all.
That may just be a very quiet undemonstrative person, or maybe there is some resistance.
In some cases you may feel it is not the right time to check the response in front of everyone, so you just store that information and carry on; other times you might feel it is wiser to bring any potential resistance out into the open.

I remember asking that question about mobile phones and everyone agreed, except for one lady who looked a bit uncomfortable and did not respond.
I checked with her again (gently, non-threatening): 'Are you OK with that?'
And she said that actually her sister was over 9 months pregnant and expecting at any moment and that she would be very uncomfortable if she had to switch off her phone.
Obviously she should keep her phone on!

If I had not given her the opportunity to express her situation, either she would have complied unhappily and worried about her sister all through the session (and therefore not concentrated on the training), or she would have kept her phone on, and maybe even felt a little guilty because she was 'breaking the rules'.

Little follow on questions and question tags are very helpful.
They give you feedback and guidance.
They may give you useful information; at the very least they will give you clues.

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of 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 here