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“Anyone, anyone?” This is one of my favorite lines from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, uttered by Ben Stein who played the monotone economics teacher at Ferris’ high school. While lecturing, he would add, “anyone, anyone?” and, without missing a beat, continue to lecture. Meanwhile, we see the glazed over looks and completely disinterested class. It makes me laugh but it also makes me cringe. It reminds me of another expression I hear instructors use all the time, “any questions?”
This is one of the most ineffective ways to ask for questions. Let’s dissect why. First, it’s a closed question and only requires a yes or no response. Second, like our economics teacher, most instructors don’t give learners enough time to formulate their questions. I prefer to say, “What questions or comments do you have about X?” It’s open-ended and a much more inviting way to ask for questions.
The ability to ask effective questions is one of the most important tools in a trainer’s toolkit. It encourages interaction and allows the facilitator to check for understanding. Since most of us are teaching remotely, let’s unlock how to ask questions in a virtual environment.
Determine the purpose for your question
Is the question intended to poll learners for their input, encourage deeper thinking, or draw out comments?
Make sure your questions are concise
Questions should contain only one idea and be stated in familiar language. Let’s make them challenging but answerable.
Ask more closed questions than open-ended questions
Yes, we prefer closed questions in the virtual classroom because they are less time consuming to answer. One suggestion is to lead into an open-ended question by asking a closed question first. For example, “If you’ve used this technique before, please give us a thumbs up. For those of you who have, how did you implement this technique in the workplace? Who would like to share? Please raise your hand.”
Indicate how learners are expected to respond every time you ask a question
This was very new to me when I transitioned to virtual training. Always remember to tell learners how you want them to respond to your question. For example, “Who thinks this is a good approach when dealing with difficult participants? Give us a thumbs up for yes or a thumbs down for no.”
Use the participant’s name when you want a specific person to respond
Only call on participants by name when you want them to respond to an opinion-based question versus questions that have an absolute right or wrong answer. You want to preserve their self-esteem by not putting them on the spot. For example, “Natalie, can you please tell us more about your comment in the chat?”
Use positive reinforcement to thank participants for answering your questions
Use reinforcing words and expressions such as “yes,” “good,” “right,” “correct,” “OK,” “great,” “excellent,” and “I agree.” These positive words show your appreciation and encourage further participation.
Avoid repeating answers after a learner has answered
Constant repeating sets the expectation learners only need to tune in when they hear your voice.
With these tips, you’ll be on your way to asking questions like a pro! For more tips on effective virtual training, check out The Virtual Trainer workshop. It covers other areas, such as how to start a course, engage learners, and present engaging visuals.
What do you do when you ask questions in a virtual environment and what success have you had? Dare I say, “Anyone, anyone?”