Question techniques in Group Training

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Question technique is a very useful tool in any training session. During theory instruction to group, it is perhaps the most powerful technique of all. The greater the degree of involvement by the trainees, the greater their commitment will be to your standards.

  • Ideally, you should encourage the trainees to ask questions as you go along, although this might not always be possible in a large class.
  • Telling the group to wait for a separate Q&A (question and answer) session at the end of the training is a great technique for presentations that are easy to grasp, and if you are limited in time. However, it isn’t a great technique for training sessions where you have a mixed group of trainees or if it is a complex topic; you risk leaving people behind if they fail to grasp the fundamental points.
  • Spontaneous questioning helps keep things informal. It gives you a chance to stop speaking for a few seconds, something which you will rapidly come to appreciate. Also, this type of technique is great if your trainees are sitting in front of a computer and you can’t see the computer screens. Keep asking “what do you see….?”, “Steven, what does the screen show now?” These questions keep you informed of the trainees progress, and keeps them on their toes as they will become aware that you will be questioning them.
  • As well as answering these questions, you should also try to learn from them. The questions will give you instant feedback on how well you are explaining the topic and whether you are moving at the right speed.
  • Listen to the questions carefully and adjust the pace accordingly. They will also help you identify topics which might need a different treatment on future occasions.
  • When answering a question, try hard never to make the trainee regret asking it. There are few things worse than asking a question and then being made to feel that the answer is obvious or is something the instructor covered ten minutes ago.
  • If you did just cover the topic, never make a point of saying so. Instead, say something like “I obviously didn’t explain that very well; let me put it another way…. ”
  • Make a point of addressing your answers to the class as a whole. This will imply that the question is of value to everyone. And it never does any harm to prefix your response with “Good question” or “I’m glad you asked that”.
  • If the trainees are reluctant to ask questions, try asking some yourself, for example, “Who can tell me the best method for… ?”. If silence still reigns, try a technique which professional trainers call the pregnant pause: simply wait, for as long as it takes. Sooner or later someone will say something, if only to end the embarrassing silence. It is surprising how often this technique will encourage a response from someone who would not otherwise open his or her mouth.
  • When seeking responses in this way, favour open questions over closed ones: “Why would you want to use this feature?” or “What’s wrong with that approach?”
  • Follow up the answers with: “Has anyone got any other views on that?” This is a good way of promoting discussion.
  • Do encourage discussions, but make sure they are kept under control and are relevant to the topic. They can provide you with additional feedback, help vary the pace, and make the trainees feel involved. Don’t overdo them however, as they are not meant to be a substitute for teaching. Three to five minutes of discussion every hour or so is probably the right amount to aim for.

Tips for asking questions

Reasons for asking questions

  • to establish existing knowledge of individuals in the group
  • to recap on previous sessions
  • to gain interest in the subject
  • to maintain interest and keep group members alert
  • to get maximum involvement of all individuals – particularly shy and quiet trainees
  • to check understanding at the end of the training
  • to stay in control of the pace and flow of training

Types of questions

1. Testing Questions – questions which test a trainee’s knowledge

  • use during the introduction to create interest or to refer back to previous sessions
  • use during the sessions to recap, though only if necessary
  • use during the consolidation phase to test whether all the new information has been understood and can be accurately recalled

2. Teaching Questions – questions on points which have not yet been taught, but must be reasoned out by the trainee, who will provide answers based on experience, observations and the information already established during the training session. What delegates have concluded for themselves they are less likely to forget.

Framing questions

You should start by knowing the answer you require. This will be the information you want to transfer to the learner, and you will have this organised into a logical order by analysing your material first. Then frame a question to elicit the response you require. The best types of question to ask in these situations are Open Questions.

Open questions start with the words:


You may also find Open Phrases useful such as:

“Please expand on that for me?”
“Explain to me……”
“Describe for me………”

Questions to avoid

  • vague questions
  • complex questions
  • questions which allow the trainee to guess

Posing questions to the group

Pose         the question
Pause      so that the whole group benefits from thinking out the answer
Place      the question to the person you would like to answer the question
· You can use this technique to encourage contributions from quieter members of the group and also to control the more dominant trainees who like to answer all the questions.
Questions should be fairly divided amongst the group so that everyone has a chance to contribute equally.

How to handle answers

Answer Correct         Confirm that it is correct and praise. Build on this answer by asking more questions.
Answer Incorrect         Rephrase in case it was not understood. If the trainee still does not know the answer, get the group or another member to help.
Answer Partially Correct       Identify and praise the correct part and rephrase the question for the part that is wrong.
No Answer                Check that the question has been understood, prompt trainees, recap or rephrase.

Types of questions and their usage

1. The overhead or Shotgun – Ask the group as a whole. This is a great question to ask if you want to encourage answers. Here, everyone has the chance to answer but watch out for the trainees that will attempt to answer all your questions and those who make no attempt.

“What do you all think is the solution to this problem?”

2. The Return – Used as a reply to a question from the group. The question is rephrased and directed back to the same person. This is a great technique to use if you’re unsure about the question asked or if you feel the questioner is ‘trying to trip you up’.

“OK, Karen you’ve asked what our best solution is. I’d like to ask you – in your own work, what would be the best solutions?”

“That’s an interesting point, Philip. What are your concerns about this technique?”

“Not quite sure the point you’re making. What prompted the question?”

3. The Direct, or Rifle Shot – Aimed at one individual. This is effective if you wish to involve a quieter member of the group. Use their name at the front of the question to allow them to think of an answer. If you have someone who blatantly isn’t listening or chatting; ask the question first and use their name at the end. If they haven’t been listening they won’t be able to answer correctly.

“Gary, what do you think our best solution is?”

“What should the process produce if we use this method? Hillary”

4. The Relay Question – This is used when you rephrase a question from one member of the group and then relay it to another member of the group, for them to answer.

“Adeola, Toni has asked what the best solution is. In light of your experience, will you tell us what you feel is the best solution?”

5. The Multiple Relay Question – This is one of the best questioning techniques to encourage full group interaction. You start with one member of the group and relay the answer to all members. The beauty of this technique is that everyone knows that an answer is expected. It can take the pressure off the trainer, as he/she will have a clear understanding of the group’s knowledge or level of competence.

“We’ll start with Karen. Can everyone give me one application of this technique that they will now use to increase their productivity?”

Excellent presentation skills give you a platform to demonstrate your sales skills, leadership qualities, communication skills, influencing abilities and promotion potential. Our objective over the two days is to teach you the skills and techniques that will give you both the confidence and competence to enjoy making presentations in all situations. We will be giving action points to sharpen your image; reduce nerves; allow you to appear both confident and competent and increase your credibility in the eyes of colleagues and clients.

PowerPoint presentation skills, Advanced Presentation skills and Presentation skills are three of the courses trained by Total Success Training, a training consultancy specialising in communication training and management skills in London and throughout the UK. Other related courses include sales presentation skills, training the trainer, assertiveness skills, selling skills, negotiation skills and communication skills for managers. Click here if you need more information regarding presentation skills course information or contact Total Success who will be delighted to talk to you via e-mail.