1 simple question to increase audience participation

Tackle the difficult challenge of encouraging participation in training programs by asking this simple question and waiting for a response


"A type of vehicle approach?"

"Anyone?"

"Pa ... Pass ... approach?"

A facilitator asks a group of tactical officers,
A facilitator asks a group of tactical officers, "What questions do you have?" before a training simulation. (Greg Friese)

"Anyone?"

"Passenger side approach."

Enticing, encouraging and cajoling patrol officers during roll call, tactical officers during a training briefing, members of a presentation audience, or academy students to respond to questions, let alone ask questions of their own, is one of the most difficult challenges trainers and educators face. Regardless of the setting, use this tip to improve participation.

What questions do you have?

"Do you have any questions?" is a “yes” or “no” question and almost always results in a “yes” or “no” answer. You've participated in the awkward silence after the instructor, presenter or team leader asks, "do you have any questions?" Most often members of the audience sit like statues giving a silent affirmation of not having questions. 

Instead of saying, "Do you have any questions," try asking, "What questions do you have?"

Then count to 10 slowly in your head.

While you are counting the audience is realizing you haven't asked them a "yes" or "no" question, but have instead invited them to engage with you. It is an enlightening moment and you'll see some of them sit more upright in their seats, lean forward and prepare to raise their hand. 

This gives audience members the time to think of a question, organize how they want to ask their question, and then ask the question.

As the instructor, the 10 seconds of silence is really hard but count slowly. Counting to 10 seconds will seem like an agonizing amount of dead air, but it works. The audience needs the time to think, prepare and commit. Trust me, someone will step into the opportunity to participate.  

Say the words exactly and patiently

Keep using the exact phrase, “What questions do you have?” and members, students and participants will learn to expect your prompt. After a few repetitions, they will begin asking questions before you can count to five seconds.

How do you encourage participation in training discussions? Share your tips and tricks in the form below.

Learn more

I discussed this technique of asking the audience for questions with Ginger Locke, paramedic and host of the Medic Mindset podcast. Locke uses our conversation as a jumping-off point for an exploration of the importance of listening, especially during patient assessment.

Police1 Readers Respond

  • Algo que me ha funcionado es seleccionar una persona y pedirle que narre una situación en la que le resulte útil aplicar lo que le he enseñado. (Google translate, "One thing that has worked for me is to select a person and ask them to narrate a situation in which it would be useful for them to apply what I have taught them.")
     

NEXT: 5 steps to improving your demonstrations

What questions do you have?

What are your ideas, tips and tricks for increasing participant engagement during law enforcement training? 

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