The first question in a training class is the most important question of the day. It doesn’t matter what the question is. More importantly, how the trainer responds to the question will set the tone for the entire class – whether that is one hour or several days. Having participants feel comfortable asking the “dumb questions”, or repeatedly asking the same question, is a sign of success for a trainer.
The goal of a trainer is to create a safe, comfortable and engaging environment for participants to absorb new information, play with it a bit and even try to break it. They cannot do this if they feel uncomfortable asking questions, making comments and even, cringe, challenging the instructor. The trainer must be seen as approachable for this to happen.
When the first question is asked, the trainer needs to take it seriously – the rest of the class is watching and noting the response. No eye-rolling, no deep sigh, nothing that would show frustration or annoyance with the question. Even go so far as to ask if there are other questions before moving on. Setting the tone of “all questions are welcome” in the beginning is much easier than dragging questions from a hesitant audience later.
This precept is valuable in all areas of life, questions aren’t just for the classroom after all. Job interviews, meetings, networking events, etc. The first question is the most important question.