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The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.


~ July 2005 ~ Topics

PowerPoint—A teaching Device: Some Tips

PowerPoint is a teaching device, much as an overhead, movie, video, white board, or easel are teaching devices. Many trainers treat PowerPoint as if it were a teaching technique. They put up the key points of their presentation and then lecture, flipping from screen to screen as they talk. This is a lecture, and the presenter could have mailed the notes and save everyone's time coming to a meeting. Adult learners are increasingly complaining about the ineffectiveness of this form of training. In fact, retention rates for such presentations are less than 30%. This means 70% of the content is lost for the average learner. So, you want to use PowerPoint, but how? Here are some ideas to make for better presentations, using PowerPoint.

  • Mix up the training activities: partner discussion, small groups, writing, and the like. Lecture (PowerPoint) should be less than 25% of the overall presentation.
  • Keep the number of PowerPoint visual to a minimum. Key points only, not the entire lecture.
  • Simplify the individual slides: pictures, large type, one or two words.
  • Choose pictures over text. Graphics, photographs, charts, comparison graphs can be used as a discussion started. "Here you can see what happened in 2003 and again in 2004. Why do you think there was a difference? Talk to the person sitting next to you about the differences." Then sample the ideas of the group. Likely, the point the presenter wants to make will be expressed by a learner.
  • Keep the pace moving. Not slide in place for too long. 45 seconds or less.

Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Slide Show on a Shoestring, by Nancy Macduff. Details for Slide Shows Book

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Listening Styles Are Different

Not all listening styles are the same. Just as learning styles are different, so too are listening styles. Trainers need to keep this in mind when presenting information to groups. Watson, Barker, and Weaver (1995) defined listening styles as a "set of attitudes, beliefs, and predispositions about the how, where, when, who, and what of the information reception and encoding process." Here is a description of the four dimensions.

People-Oriented—concern for others, emotions, and interests is most important. These are people who try to find common areas of interest with others.

Action-Oriented—this listener wants clear, concise, well-organized, presentations.

Content-Oriented—intellectual challenge is the watchword for this group of listeners. They like complex information, pay attention to detail, and generally withhold judgment.

Time-Oriented—the need for time efficient communication is crucial to this person. They might even ask a trainer how much time will be spent on a specific topic.

For more information on these listening types, you can order the test, with an interpretation guide from Jossey-Bass (address is below):
Listening Styles Profile, Combo Package: Answer Sheet 25 Pack and the Interpretation Guide Sheet 25 Pack
Kittie W. Watson, Larry L. Barker, James Weaver (Instrument co-author), ISBN: 0-88390-465-9, loose-leaf, January 1995, Pfeiffer.

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Getting Volunteers To Training

Getting volunteers to attend training after the initial orientation can be a challenge. Busy people have difficulty squeezing in one more thing. Think creatively about ways to get the volunteer to the training table.

Decide on a clever message to highlight the topics under discussion. Slim it down to a phrase. "50 things you need to know about teenagers (fill in the name of your client), but were afraid to ask." Then date, time, place, trainers, and graphics and white space. Clever, good-looking, concise information are the hallmarks of effective communication about training.

Get the information on a colored 5 x 8 card. Put the cards on the back of stall doors in the bathroom, over urinals in men’s rooms, anywhere there is food or beverage (the water cooler!), near sign in areas, and the list goes on. This is likely to increase awareness and improve attendance.


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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