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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.

~ December 2006 ~ Topics

Attention Span Myths
Add Pizzazz to Guest Speaker Presentations
Health Break Energizer

Attention Span Myths

When you ask most people about an adult's attention span, the response is often 20-30 minutes. In a new book, Carla Rieger, reports that an adult can only concentrate on one thing for seven seconds. After that the mind tends to wander. Her advice: pause often as you speak giving people the opportunity to integrate new things you are saying. Another option is to develop questions to clarify the topic for the listener. For more information visit her Web site http://www.carlarieger.com.

We now have downloadable books available in PDF format. Check out our online bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard now available electonically. Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book

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Add Pizzazz to Guest Speaker Presentations

Guest speakers are frequently invited to speak to volunteers during training. The purpose is to provide detailed information on some aspect of the volunteer's new job or to be a morale booster. Some guest speakers are excellent and require little assistance from the person organizing the training for the volunteers. There is a way to add even more zest to the guest speaker.

Before the person arrives, tell the volunteers who is coming and the purpose of their presentation. Hand each person a 3 x 5 card with lines and ask them to write down questions he/she would like answered. As the person talks, the volunteer needs to cross off those questions answered by the speaker.

When the guest is done, have them ask if there are any questions from the group. The quality of questions is likely to be deeper and more relevant and provided spirited interchange.

Guest speakers do need to be warned that they might be asked question he/she cannot answer immediately. Tell the person that is fine, you have time to get the answer from them and provide it to the volunteer at a later time.

Health Break Energizer

Breaks in afternoon training are quite predictable and not always energizing. Why not try a health break. It is healthy to be sure, but is really more about energizing adults whose attention can wane after 3:00 p.m.

Start with oldies music, in the manner of Richard Simmons, "Sweating To the Oldies" tapes and CD's. Then take the group through low-impact aerobic exercises: arm swings, simple stretches, toe touches. Offer juice, water, yogurt, fruit, and vegetables as snacks. This is not a real workout, but rather a fun way of energizing folks to increase retention of the training material.


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://tltc.shu.edu/npo/. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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