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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.

~ September 2006 ~ Topics

Training Volunteers to Work with People with Physical Disabilities
Humor in Training
Action Closer

Training Volunteers to Work with People with Physical Disabilities

Volunteers in your organization might encounter an individual with some physical disability. Do they know how to behave in a manner that is not offensive, and is helpful, if needed? Be sure to remind them to focus on the person, not the disability. Here are some tips that could be discussed and practiced in a training session.

Offer to shake hands with a disabled person. If the person is visually impaired the volunteer might say, “Shall we shake hands?” If the response is yes, then reach out and touch the hand of the person to initiate the handshake.  
  A person in a wheel chair is not necessarily deaf. No shouting. Practice talking in a normal tone of voice to someone sitting in a wheel chair.
If possible, sit down to talk to someone is a wheel chair or electric scooter. This makes conversation not such a “neck-breaker” for both parties, one of whom is looking up and the other down.  
  Do not touch or lean on a wheel chair, without permission. It is considered an extension of the person. Imagine leaning on their legs while you are talking. Few people would do that. The chair can represent “legs” to the person in the chair.
Never help without asking if it is needed. If you are turned down in the offer of help, do not push it.
  In speaking with a hearing impaired person who has an interpreter, speak to the person, not the interpreter.
Be sure to speak clearly and to the face of a hearing impaired person. Many read lips and that cannot be done if you are turned away. Be sure the person can see you.  
  NEVER pet a service dog. The dog is working when it is with its owner. Your attempt at affection can interfere with that work.
Announce your presence to an individual with visual impairments. Do not arrive quietly and startle someone.  

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Humor in Training

Any book or guideline on public speaking or training urges the trainer/speaker to have fun and exhibit a sense of humor. Comedic timing, appropriateness of material, and “being funny” do not come naturally to most people. Here are some tips on using humor in the classroom.

  1. Do not introduce yourself in a humorous way, unless your reputation has preceded you.
  2. Never use humor to cover up a lack of preparation or lack of knowledge on a topic.
  3. Make fun of yourself, but never others. Self-effacing humor demonstrates confidence. People who are secure have the ability to laugh at themselves.
  4. Laugh with people—not at them. Someone sharing a painful moment might describe something that tickles your funny bone. Be cautious about laughing, unless the person laughs.
  5. If you use jokes or tales or stories, make sure they relate to the topic of the training.
  6. Never tell a story or joke just to be funny. Believe in the joke as having a relationship to what you are teaching.
  7. Practice. Practice. Practice. Good humor seems spontaneous, but is practiced in advance.
  8. Use good delivery techniques.

    Know the lines, joke, story—especially the punch line.
    Be confident.
    Never announce a joke, simply tell it.
    Pause for the punch line, then wait two beats for laughter to begin to subside.
    Keep stories, jokes, tales short.

  9. Avoid ethic or sexist jokes and/or stories. NEVER!
  10. Give people permission to laugh. If you laugh and enjoy yourself, learners will relax and follow your lead.
  11. Have a saver line handy if a joke or story “bombs.” “That joke usually works . . . with my kids (dog, wife, husband, mother).

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Action Closer

Training is often designed to lead to action. TABB is a system to allow the participant to reflect on what they have learned, own that learning, and make a commitment to further action. It can usually be done in 5 – 10 minutes at the end of the session.

  • Distribute the TABB form
  • Review the instructions
  • Ask people to share their action steps, if they wish.
Thing, Action, Barriers, Benefits (TABB)

Directions: The challenge from any training is follow-through. This form is designed to help you sort out:

  • what you have learned
  • how you would like to put it into action
  • the barriers to doing that, and
  • the benefits you will get from implementing this new thing.
T What is the most important thing you learned from today’s class?
A What action steps would you like to take on that idea?
B Are there barriers that will keep you from reaching your goals?
B What rewards or benefits do you expect from taking this action?

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Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard. Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book

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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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