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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.

~ January 2007 ~ Topics

Handling Disruptive Questions
Tips on Speech Notes
Experiential Learning Model

Handling Disruptive Questions

Training is clicking along and someone interrupts with a disruptive question or the same person asks question after question after question, rarely with a point. Here are some tips to handle that individual.

  1. Break eye contact. As you answer look at the person, but quite shortly into your answer break eye contact and look at another person in the room. This has the effect of keeping the person from asking you yet another question. It is a non-verbal way to say you are moving on.
  2. Keep answers brief. Short answers send the message soon that the type of question being asked is not quite relevant or appropriate.
  3. Offer options. If the question does require more detail or to shut down the questioner say, "If you would like more details I'd be happy to share them with you later."
  4. Make sure the person is not lost. Sometimes the chronic questioner is lost because of information overload. The best way to prevent this is with a clear handout that is numbered, so everyone can follow the thinking of the trainer. Then refer to the points by number as you proceed.

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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Tips on Speech Notes

Managers of volunteer programs are frequently in the position of speechmaker, rather than trainer. The person goes to the local service club or college class and presents information on programs and volunteer opportunities. In most cases the person uses notes (and if you are not, you should) to make key points. Here are some tips on making a polished speech when using notes.

Type on note cards. Using your printer get those notes on actual note cards. 4 x 6 or 5 x 8 are those used most often. Double or triple space and use a 14-type font for easy reading. The idea is key words on each card, as then you will talk more conversationally.

One thought per card. Each card needs to relate to one idea, concept, or fact. Use a highlighter pen to underscore what is the key message for that card.

Number the cards. Each card gets a number. What if you drop them as you walk to the podium? It is easy to rearrange if they are numbered.

Arrange cards on lectern or podium. Put card #1 on the left side of the stand, with rest of the pages to the right. As you are speaking, pages 1 and 2 are always in front of you. Transition from card # 1 to #2 becomes seamless. As you are talking about # 2 card, move it to the left on top of # 1 to reveal card # 3 and so on.

Experiential Learning Model

Experiential Learning is much talked about in adult education. It is a model of training that fully engages a learner, based on something he/she has actually experienced. In reviewing the effectiveness of training it is helpful to use the model for experiential learning and see if you are providing the opportunity for all the steps in the model. There will be a higher retention rate if you do so. For some, this diagram is review, for others a new notion about how to organize training.


1. Experiencing is the activity phase of training (talking at someone is not experiential). There is an exercise, case study, sharing, or group problem solving.
2. Publish refers to the participant talking or writing about his/her reaction to the training. This usually leads to data generation for the learner. This can usually to people outlining their thinking, aloud or in writing.
3. Process occurs at the end of publish when the learner internalizes the information and begins the transfer process from the classroom to the "real" world.
4. Learners generalize information from the processing phase to develop rules or principles or guidelines related to what he/she has learned.
5. The last step is not application, because the learner is not in his/her real environment. It is the step where the person plans how the information can be applied to the real world.

There are those who believe that the process starts over again when the learner reaches the application stage, as new experiences guide them to new learnings, hence the broken arrow in the diagram above.


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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