Training volunteers for your event – your success or your downfall?

Let’s get down to it – not training your volunteers may save you money in the short term. But, in the long run, it’ll probably have a very negative impact on the experience of attendees to your event.

Why?

Having volunteered at a wide range of events, I’ve witnessed, a lack of understanding when it comes to training volunteers. While months of planning may go into the event itself, often volunteers are a last minute after thought and there can be a lack lustre approach to training volunteers as a result. Unfortunately, volunteers can be seen as a money saver, a last minute addition to the event and an alternative to paying staff. Often, event staff are working hard to ensure the smooth running of the event and hope that volunteers can hit the ground running on the day, without any training.

What many event organisers, staff and managers forget is that volunteers are often the only engagement event attendees will have with your team. They are your events’ eyes and ears and they are the public facing aspect of your event. Let’s not forget they too are your event partners.

So what could possibly go wrong if I don’t train volunteers at my event?

• A new volunteer is trying to assist event participants but gives incorrect directions as they never received a briefing beforehand
• A volunteer hasn’t been given a clear role description and is unclear on their duties. They would like to check with a team leader but have not been introduced to anyone who appears to be in charge and has no method to communicate with Event Control.
• A volunteer is asked about an event sponsor by a person attending an event. The volunteer has no idea what service the title sponsor provides.

Volunteer training is a time for your volunteers to be instructed on task specifics and to be introduced to the other members of the team, both staff and fellow volunteers. Volunteers seek training that gives them event insider status and a sense of job ownership. This training makes your volunteers feel included, valued and ultimately empowers your volunteers to make decisions on the ground. All the while making your event run smoother.

Stuart Garland (@StuartGarland) works as Training & Programmes Manager of Volunteer Ireland, an organisation that provides a broad range of volunteer management supports to events and festivals to help them better manage their volunteers. From staff and volunteer training design and delivery through volunteer management software delivery to full on site volunteer programme management. For more information visit www.volunteer.ie and www.eventvolunteers.ie

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