Getting Up to Speed on Volunteer Duties

Online tutorials give new volunteers tips

6 May 2010

You’ve been elected chair of your IEEE section. Or you’re the section secretary and are filling in for the vice chair while she’s recuperating from an operation. Or you’re thinking about running for an IEEE section office but don’t know all the job entails. Where do you go to learn the basics?

All the information you need is in the new IEEE Quick Start Training for Geographic Unit Leaders, a collection of online tutorials for five volunteer positions: section chair, vice chair, treasurer, secretary, and technical chapter chair.

The tutorials fulfill a request at the 2008 IEEE Sections Congress. Of the attendees’ top 10 recommendations to the IEEE Board of Directors, a leadership training handbook for section officers was the third most popular request. That’s no surprise, considering that IEEE has 331 sections, with at least four officers each, and there are more than 1900 chapters, each with its own chair.

Nearly 2400 members have visited the site since it kicked off in October. Quick Start Training, as it’s called, is the first phase of the IEEE Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE) program. By the end of this year modules focused on specific leadership skills will be also be available, organizers say. The CLE, when fully operational, will be the repository for all the organization’s leadership and volunteer training materials.

The Quick Start training handbook is divided into modules. Each one starts off with a description of a volunteer position and then explains its responsibilities. The section chair module, for example, focuses on nine areas that cover such things as managing section documents, training section officers, publicizing activities, and setting goals. Within each area are links to pages on the IEEE Web site with more information.

The Getting Organized With Tools area, for example, offers tips for running a successful meeting, instructions for preparing meeting minutes, and an explanation of Robert’s Rules of Order, the common procedures for deliberation and debate at meetings and conferences. There are also software programs such as vTools.Meetings to help officers manage a meeting by walking them through such tasks as sending out invitations, accepting registrations, and writing a meeting report.

Each focus area is tailored to the volunteer position. For section treasurer, for example, there’s a glossary of financial terms and IEEE policies that cover bank accounts, investments, and filing financial forms.

Officers of the IEEE Southeastern Michigan Section used the material in January as a basis for the orientation training they provided to section, chapter, and affinity group officers, according to Region 4 Director Don Bramlett. “Feedback from the training coordinators, as well as from attendees, was very positive,” Bramlett says. “The description of each job’s responsibilities were concise but comprehensive.”

More training modules are in development. The second phase, to roll out this year, includes modules for student branch chairs and other operational units. Also planned are new tools such as Dimdim, a Web conferencing service for holding meetings, webinars, and training sessions, as well as making PowerPoint presentations. The third and final phase will include training materials for all IEEE members on nontechnical topics such as leadership skills.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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