Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Creating a Trauma-Informed Presentation

Back in April of last year, I was one of 17 participants selected as part of a community cohort to be trained by Trauma-Informed Oregon on trauma-informed care. The intent of these train-the-trainer workshops was for participants to take the material and make it specifically relevant to our organizations/industries. Knowing that libraries are "a helping profession" and that many of us come into with backgrounds in trauma, I wanted to make my delivery of this content as trauma-informed as possible.

Last week, I held two "countywide conversation" sessions to introduce the concept of trauma-informed care to local staff. It was an in-person iteration of some of the internal Trauma-Informed Care training modules I created and posted on our extranet. A flipped-classroom model, I reasoned, would help staff process the material on their own before having to talk to anyone about it, and the sessions would allow room for discussion for those who'd want to talk about. I also prepared a presentation to introduce the material for these sessions, in the likely event that a staff person would want to attend but not have time to view the referenced modules beforehand (or would need an in-person intro to understand how trauma-informed care is meaningful to our work).

Having attended plenty of conference sessions that didn't take their own advice over the years, I set out to make this presentation as trauma-informed as possible.

Here are some considerations I made in order to achieve this goal. You might want to try them out for even unrelated presentations!

Registration recommended, not required: It's trauma-informed to have registration, so I could anticipate how many people would attend and plan accordingly. I also wanted to make it okay, however, for staff to feel like they could drop in without crashing the party (also trauma-informed). We got 30 registrations, and we ended up with 30 participants-- though, some registrants couldn't attend in the end, and some attendees didn't register. At the time I started planning, I had 22 registered and planned for 40 (so maybe +25-75% attendance if you wanted to try this).

  • I also sent out a Doodle Poll before I opened registration so I could gauge the interest in all parts of the county. The hope was that the highest amount of people who wanted to attend could be able to, and not have to travel across the county to do so. I didn't catch everyone this way, but I was able to do my best to make sure the locations were equitably chosen around the county.
  • Registration was open for two weeks, with a reminder a week before. The registration email included a registration link, location and links to Google Maps of the locations, and the agenda with approximate times. If we had the time I might have opened the registration for longer, but we were butting up against local summer planning as it was.
  • Reminder email to attendees: I collected the email addresses of registered attendees, and sent out an email to them the Monday of the sessions. I thanked them for registering, and then set out some expectations: there will be snacks but feel free to bring your favorite snack or drink; knitting and other fidgeting is welcome; and to dress however they felt best (whether that be sneakers or a suit).
Coloring sheets and fidget toys: I had ordered a box of assorted fidget toys online, but they hadn't arrived in time for the sessions. So I printed off some coloring sheets and brought some crayons to help attendees mitigate stress and process information. The coloring sheets and fidget toys now live in a basket in our conference room, and I'm intending to bring them to every meeting I can remember to bring them to!

Voice Amplifier: A few months ago I got a voice amplifier and I thought this would be a great place to try it out-- in meeting rooms with possible ambient noise. I'm blown away by how inexpensive it was and how good it works. I get not wanting to hook yourself up to a surround sound system for a few people (and yes, social anxiety is a real thing and no, introversion and social anxiety are not the same). Not only it is an accessible practice to wear a mic (calm down, abled people, please don't be self-righteous about the one thing you're actually committing to); once you do get into practice of it you'll realize just how noisy the rest of the world inside meeting rooms truly is. Best part about a voice amplifier for small gatherings is you just have to hook yourself and go, and if you DO have social anxiety you can turn it up enough to where everyone can hear but you don't "sound like you're on a mic", which could help with comfort.

Housekeeping at the beginning of the presentation: Things like duration, reminders, or behavior expectations (it's okay to stand or walk around, etc). Apologies but I do not care at all if the same Library Thought Leaders who hate powerpoint find a short introduction that includes housekeeping boring and I "lose" them. I care more about "losing" staff who may literally not be able to process information without knowing where the exits are and it's okay to leave; or staff whose stress response is activated and are at risk of disassociating and take solace in knowing the exact amount of time remaining before they don't have to heavily employ coping mechanisms if they want to stay. People with backgrounds in trauma are in your presentations too.
  • Icebreakers: if you have to have one, send it ahead of time. That way everyone is listening to everyone else and not worrying about what they'll say when it's their turn.
Choice, choice choice: Plan participatory options into your session and refer to them. No mandatory participation. No "you have to work with someone you don't know very well." Make it okay to say "pass."

These tips are more poignant for heavier topics, but could be useful for any presentations. As trauma-informed care tells us:
-we have no idea what it took (in the day, in the life) to get a person in front of us, and plenty of people have acute stress responses we might not even guess
-EVERY consideration we make is an opportunity for re-traumatization or healing. We may as well try to be healing!

(also, creating a presentation that's accessible can also be trauma-informed.)

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