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How do you encourage fellow leaders to attend roundtable?

Tuesday-TalkbackIf a Scouter attends one Cub Scout or Boy Scout roundtable, he or she will be hooked.

Chances are you’ll see that person next month and the month after.

But how do you encourage a fellow Scouter to attend roundtable in the first place? That’s when things get tricky, and it’s the subject of our latest Tuesday Talkback.

Sure, you could try peer pressure. But that’s not very Scout-like. You could tell this Scouter about all the great resources he or she will get at roundtable — resources designed to be used right away in the pack or troop. But that won’t work on everyone.

A Scouter from New England who emailed me recently is looking for new ideas. Here’s what this Scouter, who asked to remain anonymous, had to say:

How do you attract, entice, encourage or “arm-twist” leaders to attend roundtable?

Is this a generation issue? Time constraint? Has roundtable outlived its usefulness in the day of instant resources on the Internet?

I seek to hear others’ successes, not the “why people should attend” or simply that “everyone should attend,” but new ideas.

What is roundtable?

Is roundtable a foreign word to you? Here’s how the BSA defines this important part of being a Scout leader:

Roundtable is a form of commissioner service and supplemental training for volunteers at the unit level. The objectives of roundtables are to provide leaders with program ideas; information on policy and events; and training opportunities. It is a forum for sharing experiences and enjoying fun and fellowship with other Scout leaders. When skillfully executed, the roundtable experience will inspire, motivate, and enable unit leaders to provide a stronger program for their Scouts.

What resources are available?

The BSA offers its 2015-2016 Roundtable Planning Guide for free via this link. That makes your job of planning or preparing for a roundtable much easier.

13 ways to encourage leaders to attend

These are adapted from previous editions of Scouting magazine, which has been a roundtable resource for more than 100 years.

  1. Start a publicity campaign. Many leaders have no idea what roundtable is or who may attend. Be sure to promote roundtable on websites, newsletters and using email and Facebook.
  2. Incentivize newcomers. One district in San Antonio developed an honor patrol system. The troop with the best attendance was given the district’s Scout stave to decorate with the troop’s number. Bonus points went to troops with first- and second-time attendees. To make things more fair for smaller troops, the district used a percentage system. (In other words, five of 10 leaders attending would beat six of 13.)
  3. Challenge unit commissioners. If you have dedicated and enthusiastic unit commissioners, they’ll encourage their units to attend roundtables — even offering them a ride if possible.
  4. Feed them. One district in North Carolina serves a troop-sponsored meal at each roundtable. Scouters pay a small fee to cover this expense. If a full meal isn’t possible, at least offer refreshments like snacks, soda and coffee.
  5. Play games. Our Scouts love games, so why wouldn’t the grown-ups? Games and competitions can make roundtables a highlight of any Scouter’s month.
  6. Stick to a schedule. Start on time and end on time. Include both the start and end time on the agenda to keep you honest. If your roundtable develops a reputation for going well into the night, more people will skip it.
  7. Encourage unit participation, not individual participation. Instead of encouraging every leader from every unit to be there, ask units to send a different person each month. That leader is asked to report back what he or she learned to the unit. This way more leaders are exposed to the magic of roundtables.
  8. Consider the audience. With a new leader who hasn’t attended, make a personal request to them. A Facebook invite probably won’t work. With a seasoned Scouter who hasn’t been to roundtable, ask that person to teach their skills. They’ll feel important and will return.
  9. Reward attendance. At your district awards banquet, give a plaque or trophy to the pack or troop with the best overall roundtable attendance.
  10. Offer breakout sessions. If you’re worried that some of the topics covered at roundtable won’t be useful to every single attendee, split your schedule into breakout sessions where leaders can choose from subjects that interest them. Breakout topics could include climbing, cooking, camping, games, campfires or pretty much anything else that interests you.
  11. Involve the youth. Scouting’s for the youth, so have them lead the opening ceremony and a skit or song. Then be sure to offer something to keep them occupied while the adults discuss roundtable topics.
  12. Combine and conquer. Instead of splitting Cub Scout and Boy Scout roundtables into separate events, some districts combine them to encourage unity. They include a breakout portion where Cub Scouters and Boy Scouters can discuss topics specific to their program.
  13. Share the work. Don’t let one Scouter do all the roundtable planning. That’s how things get stale and volunteers get burned out.

Your ideas?

What has made your roundtable a success?

This is Tuesday Talkback, after all, so share your ideas in the comments section below.

67 Comments on How do you encourage fellow leaders to attend roundtable?

  1. Make it fun! We had roundtable the same night as Eagle BOR for the district, and had the honor of always meeting the newest Eagle Scouts in the district. They would be brought in, introduced, and recognized. It was always a special treat. As CM, I would just invite the pack leaders – some went reluctantly, some had reasons they couldn’t go, some attended regularly. Keep inviting.

  2. I think a lot of it is driven by content – if the content if good and the presenters enthusiastic, people will attend.

    Our committee chair attended a recent roundtable, and she said the meeting consisted of someone literally reading – slowly and deliberately – each requirement of the three citizenship merit badges! And then another presenter got up and read, word for word, 6 pages from the Webelos handbook. Her comment was, “the meeting was 90 minutes, but it felt like 90 years.”

    Our council splits the cub scout and boy scout round tables and they are in adjacent rooms. whenever I go to round table I hear lots of excitement, cheering, and activity in the cub scouts meeting. I’ve never understood why that same energy can’t be a part of both round tables.

    • I would recommend you take those comments to your ADC for Roundtable and your DC. They should know what is happening and can make the adjustments to make it better.

    • Content is key. I don’t need any games or special prizes for attending. Don’t waste my time; I already go to 4 meetings a month plus a camp out for the troop. I’ve been to 2 RT over the past year, and both were very disappointing. Especially frustrating when you go for info on the upcoming camporee and the host doesn’t have any information prepared to tell you.

      • Voice your concerns to your commissioner staff the only way it will get better is if you say domething.

    • I went through something similar with the breakout session for Unit Commissioners. The instructor was as dry as can be and eventually I just stopped going.

  3. 1. Tell everyone that RT gives you information and skills that will help you deliver BETTER program with LESS effort.
    2. Have useful or at least interesting program. Ideally something the participants want (based on the annual interest survey), or at least topical (eg, preparing for winter camping). Don’t just go through announcements, announcements, announcements.
    3. Some training awards (“knots”) require a certain number if RT attendances. Keep score and award RT Chits when they earn the number. Print up business card sized chits for simple recognitions.
    4. Encourage unit commissioners to meet their units at RT. It helps all of us.

    Who can add more?

  4. H. David Pendleton // January 5, 2016 at 9:32 am // Reply

    1. Make sure that whoever is in charge, has it planned out. Nothing worse for a volunteer to show up expecting to learn something and find out that it was a total waste of their time because it wasn’t planned properly.
    2. Ask for feedback on what the adults want for program. This is especially true for Cub Scout leaders who turn over quite often and are often inexperienced. By asking for their input, the adults are more likely to buy in to the program. I know that national has a program plan, but like politics . . . it is all local. What works well in Maine in November might not be the same as Southern California.
    3. As someone said, don’t make it a continual stream of announcements as it is “preaching to the choir.” If they are at RT, they are likely to know about the district/council events unless they are new. Having someone drone on for 5 minutes about ‘Scout Day at the K” is not going to increase attendance. Those that want to make announcements at my RT have to see the staff in advance for approval and get 1 or 2 minutes depending on the subject. The final remark is “see me afterwards if you have questions.” When I joined RT staff, announcements were taking 30 minutes or more of my allotted hour. I started doing announcements at 7:45 PM (we end at 8 PM) followed by the closing flag ceremony.
    4. Send out an email to the adults from the RT staff, NOT someone at the council. We found out that more emails are opened if they are from a lower level than the council. In the email to the Cub Scout RT leaders, I provide them with a short overview about that month’s program in an email the Monday before the Thursday RT. I don’t send out any handouts until after the RT, but offer it to those who cannot attend.
    5. Ask all the current attendees to bring 1 more adult from their pack/troop/crew to the next RT. If everyone did that, most RTs would need a new venue very soon.

    • David George // January 6, 2016 at 5:35 am // Reply

      Regarding your “ask for feedback” suggestion – is there a simple survey (paper or electronic) you can share? We’ve discussed this option during our planning sessions and would like to implement.

      • H. David Pendleton // January 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm // Reply

        David: It wouldn’t let me put my email in the post. Email me at Henry.D.Pendleton.ctr AT mail.mil.

      • I created a survey on surveymonkey.com
        Google also allows you to create surveys and collect the results.
        You can see my survey here:
        https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CSVGMZZ

  5. Both of our Cub and Boy Scout roundtable planning have been working on using the EDGE method. After all we expect our leaders and youth to use it so should we. Getting the leaders involved with the activity gets them excited about the learning.

    For the last 4 years we have had our May roundtable for Boy Scouts be a cooking demo where the leaders get to cook something they might never have done before. Several of the recent CMs and WEBELO leaders have commented how they can’t wait to move up to be part of that. Might have to expand it.

    • RT Commish struggling with attendence // January 5, 2016 at 10:33 am // Reply

      In our council, volunteers aren’t allowed to use the mass-email system. So all mass-emails come from Council by default (and are often not sent in a timely manner.)

      • RT Commish struggling with attendence // January 5, 2016 at 12:05 pm // Reply

        Ended up attached to the wrong post … sorry. Should have been on the one immediately above.

  6. In a mass E-mail a week advance of each RT:

    – First scentence: “Scouters, please forward to your adults:”
    – Then announce
    — RT date, time, and location.
    — featured topic (topics — if there are breakout sessions).
    — next month’s RT date, time, and location in case they cannot make it this week.
    — a website to refer to for more details.
    — the RT Commissioner’s by-line.

    Then, at the RT meeting, DEVOTE REAL TIME TO YOUR FEATURED TOPIC. For example, if Wood Badge beading takes up more time than the announced topic, you’ve just failed to deliver on a quality round-table. I’m all for beading ceremonies, but for them to be the big deal that scouters would like them to be, they need to be FEATURED … not crammed in with other activities.

    • Please move beading ceremonies away from the RT and Pack/Troop events, or place them at the end of the meeting. They difficult to understand for people who have not attended Woodbadge, and they are long.

    • I disagree about removing them.

      But, if they take up the most time, then they should be the FEATURED topic. Something like “Scouter Achievements/Woodbadge Beading” or “Advanced Leadership Training and Awards”. By the way, I don’t want to single out beading: it could be popcorn sales/awards, rechartering instructions, 20 program announcements when there’s only time for 10, etc … If that’s what your RT is going to be about SAY SO CLEARLY.

      This might lead some scouters to skip that RT (or pack or troop meeting, whatever). But over the long run, those same scouters will attend if they know that the district key three are trustworthy to devote time to what they say they will cover.

      • scoutersully // May 4, 2016 at 10:17 pm // Reply

        Short award presentations, like Summertime Pack award, Scouter’s Training knots, etc. should be fine for RT, as long as there aren’t so many as to take up more than 5-10 minutes total. But a Wood Badge beading takes longer and is more appropriately done at the Scouter’s unit. As a former RT Commish, IMHO, announcements and presentations should take up no more than a total of 15 minutes. The rest of RT should be devoted to breakout topics (CS & BS) and Big Rock topics (combined).

  7. RT needs to be a must attend event….if its not then volunteers look more closely at their time commitment. I drank the juice years ago and went to RT without missing one for years, but now I have so many different hats I have found RT to be an easy skip. Ours to me has become repetitive and just another meet and greet.

  8. RT Commish struggling with attendence // January 5, 2016 at 10:52 am // Reply

    As a RT commissioner, let me offer some candid feedback. The material provided (the RT guide linked above) makes it easier. But at its base, it’s dry and boring material. It’s a meal that needs a lot of seasoning to make it tasty.

    “Leadership Transitions”, “Recruiting Commissioners”, “Staffing the District Committee” … all of those are very important. None of them scream “I’ve gotta go to RT this month!”

    For the Boy Scout leaders, “Chaplain’s Aide”, “Troop Guide and Instructor Roles” … yawn.

    I’m not saying this stuff isn’t important, just that it doesn’t create “must see training”.

    • Just read this stuff, for the first time… What topics did you use this year, not including above,to make it a “Must See Training” topic. I am also Boy Scout RT Commish.

      • Roundtables, especially Cub Scout ones, need to cover the theme for the upcoming month..NOT the current month, to make the material effective. And, drop all the stuff that should be in Basic Training (some of it is not) and at Pow Wow or B-P University and provide what Cub Leaders need. Right now, Roundtables have become sooo dry I don’t want to attend. What happened to the fun? The Songs? The games? Things that go with themes. Oh, I forgot. Dens and Packs don’t necessarily have matching themes any more. Too bad. Rountable used to be easier to put on.

  9. LENNY JENNINGS // January 5, 2016 at 11:43 am // Reply

    I’ve attended Roundtables that had standing room only, and sometimes only one other person showed up, who didn’t speak English, and her eight year old Cub Scout had to be the interpreter. As the years went by, I attended many training sessions,i.e District and Council Roundtables, Pow Wow, Wood Badge, (Beaver/Owl) and the University of Scouting… I think I manage to get my own act together… But, its been sad for me, to meet a Den Leader who’s been in the program with her two sons for over 3 years, and knows nothing of the resources and training available to her. If the Cub Master or Committee people are not attending Roundtable, and the information, is never passed down to the unit level Leaders. (We get off to a bad start.) Scouting is not delivered the way it should be…. and chances are, the new Leaders run out of gas, and drop out. Everyone will tell you they are “Crazy Busy” in today’s society, and at the same time, they want the best for their kids….. and have no idea what Scouting is all about, and how Scouting will help them as a family. ” Because no one has ever told them” You can’t attend Roundtable, if you don’t know it exist. If you want to be a Cub Leader or Committee person you sign up at Roundtable….. P.S. Why not have a “Den and Pack Year Picture” produced by the Scout Shop, with digital cameras, it would be a no brainer. The pictures could be picked up at Roundtable. “You gotta get them in the door”.

  10. Start and end on time!

    The biggest issue we have in our round able is our council is they use roundtable as a way to try and solicite more volunteers and money. The Scouters showing up for round table are already contributing time to the program and the Scouts. They should not be hit up to do more and donate more every time they set foot in an event.

    National & Council are too stuck on numbers. Improve the quality of the program and the numbers will grow.

  11. For me, it’s a 45 mile drive one way. Basically get home, eat, leave, get home late. Just too much, even once a month.

    • It’s a big problem when some districts are as big as some of our former councils. 🙁

      • Not surprising – at least in this area each district (or at least most) are former Councils that merged.

    • With the a quality program, leaders will come. I’m from a very large, rural district, in Maine roughly 60 square miles smaller than the state of New Hampshire. We have leaders who drive 2 hours one way to attend RT. I suppose it helps that the Boy Scout RT Commissioner is one of those who drives 2 hours. Makes it hard for an attendee to say it’s too far away.

      One of our recognition awards at the district banquet is the X Miler award (50, 100, 200, etc.), recognizing the total number of round trip miles all the leaders from each unit traveled to attend roundtable. Even the units a couple miles from the RT location usually qualify for at least the 50. What usually amazes folks is the RT Commissioner’s unit usually doesn’t have the top mileage (which usually rounds out at 1,000 miles for the year).

  12. Amanda Vogt // January 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    Our council offers Venturing Roundtables as well as Boy Scout and Cub Scout Roundtables. They are run by youth officers, and many include teambuilding games, snacks, presentation topics, and other ideas listed above that are run by the youth of different crews. Some of them will happen at an event location (have the meeting, and then use the council’s climbing tower) to encourage people to come.

    However, we still run into problems of getting all the units in the district to send someone. I like some of the attendance ideas you listed in the article, and will suggest the youth give them a try.

    • Bryan Wendell // January 5, 2016 at 1:39 pm // Reply

      Venturing roundtable… Cool! I love it, Amanda.

      • Truly a novel thought! Be nice if someone wrote a manual for it. Oh, wait …
        http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34342.pdf
        😉

      • As an Explorer Post adult leader, I attend our Venturing Round Tables. The program is different but the challenges units and youth face are the same.

      • Our district also had a Venturing Roundtable, but the support was basically nonexistent. Instead of support, I was constantly fighting the accusation of stealing boys. There were a few scouters, usually pack leaders and better informed troop leaders, who supported Venturing and its Roundtable contribution but they were never in the power of position and that unfortunately is the only support that really matters.

  13. If roundtable is not exciting enough stand up and add something to the meeting. You can add value, excitement and share your ideas. If you are sitting on your hands let the RT leader know you would like to present something. I am sure they will let you add value. Leaders lead, followers follow.

  14. Some tips that have worked for us in rural Maine:
    1. Offer buy-in. We don’t follow the suggested guides from National. Our last meeting in the spring is a planning session for the following year. Any volunteer can suggest a topic or topics for the following year. Attendees then hash over them and lay them out on the calendar. RT staff then spend the summer finalizing the plan and recruiting folks knowledgeable about the topics chosen. Finalized topics are provided in a flyer at the district’s fall kick-off (held in August). We don’t always use other scout leaders. We’ve had the commissioner of our state warden service as a presenter one time. A registered Maine Guide. An Eagle Scout/college student who had just completed a cross-country bicycle trek. And so on. We offer a joint session for announcements (with more details provided by our email newsletter and Facebook) and then split into separate sessions for Cub Leaders and Boy Scout Leaders. Leaders are welcome to attend whichever session they want. I’ve seen units have multiple leaders attend in order to have at least one leader at either session. We take June and July off–Council usually hosts a Popcorn kick-off in June and units are at camp in July. I’m sure some will disagree with that approach.

    2. “Bribery”: The support group for our local scout camp conducts enough fundraising to send two Cub Scouts and one Boy Scout to summer camp. How do they award these camperships? With a raffle at the District Banquet. How do you get a raffle ticket? Every time a leader from your unit attends roundtable, your unit gets one entry in the raffle. A leader from the unit must be present to win. So, this doesn’t just help RT attendance, but banquet attendance also.

    3. Offer networking time. Our roundtables start at 7pm. We offer time to socialize/network starting at 6pm or so (whenever the first staff member arrives to open the RT location). Our district director (executive) usually arrives at least 30 minutes before the start of RT, which gives leaders who need to speak with her time to do so.

    4. Side conversations during RT are not allowed. We remind leaders that if they need to conduct a side meeting to take it out in the hallway or one of the other rooms. RT staff will quietly and politely remind offenders who forget.

    5. Announcements are limited as others have said, at the beginning. Announcers are encouraged to bring things in writing to make it easier to get it out by email and Facebook.

    6. Unit mailbox system. We have two crates with hanging file folders. Each folder has a unit number on it. Into it goes flyers from announcements and other info from the council. Unit leaders are reminded to check their mailbox and unit commissioners are reminded to check afterward to see which of their units weren’t present and to please bring that material to them and invite them to a future RT.

    7. Recognition at the district banquet: As mentioned in a different post, we have awarded X Miler Awards at the banquet to recognize the total mileage driven by leaders of a unit for attending roundtable. In addition we give out perfect and near-perfect (missed only one) attendance awards for units. We have three units with perfect 10 year attendance and one that’s had only missed 3 meetings in 10 years. Not too bad and quite the bragging rights for said units.

  15. Two additional points to offer in addition to those provided above by others:

    1. Bullet-point agenda in email so I know WHY I should attend and give of my spare time, why the topics covered are worthy of more than an email.

    2. If RT or any other District meeting is important enough to attend, then simple email invites are not good enough in the year 2016. For those of us that receive hundreds of emails a day, get your invite to stand out and rise above the fray!! Create a Facebook event so I get the reminder notices via the mobile app AND/OR send a meeting invitation via Outlook, Google Calendar or other email/scheduling app with the who, what, where, when, why so I will get the automated reminder alarms at work and/or my mobile device. There are websites that give you the ability to create the file for free (iCal file format) if your email app doesn’t support simple scheduling (not likely these days) – then just send the iCal file as appropriate. Sorry, not being “tech savvy enough” is not an accepted excuse – if you can send an email you’re more than qualified to do this, and those invited will appreciate the ability to accept or reject the invite and import it into their electronic calendar. Hopefully Scoutbook as well will support this for Districts in the near future.

  16. For many years, we conducted a “meeting” after the meeting. That is where things got accomplished, where friends were made and comradery fostered. We all looked forward to roundtable every month. Now, it bores you with a bunch of announcements that are already on the District and council websites.

  17. Roundtable planning is no different than planning for a troop or pack for the year. You need a good program that the leaders will enjoy i.e. learning about camping tips in the BS breakout or Nova info in CS roundtable. A brief agenda to wet the appetite of the scouters should be sent out in plenty of time to encourage everyone to attend. Sadly our monthly roundtable does not attract many scouters. And as a retired DE I tried my best and the first 4 years things were well with lots of attendance than the RT commissioners stepped down and we did not have a plan to replace and now the RT is not well attended.

  18. gardner buffalo // January 6, 2016 at 10:18 am // Reply

    thank you all for the comments.

    For those who claim to have good District Roundtable programs, what percentage of the Chartered Units attend on a regular basics by program: Packs, Troops, Crews??

    Our CS Roundtable is less than 5%; BS Roundtable may 30% by Unit; even with an OA Chapter meeting the same evening…

    • H. David Pendleton // January 6, 2016 at 12:28 pm // Reply

      We get about 50-60% on the Boy Scout side and 45-50% on the Cub side. We have just reorganized so our new district’s first RT is tomorrow night. We are lucky that our district is all in one county. Under the new redistricting, it is all under one school district within the county. That means that no one should have to drive more than 10 miles to attend.

  19. We have started a Senior Patrol Leader Roundtable. They spend half the time with some sort of training, and spend the other half planning the next camporee.

  20. Jim, interesting concept and useful.

    Has the SPL Roundtable increased overall Roundtable attendance or just for the few youth leaders who attend?

    Hope the Troop leader bringing the SPL has two-deep leadership in the car unless it is a parent/son pair….

    BTW: Having the OA Chapter meeting the same evening has not increased Leader participation. Many of the OA youth members who attend get a ride from parent who stays, dropped off, or is driving himself.

  21. We recently started a new Rt just for our county because no one was willing to travel the 1 + hr to the district RT. We started it to help support and beef up the county which is moving in the wrong direction. We have issues with getting good participation from even our RT. Basically you have to skip what is already on the council/district website and offer something worth the time.

  22. End Roundtable. It’s a tired and old format. We ask our volunteers to plan meetings, go to recruitment funcions, fundraise, spend hours on training, and now go to a 90 plus minute and get information that could easily be given out via email. If you need some “live” meeting, try the hundreds of free video messaging systems. This isn’t 1950 anymore, heck it’s not even 1990.

    • My experience: phoning it in is a nice touch, but over time you get fewer participants, and those who do phone it in often aren’t really paying attention to the meeting, Some folks (those who rely on physical gesture to have permission to speak) with really good ideas feel suppressed. Physical presence still has value. So …

      If some volunteers are asking other lead volunteers to podcast or post minutes, we need some real investment .. perhaps a $5+(plus fuel and value of transport time saved) donation to FOS … to a scout-literature fund for every video or transcript download … double that for live/interactive feed.

      If it’s worth the tech, prove it by showing us the volunteers who will pay for it.

  23. John Whitford // January 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm // Reply

    I have been involved in roundtables for nearly 50 years both as a volunteer and as a professional scouter. The best things about roundtables used to be the fellowship coupled with fun presentations on topics that could be plugged into the next month or twos unit programming. Today too many people are turning to the internet for that information and the ‘fun n fellowship’ is lost. Folks don’t want to leave their homes and drive 20 or 30 minutes to a meeting when they feel the same information is at their fingertips. The meetings need to be something folks look forward to attending. Seeing other like minded people and having a great time is critical. KISMIF, Keep it simple and make it fun.

  24. Our District offers $5 in BP bucks for attendance at RT, $25 BP Bucks if you bring a new person to both you and the new comer. $5 for feedback about the RT and then in June a huge number of donated items are avilable for purchase with your BP Bucks. The BP bucks are also presented with humor and sillyness. This has really increased attendance. More BP Bucks are given out for a unit logging into Re-chartering by Nov. RT. Our OA Chapter is now offering coffee and snacks for a small donation as well. We have big rock topics for 15-20 min. and then seperate Cub and Boy Scout breakouts and occasionally YPT or other training. We also bring in guest speakers like from local conservation groups and utilize the expertise of the various Scouters in our district on any number of topics chosen by the group by survey in May for the following year. We’re growing.

  25. The best roundtables I have ever been to were not roundtables meetings. Sitting on the porches at Philmont and meeting other adult leaders from different troops around the country and discussing what works and what does not work. Or sitting with other Cub Scout leaders at Florida Sea Base next to the boats at a training conference was the best. Those were the best “roundtables”. I learned lots of great ideas on improving the program to take back home at Philmont and FSB just from the sitting on the porch or sitting by the boats.

    To me, the bulk of the meeting should be free exchange of ideas between individuals. Locations of great camping trips, contacts for setting up a kayaking trip, fundraisers that were successful, etc.

    Like another poster had commented, I attend lots of meetings for my pack and troop, plus camp outs. Attending a lecture once a month is not very useful. Having an atmosphere where folks can share ideas with each other and help each other grow – now that is a good roundtable meeting.

    • H. David Pendleton // January 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm // Reply

      Steve: While I was a regular “presenter” at our Cub Scout RTs, I knew that there were many in the room that had many more years of experience than me. I would try to act as a facilitator to get the discussion going in the room so the attendees would feel involved. We would often ask for what works in their Pack or how they go about doing something. This was great ways to discuss planning events such as the B&G, Pinewood Derbies, or something else.

      Turnover is high in Cub Scouts so institutional knowledge leaves quickly. New volunteers do not know what they do not know. Getting ideas from one another is the best way to not reinvent the wheel. This is something that cannot be done over a VTC or a teleconference. Adults do not want to be lecture to any more than Scouts want to sit in a room for a “class” on something. If we want the Scouts to do heads-on classes, we need to set the example.

      One Cub Scout RT, we made stomp rockets and then we all went outside and shot them. I had the instructions on paper for everyone, plus the drawing for the fins. If the Scouters wanted them electronically, they emailed me and I sent them out. I couldn’t get the adults to stop launching their rockets . . . just like the Cub Scouts when they do it.

  26. Just like a successful Scout Troop or Cub Pack, the three most important things for a RoundTable are: PROGRAM< PROGRAM . If it ain’t ENJOYABLE, and USEFUL, and NOT SLEEP INDUCING, they will not come back. It is like a restaurant: It is fairly easy to get folks to come the first time. The important thing is to get them to come the Second and Third time! And be willing to tell someone else, “yeah, it’s worth sitting down there for a meal”.
    I took over a RT that was more or less a lecture hall. Ho hum…. My first RT I had a podiatrist talk about blister treatment and boot selection and sock (it to’um) selection. Yeah, each RT is a challenge, but it is fun for me too. Camporee? Klondike Derby? Sure, we talk about them, but we also have “Open Discussions” with the chairs in a circle. We have a “Camp Cooking Demo” with a Troop doing their thing out in the parking lot. We have a “County Parks” Manager come and talk about their programs and service opportunities. Nearboring District has a Venture Crew that is a certified mountain rescue unit, and they will be coming in the coming months.
    Do I use the National Council “Big Rocks” suggestions? Occasionally. I usually go with what the crowd suggests. My erstwhile Number One Asst. Commisher met and recruited the Granddaughter of Ernest Thompson Seton to come and talk to us. Wow! She had her recently re-published ETSeton’s Autobiography with her for sale.. Over the last year I have demonstrably doubled our attendance.
    In July, when everyone says “Scoutng vacation” ? noooo, we have our “Oval Table” meeting. Coffee etc. dinner meeting at a local restaurant.
    Communication: The DE, and DC and ADCs and (in our case) the Cub Scout RTCommish (yes, we are separate). …. all need to be included and invited and coordinated…
    My email list is NOT thru the Council. ..It is from the DE and DC listings of unit leaders and from personal elicitation at Camporees, and other trainings. When we have SLS and BALOO, and IOLS, the instructors are INSTRUCTED to mention RT and collect new emails.
    I have about 300 on my listing,(Verizon requires I divide it up into emails of about 60) our District might have 60 units. My email news is a personal email , written by me and contains items of interest from other Councils, the WOSM, places to go and things to do. Scout folks send me stuff to include. I make it colorful, and include quotations and other Scouty things. It is not unusual for someone to email me directly and ask for the information from last month, as I often do not repeat stuff .
    I also find myself as a resource for other media for information. Why not? When was the last time any Scout person in your District approached the local newspaper or TV news anchor? Cub Scout Day Camp is a wonderful “people interest” story.

    It is a sad thing, but “the work is done by whoever shows up”. If your District is not blessed with a fun, worthwhile RoundTable, then someone is not “showing up”. You may have to wait, or (as a local hardware store has as it’s published motto) “Do It Yourself”.
    See you on the trail……

    • I like the “oval table” idea. When I was a RTComm way back when, some of the best RTs were the July potluck. I had no planned program, so the attendees just snacked and chatted. The newbies and the gray-hairs visited and both learned from each other. Best RT ever!

  27. Rob Carignan // January 7, 2016 at 7:04 am // Reply

    I’d love to attend a round table – It’s just that our schedule table is on a night I have another commitment.

    • I’m in that situation tonight.
      That’s why you need to partner with other adults in your unit and share the burden.

  28. I was spoiled from the very beginning. My first district/first experience was out of this world awesome. It was Cub Scout Roundtable…… There was an opening with Troops, Explorers (old days) that was never more than 10 min. Everyone then went to separate room for their breakout. That left the opening meeting room for things like turning in recharters, etc.; there was no disruption for the Break out sessions.
    Cub Scout Breakout had everyone together to learn about Cub Openings and discuss upcoming events at District or Council level. Then we had a sub breakout for each group within the pack–Tiger Leaders, Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders, and Cubmaster/Committee, if all those groups were represented. If you had to be in a different group, it was no biggie because there were always hands on crafts. It was FUN! And they even had babysitting available.
    My current Roundtable (different council) goes from good to OK to poor from year to year, depending on who the Roundtable Commissioner is. While I have seen some acceptable efforts, I also have seen very boring meetings. The problems I have seen is the other business has to go on in same room the Cub breakout is. Noise interference. Too many years they have ‘read pages of announcements’ and my biggest complaint has been when there is no true Roundtable because other business is taking place-such as Recharter or other council business. Those take so long that there is no Roundtable time left. Sometimes those planning Roundtable didn’t even know they weren’t going to have their breakout session.
    Right now our Roundtable is going pretty good. But their have been years that the only reason I went was because my pack needed info on upcoming District/Council activities. To me that is sad. Roundtable can be so helpful and fun.

  29. From my experience, one of the most overlooked aspects of unit level scouting is that skills are supposed to be taught by scouts – usually older scouts to younger scouts. When that can be made to happen, the adults can all go take a seat and watch in amazement how the older boy loves the respect and admiration and the younger boy loves the attention given him by somebody who he looks up to. We tried such to impress this idea during basic SM/ASM training at the district level. It worked like a charm at the training session. I can’t say for sure how well it went back at every troop but I know some where it had a very noticeable impact for the simple reasons stated above. Bring that to Roundtable. Give the boys a chance to show off what they know and, in the process, show the adults what the boys are capable of. Don’t forget to include the notion that knowing how to tie a certain knot, use an axe, build a fire, etc. are not the most important elements at play her and they don’t have to be presented with absolute perfection. The goal is for the boys to show leadership in teaching these skills and their abilities should grow with each experience.

  30. It’s easy to get adults to come…. just stop talking about FOS, popcorn, and recriuting for months on end.

  31. Phillip J. Kaemerer // January 8, 2016 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    I always have scheduling problems on the 1st Wednesday of each month. So I have to choose which commitments to make. Roundtable or Church meetings, why is it so hard? Why always the 1st wednesday?

    • Scouter Valerie // January 13, 2016 at 10:00 pm // Reply

      Are you in a Council ( smaller geographically) where you can attend a different District’s RT? Possibly on a different night?

  32. Content, planning and awareness. Topics chosen to feed programs in the district, planned and calendared for the year, and publicized to the district. Most of this is well commented above.

    I would add one other remark – the Commissioners are a key aspect to the process. They should be providing information to the units, to identify particular and useful topics at RT, and back to the RT Commissioner, to shape the content of RT to really serve the units in the district.

  33. My concern would be more along the lines of how can I attend Roundtable? I have a desire to go, but it is always scheduled when I am working. As good as the meeting is, having a functional newsletter would be just as important, in my opinion.

  34. Eliminate the traditional roundtables completely! This is 2016. Surely we can find better ways to make announcements, deliver training and inspire leaders. The important information should be available and easy to find any time it is needed. Video? Internet? Webinar?

    Don’t get me wrong… networking with other leaders and face-to-face communication are important and enjoyable. In fact I would suggest chatting with volunteers is the best part of roundtable. Why not meet-ups for unit leaders to help solve problems or share program ideas? These can be online (Google Hangouts) and/or in-person (local coffee shop). Participation will be directly proportional to subject, content and leader needs.

    As evidenced from the comments here, there are some truly great roundtables across the country. However, I would suggest a majority of Councils and Districts are suffering from a lack of volunteers with adequate bandwidth to put on a quality program every month.

    We need to become more efficient in our methods of delivering the Scouting program. Crazy idea. Make the Scout program so easy and intuitive that we don’t need supplemental training. Maybe then we can focus on reaching more youth with the character and leadership training that makes Scouting unlike any other youth program!

  35. Paul stock // May 4, 2016 at 11:32 am // Reply

    Only answer I can give is I go to keep in the know as to events and training available in the program. I used to say I didn’t know about that, now I’m the information go to about it. I enjoy time at roundtable.

  36. “Play games. Our Scouts love games, so why wouldn’t the grown-ups? Games and competitions can make roundtables a highlight of any Scouter’s month.”

    Careful with this one. I attended round table only once as a cub leader because I didn’t want to keep playing cub games and be treated as a cub scout aged kid. Since that rarely went on at the Boy Scout level I attended often while an ASM. I loved the exchange of ideas and getting information from units who had done things we were preparing to do and sharing information from our activities.

    • scoutersully // May 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm // Reply

      I am a regular RT attendee and former RT Commish but if RT was games and competitions I wouldn’t ever go back. Our volunteers’ time is precious. They don’t want to be treated like Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts (that’s what totally turned me off about Wood Badge). They won’t come unless they get useful, relevant and timely information in a concise format. Come in, get the info, and get out. Maybe it was different in the past, but that is today’s reality. I also agree with some of the earlier comments about keeping announcement to a minimum. Deal with all of that through a website, Facebook or newsletter (preferably electronic). I don’t need to drive 30 minutes each way to spend 90 minutes to learn what I already got in an email.

  37. Gerald Crowell // May 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm // Reply

    Playing devil’s advocate: I also wonder about the necessity of Roundtables in today’s world. Look at what we are doing right here; a topic (Roundtable attendance) has been introduced to a group of Scouters (in this case, anyone who wants to participate in the open discussion); the topic has been presented, then the floor is open for discussion. As of this comment there have been over 60 people respond. Isn’t this the kind of discussion we want at a Roundtable? So, do we need to continue with another monthly meeting to work into our already busy 2016 era schedules and family life? Thoughts?

  38. Gerald Crowell // May 4, 2016 at 4:27 pm // Reply

    Could we not structure a virtual RT as we seem to be doing here? Announcements of upcoming events, rechartering info, blah, blah, blah, is already being handled by emails, e-newsletters, etc. So that is not needed. But that could be put at the beginning of a virtural roundtable, then a training/discussion topic introduced, then ask for comments.

  39. Let’s be blunt. I attended roundtables from the age of 18 until just a few years ago.

    There is little they can provide me in the way of information. There is little they can teach me. There is no paperwork I cannot get and process myself. There is no training they can offer I cannot honestly say I’ve never taken.

    Given that I’m not leaving work until 4 this year, I need to feed people whether I eat or not, and I need to get some of them to things in the evening. I can’t spend all my time outside my home, I need to help a wide age range.

    At this point in my life I doubt any council anyplace can get me interested in roundtables again.

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