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.