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Increasing Roundtable Attendance

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I attended a couple of roundtables a few years ago. Boring. They gave out a spirit stick to the troop with the most people in attendance. Our troop won it 4 out of 6 times when we had 3 people attend. The sprit stick had to "live" with your troop and the troop was expected to decorate it with some trinket from the monthly troop activity. The boys got tired of messing with the stick. The boys did not attend round table and could care less about some stupid stick the adults made them decorate. As a result, adult leadership attendance from our troop declined at round tables due to the spirit killer stick.


Everything that was presented at round table I could get at the council web page. Nothing new at RT. The few things they did annouce were usually less than 60 days away. Our troop plans our calendar a year in advance. 60 days was too short of notice and never made it on our calendar. Why go to a boring meeting to hear about events we were not going to participate in and then have to mess around with the spirit(less) stick.


Oh, the break out sessions. Mostly about troops with problems due to poor leadership. Half hr of my time wasted trying to offer suggestions to troops who either did not have enough adults to fill the all the roles or untrained leaders who would not follow the program. Recruit more and get training. Next month same problems, different troop. Boring.


Training? Nah. I have taken all the training for my position. Offered to become a member of the training team who was always asking for more help. After several attempts to join the training team and no response, stop offering.


How about attending to meet the requirement for Leaders Knot. I could go to RT 4 times or UoS for 1 day and meet the requirement for Leaders Knot. Waste 4 evenings or 1 day. 1 day seems much easier and less painful.


What was in it for me or my troop? Nothing so I stopped going.

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Actualy, I'd be delighted to hear a Roundtable program on the methods used by the unit and Scout selling the most popcorn in the district.


We tend to be too isolated in units and not exposed to the best methods available to do a lot of things. Roundtable should help even out the differences between units that really have things figured out and those that don't.



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I'll join in: I've attended too many roundtables that were just the "reading of flyers", which is great for those who don't have email (but that is just 1 leader in our District who sometimes attenda).

-- I was torn between attending on account of it being "BSA duty" and appearing to endorse such a waste of time.


Ours are getting much better (though attendance is still very very poor) with actual program ideas and promotion of what is happening in advance, but ...

... I think that the need for roundtable is much less today than it was back in a day and age when you could not have instant updates, or, for that matter, find an incredible number of activities by just googling around (and seeing videos of how to do them).


In olden days, the reading of flyers was needed and those Roundtable sessions were the only place one could engage in conversations like . . . well, like what's on these forums where you have an actual roundtable with contributions of ideas. I think the approach to Roundtable has shifted, by necessity, from "this is where you'll get all the information" to a faint echo of that as information is readily available elsewhere, or Roundtable has to evolve into something else.

-- And some can't imagine what else that might be.

-- People have told me they didn't want to put information on the Website "because then people won't come to roundtable". Grr.


Bottom line, despite the other information sources, everyone seems to say we have to continue Roundtable because . . . well, because we have to have Roundtables.


If it were up to me, if you're starting with a dead or "flyer reading" Roundtable, I would go with a "Quality over Quantity" approach, and schedule Roundtables every other month, stoke those chock full of program (and, yah, cover two months at once for Pack Meeting ideas), and then expand to every month only when/if the program was overflowing and demand indicated that more was needed.

-- Or maybe have "expanded basic training" every other month if the DE has to report Roundtables every month.

-- Have the Roundtable programs be like the best of Pow Wow / University of Scouting sessions, promote what you're going to do on a given night, and follow through so that folks say: that was worth it.


Related to that, in entering dates for our District Calendar (also on SOAR . . . love it), I was given a School Night For Scouting kickoff date, and the following week a Roundtable Date. Conversation followed:

-- Me: "aren't we going to just talk about recruiting at the Roundtable in August?"

-- DE: "yeah".

-- Me: "so that's the same as the SNFS kickoff meeting?"

-- DE: "that's right"

-- Me: "so let's combine them into one meeting, OK?"

-- DE: "We can't. Council says we have to have two meetings"

-- Me: "Why are we going to have two poorly attended meetings instead of trying to have one great one?"


Actually, here's an idea for a conversation starter at a dead roundtable . . . find a topic on these forums, and bring it for discussion. Extra credit for those who do the best Beavah accents!


Bert Bender

Pack and District Trainer

South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

A Winter Wonderland

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easy is as easy does




give them more of the floor, give them some ownership


after all RT is a service a Unit Service provided by the District Commissioner and his RT staff.


Scoutmasters won't come if RT is a bully pulpit for the district committee and a lackey of the DE....and full of committee types (no offense)


try 30 minute breakouts into 5 to 8 scouter groups to discuss a topic d'jure (you provide) and at the end of 30 minutes ask all if they want 15 more minutes (all hands rise)


leave the announcements and handouts at the door to be picked up on the way home...


From time to time bring in a guest speaker who is a peer if the scoutmasters in their own field (no pedagogs or motivational type...honest to goodness peers)


this format has been tested and doubled (mid 30s to high 60s) over a 18 month period.


Frankly most RTs bore the scoutmasters (of the right sort) to tears and attract mostly committee types who collect information to peddle at their next parlour scouting event


Say it aint so, smokey


all scouting is local








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Greetings, gjjennell, from your neighbor to the north in K-Valley District. Your current DE is our former DE. Talk to him and he'll give you some ideas of what has and has not worked in our district. We must be doing something right as we're averaging 50 leaders a month in our rural district with some (Jackman) traveling as far as 2 hours one-way to attend.


Our Cub side is hurting, but we've just recruited a new, gung-ho commish for the Cub side and the numbers are already improving there.


Others have given great suggestions. Here's a few more. I'm the Boy Scout Commish in our district. I give the leaders buy-in into the roundtable. In May, we run the meeting like an annual troop planning meeting, except the leaders who attend PLAN their roundtables for the coming year. Let them dictate what topics they want to learn about and set it in the months they think will work best.


We get the word out in advance through our email list about the planning meeting. I believe your district has a Facebook page--use it for the same thing. After the planning meeting, I post the schedule via email and our website so leaders will know what's upcoming.


Use the resources around you. In this case, those same leaders and other leaders in the district. I recruit from among the leaders for those topics. Sometimes, I'll turn elsewhere, for example, our chapter of the OA will be presenting Leave No Trace principals. I brought in some folks from a non-profit GIS program up in Farmington to teach hands-on GPS. One of our units is known to do major high adventure trips to Wyoming and Alaska, so I brought them in once to discuss planning such a trip. If the topic is on alternate requirements for advancement, then I turn the district's advancement committee for help.


In the past couple of years two of our most enjoyed presentations has been that one on GPS and a cooking demo night--any/all leaders interested were welcome to demonstrate a cooking technique and provide samples. We had folks doing dutch-oven, cardboard box ovens, one-pot meals, foil dinners, etc. We had a total of about ten different presentations. No one went away hungry, and everyone went away with some ideas they hadn't thought of before.


Remind your presenters a month in advance and another follow-up reminder a week before. Thank them after wards. I also give a small thank you gift to my presenters at our district banquet and recognize them a second time.


Are all the presentations a hit? No, but you make note of what didn't work and move on. One of our biggest flops was an outside presenter on canoe trips. Basically, it was miscommunications between the volunteer who made the arrangements with a Maine Guide friend of his. His presentation was great if you wanted to hire him, but it wasn't what we were looking for to help units plan their own canoe trips.



Announcements: I limit the DE/Key Three/others to a maximum of 30 minutes of the 90 minute roundtable. Ask the current council field director sometime about his first roundtable (yes, he was our DE back then) and how he used-up over an hour of our allotted time. Usually, all announcements are covered in under 20 minutes now. It may sound like a long time, but we're averaging 9 people needing to talk to everyone in any given month. You'd think it would take a lot longer.


It's only 20 minutes on average (I'd love to see it even shorter) partially due to the mailbox system started by our former (and now your) DE. In our case, the mailbox system is two portable file boxes with a folder for every unit--we have just over 100 units. Got something important to share? Put it in writing and make enough copies to distribute in the mailbox system. Then those announcements are more brief providing an overview of what's new and for more details see the write-up in your mailbox. Forgot to put it in writing in advance? Email it to the district email newsletter editor (or post it to your district's Facebook page if you have one) or to the district webmaster.


After announcements, we take a 5 minute break and then break-out into Boy Scout and Cub Scout specific topics in separate rooms.


Some months we reverse this and do the break-outs first and the announcements at the end. It just depends on the topic.


One of my biggest challenges with RT is keeping side conversations/business to a minimum during presentations/topic discussions. I politely ask those involved to take please it to an empty breakout room or out in the hallway.


Our next challenge will be finding a larger (and still free) facility to meet in as the cub side is built back-up. That's a challenge in our area.


I think our other challenge will be leaders complaining that they can't be in two places at once. As I said, we're a rural district. We have several leaders representing two and sometimes three units. Once the cub program is built back-up, they're going to have a hard time choosing which break-out to attend.


John-in-KC, we don't have a Venture RT session at the moment. There is a separate Venture Advisor meeting on a different night that may turn into a RT, but again, we'd have the same problem already mentioned--find another location. We've only got a handful of Venture Crews in the district.


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Most RTs are boring indeed.


The RT staffers mean well. But here's the blind spot: usually, RT staffers like meetings. There are folks that don't mind repetitive gatherings, with lots of announcements and such. Problem is, most folks don't feel the same way. And they are the ones you've got to convince to get in their car after a long day of work, say goodbye to their family for the evening, and come spend the evening at the scout center.


The previous suggestions are great--mix it up, throw the traditional meeting format out the window, have a panel of seasoned unit level scouters as keynote speakers for Q and A, cook some food, don't sing "The Grand Olde Duke of York" or otherwise treat the attendees like cub scouts.


Kept the agenda short and meaningful, and treat the unit level scouters with respect. We serve them. I think that's the most important thing.

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I wanted to give an update on our first RT last night. It was an excellent meeting to say the very least. I know the new DE on a personal level and he is very enthusiastic.


I have read many of your ideas for a Cub based RT and would like more of your ideas for Scout based RTs as well if anyone would like to offer.


Since this is only my second time to be at a RT, I want to do everything I can to offer suggestions for upcoming RTs. Thanks in advance.


I'm definitely pitching the dutch oven idea to the DE. It has always been said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach including mine. Ha, ha.

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I had our Cub Scout Roundtable last night as well.


The topic was "What to do with Webelos." A talented Cubmaster (now Scoutmaster) gave an excellent description of what a great Webelos program should look like, with lots of suggestion of outings to do and methods of getting all the requirements completed.


He also emphasized making connections with multiple Scoutmasters to piggyback on troop activities, resources and man and boy power.



I promoted this with two e-mails to pack committe leaders and Cubmasters, asking that they be forwarded on to Bear and Webelos Den leaders.


We did get a Bear Den Leader, a Webelos Den Leader and a Scoutmaster attending, plus our usual roster of Roundtable regulars, totaling ten in all.


Excellent program. Disappointing attendance.


Coming up:


February ---- Recruiting and Retaining Hispanic Youth


March ---- Model Recruiting Night (bring your Cub Scout)


April ---- Pack Camping and Pack Family Camps(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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Something we did a few years ago was a Troop equipment theme each month. The Troops brought and set up a piece of equipment to give other troop leader ideas. We ask the troops to set up their equipment at least a half hour early so everyone could look around before the meeting started. The monthly themes included: Tents, patrol boxes, stoves, backpacking tents and backpacks. These displays typically added an outdoors presents to the RT atmosphere. A discussion of these theme displays don't have to be part of the Troop breakout because they are set up for everyone to look at before the meeting. But, you will find the scouters (Cubs and Troops) start looking forward to the next meeting to see what the next theme brings.


We also did a "Webelos Den leaders and Scoutmasters meet and greet' one month. We found that most Den Leaders don't know and are uncomfortable calling the Troops for visits. We did the meet and greet a half hour before the meeting with coffee and cookies to break the ice. We also encoruage the Scoutmasters bring the SPL to help sell their program. Surprisingly we only had about a 4th of the troops participate in the meet and greet while we got about half the Den leaders.





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Barry, those are some excellent ideas. I believe a meet-n-greet is a super idea as I'm not familiar with other troops nor packs in our district. Plus, that would give den/pack/webelos leaders the opportunity to meet troop leaders as leadership tends to change some during the years.


I actually saw my SM talking to one of the den leaders last night about our troop. The den leader has a son that is interested in boy scouts.

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John-in-KC sorry to take so long to reply to your question.


We run a boy scout and a cub scout roundtable. The boy scout roundtable has an average attendance of 10 leaders from about 5 units. The boy scout roundtable commissioner has meeting topics planned out through the end of the year. Our cub scout roundtable has an average of attendance 5 people from about 3 units. The cub roundtable is starting to use the roundtable planning guide.


Our district committee is not very active.


Yours in scouting


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In nice weather, we have the last couple of Roundtables outdoors at one of our Council camps. It's a cookout/picnic, and everyone is asked to bring something. These are usually well attended.


During the Holidays, the December Roundtable is a festive party, everyone is asked to bring some goodies.


On the down side, our RT Commissioner likes to give a long subject lecture at the conclusion of business. It's late (around 9pm by this time), most people drive some distance to get there, so you can put together the rest.


The number one reason I always attend is that I am the Troop CC. The secondary reason is the very pleasant twenty-two mile ride on pitch black, deserted country roads, listening to MY music (classic rock) on MY iPod connected to MY 1200W car stereo, sipping a fresh cup of coffee. It's forty minutes of pure meditation...........:-)


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