Roundtable on Roundtables
20 Tips on Planning Effective BSA Districts & Roundtables:
District Roundtables are held monthly by the local BSA District. A roundtable is a monthly presentation of unit program ideas, inspiration, and additional training for all leaders. The unit commissioner should let leaders know when and where the roundtable is held and give them an idea of what happens at a roundtable. Roundtables are enjoyable and convey many practical ideas for leaders to use.
Tips for Planning Effective Roundtables
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.
"The first thing you have to have is a Good Program! Material that is relevant to both the current themes (for Cub Scouts) or seasons (for Boy Scouts) and that stays at least One Month in Advance! What good is learning about Blue and Gold ideas in February? Or learning about Swimming Safety in July? These are needed much earlier. It also helps to have FUN in both programs. Trained leadership also on the RT Commissioner level is needed." (DaLane Cox)
- See Also "blog" scoutingmagazine.org/2016/01/05/how-do-you-encourage-fellow-leaders-to-attend-roundtable/ Bryan on Scouting - 2016.
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 Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Newsletter are great for telling the scouting story and motivating others to come to your next meeting so that they can create their "own story" too. The newsletter should always a big announcement for the next roundtable and it should go out several days in advance.
A really successful newsletter does a lot of positive personal interest stories with pictures such as successful eagle scouts and their projects, unit camping adventures, charter organizations, etc. These people, when they see themselves featured, will save the copy and share it with all of their friends, neighbors, contacts, etc.
And now we are in a major age of fiscal belt tightening where each council and district has a very tight budget and no extra dollars to spare to print up mass quantities of nicely done newsletters. What a few newsletter are printed are taken by the faithful that already show up to Roundtable. Those are not the people you need to reach with your invites. Promoting Roundtable (and other District scouting events) is huger argument for doing foremost a nice e-newsletter.
Every District should have a dedicated Facebook page administered by a member of the District Communications Team. That page should have a "welcome" post "pinned" to the top of the page with open invite to Roundtable - the big monthly scouting meeting of the district. This FB page can help you collect a lot of ideas to share at Roundtable (ie outstanding troop adventures, cub activities, eagle service projects, special awareds, etc).
When done right and proactively, the District Facebook page can be a most powerful tool to highlight your outstanding scouts, scouters and scout units and their service projects and fun adventures in such a way that scouters will "Share" your district page with other family and friends in the community. That then becomes a huge tool for recruiting youth and adults to the local programs.
There should be a new post monthly with featured highlights of the upcoming roundtable to generate fresh interest and attention. This is a huge must and should be a key part of the monthly planning.
Many of the scout units in your district have very strong newsletters, facebook pages and other communication channels. Send a copy of your current roundtable invite directly to the scout unit communications specialist before the end of the month so that they can insert it into their next monthly newsletter, facebook, etc.
Inviting More Presenters
Invite packs, troops & crews to present flags, snacks, activity rock, service rock news rock. They naturally will invite some friends to come with them.
We recently has a scout troop do a two week summer adventure to Alaska. We invited them down for a scout leader breakout just to tell their story. Other scout leaders came with lots of questions about what it took to plan such and outing.
Another great presentation topic is on service projects - contact a few to share five minutes on their most meaningful scouting service project.
Some of units have experienced scouters with a large collections of scouting memorabilia, historic flags and other items of a particular scouting interest.
District publicity - instagram/FB/twitter/email/newsltter/
District Roundtable Branding
District patch and nametags. raffle. breakouts. Midways.
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.)
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.
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.
Our Scouts love games, so why wouldn’t the grown-ups? Games and competitions can make roundtables a highlight of any Scouter’s month.
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.
Encourage unit participation
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.
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.
At your district awards banquet, give a plaque or trophy to the pack or troop with the best overall roundtable attendance.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t let one Scouter do all the roundtable planning. That’s how things get stale and volunteers get burned out.
Guest Presentations from Council!
Roundtable Midway Exhibits
Coveringing Large Geographic District
I live in district 4 times the size if Rhode Island. One way we help solve attendance problem is to hold several roundtables within the district at different parts of the district,These each have a different rt commissioner that lives near that areas rt and no 2 are scheduled for the same night.
Every year a number of BSA Councils host a training event called College of Commissioner Science (aka: Commissioner College). BSA Commissioners, District Volunteers, Perspective Commissioners and all other Adult Scouting Volunteers are invited. Topics include a wide range of the latest developments in scouting and other subjects mostly geared to scouting commissioners.
This event has the feel and format of an all-day Scouting Roundtable and includes several presentations on how to improve District Roundtables. Look for a special course called "A Roundtable on Roundtables".
Every year a number of BSA Councils host a training event called University of Scouting. A great many scouting topcs are presented for both youth and adults, but the emphasis is expanded training for adult leaders. Topics include a wide range of the latest developments in scouting and other subjects mostly geared to scouting commissioners.
This event has the feel and format of an all-day Scouting Roundtable and includes several presentations useful for improving District Roundtables.
Benefits of Effective Roundtables
- Strong District - More Volunteers
- Train Adult and Youth Staff
- Recruit District Volunteers
- Coordinate and Plan major scouting events.
- Share new Scouting ideas.
- To provide the skill to do—skills, techniques, information, program ideas—the know-how that makes for successful unit operation.
- To provide unit leadership with the will to do—the morale, enthusiasm, inspiration, and vision that periodically renew the desire to serve youth.
- Help leaders develop an action plan for success.