Boy Scout Roundtable Hints

Acknowledgements: This page was prepared based on comments on the Scouts-L discussion list by Bob Jacober, Mike Walton, Mike Bowman, Jim Fuller, Tom Bingaman, Alice Rae, Robert Wright, Laura Lyster, and Katherine Coates.

Why Do They Come? The first question you need to ask is "Why would they WANT to come?" People have busy lives, and there needs to be a compelling reason to take time to attend a meeting.

There are a couple of common reasons for going to a meeting. The first is that the meeting is a roaring good time. It sounds as though you have lots of activity built into the meeting and not just an evening-long presentation. But do folks think the meeting is FUN? Don't ask the people who attend. Ask the ones who don't attend.

Another common reason for attending is that it helps them do their job better or more easily. You may be handing out worksheets, but are they what the leaders need? Do you know what there three biggest issues/problems are? Have you asked the folks not attending? By finding out what they really need and providing it, you might have trouble keeping them away.

The last issue to consider is logistics. Do you have the roundtable scheduled and located such that it allows maximum attendance or does it conflict with other activities common to the cub leaders? Ask the non-attenders. It may or may not be an issue. Finally, check awareness. Jim Fuller once asked a three-year veteran den leader why he was never at round table. His reply: "what's roundatable?"

How Do You Know What Scoutmasters Want from Roundtable? One winning strategy is to have an ideas session with the Scoutmasters. Take ten or fifteen minutes to go over the year. Ask them to tell you when they ran into a skills problem where they wished they'd know a bit more. Ask them what they'd like to learn that would help them with their Troops? Ask these SMs what topics they'd like to see covered. Use the feedback to come up with topics that you can present. Use an early Roundtable meeting to plan topics for the rest of the year. If leaders pick the topics, they'll be more likely to want to come and more importantly can help with the presentations - use shared leadership.

What About Regular Features? Try having an experienced Scoutmaster give a short presentation; e.g., Hike of the Month, Gadget of the Month, Where to Go Camping, Chef of the Month, and Menu of the Month or similar topics. All sorts of presentations are possible here - slides of hikes, maps to hand out, menus, and and fresh cooked dutch oven goodies. Don't miss the opportunity to be inspiring - use a Scoutmaster Minute to close each session.

What About Themes? Plan presentations based on the following month's theme. If it conflicts with other things in the district that need to be done, work around it. Also, if the monthly theme doesn't appeal to your crowd, just plan a Scout skills training session. Lashing, orienteering, etc. Arrange for the person in your district who is an expert to do the teaching.

Some people have mentioned that this will bore the OLDER SCOUTERS how have been coming to roundtable for a long time. Well, well, where have we heard that before? So, my solution to that is that the OLDER SCOUTERS help the YOUNGER SCOUTERS during the sessions. Since as we know the YOUNGER SCOUTERS learn best when taught by the OLDER SCOUTERS. ;-)

What Can You Do At Boy Scout Roundtable? There are almost an infinite number of things you can do.
  • First aid kits - what should and should not be in one
  • Thief's knot vs square knot
  • How to whip the end of a rope
  • What to look for in buying a:
    • tent
    • sleeping bag and pads
    • boots and foul weather gear
    • pack
    • camp stove and lantern
    • pocket knife
    • Other toys like multi-tools, flashlights, compasses, etc.
  • Knife sharpening, maintenance, and safety
  • Stove and lantern lighting and safety
  • Stove and lantern maintenance and repair
  • How to rig tarps
  • Proper dishwashing techniques 3 vs 2 pot method
  • How to treat a:
    • blister
    • simple cut
    • snakebite
    • sprained ankle/broken ankle
    • scald from cooking
    • burn from stove/lantern/fire
  • How to cut with a bowsaw
  • How to split with a hand ax
  • Firelays, when to and not to use fire
  • Proper building, lighting, and feeding (care) of a fire
  • Proper way to douse a fire
  • Proper way to dispose of garbage
  • Types of packs, fanny, day, overnight, long term, internal frame
  • Packing a backpack
    • ziplock bags - do you pack by day, or by clothes type
    • Internal frame packing vs external frame packing
  • How to fit a backpack
  • There are many things that can be covered from the Leave no Trace ethic. This doesn't even begin to address nature things like tracks and tracking, identifying trees by leaves/needles, bark, etc.

If you are doing one short demo or discussion per evening - this should last for a year or two.

What else should be at a Roundtable? Make sure you have material available so that units can sign-up for camporees, klondike derbies, JLT, snow camping, summer camp, and so forth. Set up a file for each unit that is used like a roundtable mailbox. Every month all the handouts and literature a unit might need is available in their folder.

Who should be there besides Scoutmasters? Don't forget to invite the District Commissioner, District Committee members (for example, the person organizing an activity), and Chartered Organization Representatives.

What should be on your agenda as Roundtable Commissioner? Pre-opening: This is the period in which you arrive, receive materials, and find your friends and make new ones.

Opening: This is where an appropriate "ceremony" (the reading of a posting from the electronic roundtable, the responsive repeating of the Scout Oath or Law or the Pledge to the Flag, or something else tied to the theme of the month) is presented.

Administrative words: Welcome to the Roundtable, the bathrooms are down the hallway and to the left for the guys, to the right for the gals, and the coffeepot needs a donation but is out in the hall immediately outside this room. The handouts are over in the corner, and if you haven't received them already, you should pick up a set during our breaks (or you're outta luck and will have to find someone to share with you!).

Program: What we come for. This is the part in which should be varied every time you come to a Roundtable. They should expect something different each month, tied to their roles as Scouters but not neccesarily having to do with the "theme of the month" nor Scouting. What several Roundtable Commissioners have done in the past, were to take several of our Scouts-L topics, put them on a butcher paper, and allow for discussion and explaination for seven to ten minutes each. Then, the Commissioner would pass out copies of our electronic conversations covering that topic, and those Scouters would be able to read "what we said" about the topic or issue. "It gave those attending Roundtable some idea of what Scouters are talking about in other places!"

Games and Songs: We don't like 'em all of the time, but they serve a purpose: to keep the group together and to provide some diversion from the serious aspects of the monthly TRAINING (remember what Shel (Dick) stated: Roundtables are SUPPLEMENTAL TRAINING AND COACHING) program.

Resource Time: This is the time in the evening in which the Commissioner serves as primary instructor and "coaches us" on several aspects of what we're doing as Scouters, based upon questions and previous experience as a unit Scouter. This isn't the "Scoutmasters' Minute" part of the program...this part is designed to coach a specific skill or interest area besides that of the general program.

District Executive's time: You should ALWAYS provide your District professional a few minutes (no more than 10!) for him (or her) to provide all of you with the latest information from your Council and from National. This too, is part of the training aspect of Roundtables.

Final Words of Wisdom: HERE is where the Commissioner does a "Scoutmasters' Minute" -- something inspirational that the Scouters attending can emulate (and with the right handout, can do so!) in the closing minutes of one of their Troop meetings.

Closing: The closing should match up with the opening, and doesn't have to be so elaborate that people are waiting for everything to be "set up".

Parking Lot: Don't forget that an important part of ANY meeting is the "real meeting" that goes on before and afterwards. Don't be in such a hurry to lock the place up (that is, unless you have a specific time period in which to use the place and you MUST be out of it and everything off and secure by a certain time!!). This is a time for explaining things in more detail, or offering a shoulder or arm, or a pair of hands; or those simply saying "thanks" to a fellow Scouter.
What should you do when people want to do the dreaded announcements? At almost every Roundtable eager Scouters are going to want a few minutes to present information about upcoming events. Some just don't know when to sit down or how to be brief, which can make some of your folks less apt to want to come back for more. Some Roundtable Commissioners have solved this problem by using some good-natured fun gimmicks. One Commissioner rings a cowbell 15 minutes before a Roundtable as a last call to get on the agenda with an annoucement. When an announcement is made, the cow bell starts to ring after two minutes and continues to ring until the announcer is done.

What can you do to keep your own comments brief?
  • Use handouts to present most of the information
  • Use an index card to note key information - if it isn't on the card then it doesn't need to be said
  • Face your audience and a clock - when you get half-way through the time you've alloted start wrapping up and wind down.
  • When your time is up, quit talking, move to your seat and sit down.

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