Creating Effective Roundtables

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by Dan Maxfield, National Commissioner Service Roundtable Chair

2015–2016 Roundtable Guide Available

The 2015–2016 Cub Scout and Boy Scout Roundtable Planning Guide will be available at the National Annual Meeting in Atlanta in May. Any member of the council Key 3 will be able to come by our booth in the exhibit area and take home a hard copy. It will also be posted online and available for download.

This guide is different from those of previous years. Instead of separate guides for Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, there is only one roundtable guide this time. It has a common section at the front that includes all the materials used by both programs and then separate sections for Cub Scout– and Boy Scout–specific materials. It is hoped that this will make it easier for all concerned to access and print.

What Is Roundtable?

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.

How Is Roundtable Organized?

Coordination of all roundtables held in the council is under the jurisdiction of the assistant council commissioner for roundtable. This person reports to the council commissioner and conducts an annual councilwide roundtable planning meeting as well as a midyear review.

The district roundtables fall under the guidance of the assistant district commissioner for roundtable. This individual oversees the district roundtables in all program areas, reports to the district commissioner, and works with the district structure, but also needs to be responsive to and work in cooperation with the assistant council commissioner for roundtable.

The program-specific roundtable commissioners then implement roundtable programs for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing. These individuals are responsible for coordinating and conducting the various parts of the roundtable meetings.

Assistant roundtable commissioners conduct tasks directly for the program-specific roundtable commissioners to assist in the development and delivery of their monthly meeting agenda and program items. This role replaces the previous position of roundtable staff and allows the assistant roundtable commissioners to pursue the normal roundtable training and awards structure in place for all other roundtable leaders.

Using the Roundtable Planning Guide

Much of how the roundtable team chooses to use this planning guide will depend upon experience, direction of the council, and needs of the individual districts. Being flexible is the key to a successful roundtable, but keep in mind that while the program is flexible, BSA policy is not.

For those who have never planned a roundtable, the program outlines in the 2015–2016 Cub Scout and Boy Scout Roundtable Planning Guide can serve as a great example. Many roundtable commissioners use the outline exactly as written, but each roundtable may be modified to suit the purposes and personalities of the team and the leaders who attend.

It is recommended that districts follow a similar schedule of activities based upon the annual council roundtable planning conference. This provides some continuity in program and information, thus giving unit personnel the ability to attend any roundtable and find similar activities for helping units build strong programs.

Length and Format of Roundtable

Roundtable commissioners will find that the 2015–2016 Cub Scout and Boy Scout Roundtable Planning Guide allows for a great variety of roundtable configurations. Using these plans, your roundtable may be 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes, or 180 minutes based on the district needs and frequency of meetings. The first section of each plan is designed as a preopening where attendees gather, acquire information about upcoming council or district events, greet one another, and sign attendance registers. The second section is a general opening for all program areas to share common interests and concerns in a joint meeting that includes a Big Rock topic. The Big Rock is a mini training topic that covers information relevant to all Scout leaders across BSA programs. The third section separates participants into breakout groups by program areas. There they receive a second mini training opportunity called an Interest Topic that is specifically designed to be relevant to the breakout group and contain all program materials necessary to conduct the next month’s unit program.

Many districts choose to offer time after the closing of the meeting (often referred to as “cracker barrel”) to allow Scouters to mingle and share experiences, fellowship, and ideas.


Properly implemented by a motivated team, roundtable can be a primary program and training venue for unit leadership. In addition, it provides a place where unit commissioners and district committee program volunteers can interact with unit leadership on a regular basis. This is a perfect way to be sure that units are connected with district resources that are intended to help them work at maximum efficiency.

For further information, consult the guide available on the Commissioners website under the Roundtable Support section.