Roundtable Delivery Methods

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The traditional model for roundtable delivery is the monthly face-to-face meeting. Some districts meet every other month or even quarterly because of distance issues, but these meetings are still mostly conducted on a face-to-face basis. This is the preferred method that most agree works best. However, for a variety of reasons, it is typical that districts have an average monthly attendance of fewer than 50 percent of their units.

If roundtables are well organized, provide valuable information, and help units build better programs for their youth, then the issue becomes one of how to get this material to those who do not attend. The question is “Are there other ways to deliver the message?”

One vehicle that we have not explored well is technology. Thus, we are beginning a discussion of possible options councils and districts might experiment with as additional delivery methods. During the next few months, there will be much outreach to councils and districts to see how—or if—they are using technology and what result they are getting. This process is already underway.

Councils in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as well as the Transatlantic Council and Far East Council have contributed thus far. Several results have come out of these contacts. First, where there are rural areas involved, often two or even three roundtables are being run per month in different towns within a district. Also, a variety of technology packages are being tried as a way to engage those too far away to attend. In several places, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar are being used to deliver roundtables, district meetings, staff meetings, and other similar meetings. For a monthly fee, these offer available contacts of between 25 and 100 people and seem to work well where there is high-speed Internet or viable G3 or G4 service. Another system being used is the free Google Hangout and Google Voice, which allow up to 10 people to join at a time and also seem to work well where there is high-speed Internet or viable G3 or G4 service. However, in very rural areas where dial-up is the only service available and there is limited G3 or G4 service, these reportedly don’t work well. A couple of councils are developing videos of three to five minutes that deliver specific detailed program messages or invitations outlining an upcoming roundtable or meeting agenda and posting them on YouTube.

Equipment commonly needed include a laptop, good speakers, and a council’s willingness to pay some monthly fees for these services. One problem that has arisen is that some locations where roundtables are held don’t have Wi-Fi or even phone jacks for digital access.

We will continue to explore this very interesting and vital issue in the next few months. Here are some of the questions we have:

  1. Does your council or some of its districts have meetings at which some (or most) of the attendees participate remotely? These could be district committee meetings, district commissioner meetings, roundtables, and/or council staff meetings for which district executives call in rather than flying or driving long distances to the meeting site.

  2. Have you seen an increase in participation when people can call in from their homes or offices rather than attending in person? Is the use of technology to attend remotely the primary way some people now participate?

  3. What communications methods do you use— “regular” phone lines, Internet phone service, or Internet video service?

  4. What service providers do you use?

  5. What special hardware or software is used/needed— speaker phones, laptops, Web cameras, video cameras, etc.?

  6. Is there a cost for using your preferred service? How is that handled (who pays for it)?

  7. Have you switched from one method to another to overcome deficiencies in the former service? A deficiency could be cost, voice quality, limit on number of remote participants, geographic coverage, etc. If so, please share what you can.

  8. If a meeting involves an allhands opening session followed by several separate breakout sessions, how is that handled? Have you found a way to have multiple separate call-in or logon codes to get to the right breakout?

  9. Have you seen a drop-off in face-to-face attendance by people located in the host city who just decide to call in?

  10. Do you have any general suggestions or cautions to offer someone who is just starting to think about technology as a solution to their attendance issues?

If you have some creative and successful uses of technology to deliver roundtable materials, please share with us so we can continue to collect information and pass the word to others. Send your responses and stories to Dan Maxfield at dbmaxi05@gmail.com.

Good roundtables promote great Scouting. Our youth deserve the best! Go forth and provide good roundtables.