How to turn down the volume at your pack meetings

RoaroftheCrowd

Reduce the chaos (and turn down the volume) at your next pack meeting with these crowd-control tips.

Last September, the Kansas City Chiefs set a record for having the loudest crowd roar in professional sports, hitting an earsplitting 142.2 decibels. If you’re afraid your next pack meeting might break that record, Bobby Lester and Hilary Thornton are here to help. Lester, Cubmaster of Pack 931 in Justin, Texas, and Thornton, Cubmaster of Pack 744 in Marietta, Ga., know the secrets to pack-meeting crowd control.

Acing the Agenda
Be sure to have — and follow — a meeting agenda. Doing so keeps the meeting organized and efficient; presenters know when their turn at the mic is coming and how much time they have to talk.

Lester takes his agenda one step further: He previews each meeting in his head, looking for “pain points” where boys are likely to get antsy. “I actually plan breakpoints in there,” he says. “Let the boys do a cheer. Have someone tell a joke. Maybe do a walk-on or a new applause.”

A major pain point: leader announcements. Thornton recommends keeping those to a minimum and sharing most details via email or fliers. At the same time, he thinks some good does come from putting different people on stage. “We get changes in speakers, changes in vocal tone, and the movement associated with moving folks forward and back,” he says.

Advancement Made Efficient
In many packs, another pain point comes when it’s time to hand out awards. Thornton recommends putting each Scout’s awards in a plastic bag before the pack meeting and calling dens up one at a time. “The den leader, who knows their boys even better than I do, will recognize each boy individually for the adventure loops and other achievements they’ve earned,” he says. “They’ll also briefly mention any interesting activities they’ve done as a den since the last pack meeting.”

Lester, on the other hand, gives out badges himself, along with a den chief. He likes to ask Scouts to describe what they did to earn their badges, especially with less familiar badges. Even then, he keeps the program moving. “We’ve never had an award ceremony last more than about 20 minutes,” he says.

Silence Signals
Making yourself heard in a room full of fidgety boys and distracted parents can be a challenge. The first and best solution is to use the Cub Scout sign — and wait for silence before you speak. “I’ve really been trying this past year to double down on that,
specifically because I don’t like yelling,” Lester says.

But he’s not averse to trying other attention-getting techniques, such as the special clapping patterns teachers use at local schools. “The teacher claps, the students clap back and they settle down in a hurry,” he says. “That’s one of the things I always encourage other leaders to use.”

While Lester doesn’t like to rely on a microphone, Thornton is happy that the school where his pack meets has a sound system available. “My voice carries fairly well, but I’m not the only speaker,” he says. “If we’re outdoors, we have two portable bullhorns.”

Outlets for Energy
Outdoors or not, Thornton says it’s important to include a game or another activity in which boys can do more than just sit and listen (or fidget and not listen). For example, Pack 744’s December meetings feature a “snowball” fight with balled-up athletic socks (which are then donated to a homeless shelter) serving as snowballs. “You can imagine how much fun and excitement a 100-person snowball fight has,” he says. “The last round always is kids versus adults.”

Rewarding Good Behavior
Virtue might be its own reward, but boys appreciate more tangible rewards for their good behavior. Lester carries around a duffel bag full of prizes left over from a pack carnival — the sorts of paper airplanes, tops and party favors you might order from Oriental Trading Company. “If a kid does exceptionally well on something, I’ll let him pick something out of the bag,” he says.

He has also used a “Scout buck” program at the den level that could be adapted for pack meetings. With this program, boys start each meeting with three Scout bucks if they are in uniform or two Scout bucks if they are not. “If they behave, they get to keep their Scout bucks and redeem them at the end of the Scouting year for prizes,” he says.

6 Comments

  1. All of those strategies were tried and true. But I must admit to cringing with the idea of handing out awards in plastic bags and asking the youth to describe what they did for the badges is incredibly painful!! Unless they have something prepared and have practiced it, they quickly lose the audience. And as a CM I rarely use the den leaders since this is the CM bailiwick and a time for them to take a momentary break and allow me to play with the scouts.
    I lament the decline of ceremonies. Every rank/pin/award deserves a ceremony and it can be done fun and quickly.
    Sometimes I call boys up one at a time at random times and give awards instead of coming up by dens! I especially used to do that with arrow points. I always have a game and occasionally a song or skit. But it is important that a pack meeting last no longer than an hour.

    • We don’t hand the awards out in the plastic bags, we just use them to keep them organized before we hand them out. With a large pack of over 100 scouts, we give out a LOT of awards, and organization is key to keeping on schedule.

  2. Bags are necessary when you have tons to give out- especially if they are going to go sit with their Dens and not with their parents. We have our Pack Meetings in a movie theater- lots of places for them to get lost. We attach a sheet with the name and all of the awards. That’s for 50+ kids.

  3. sitting with dens not parents? Put the parents with the den. Make it part of the meeting (den leader knows how many adults she should have, get attendance of parents at pack meeting, award for den with most parents).

    I can realize the need for being organized, but you need to turn every award into a small ceremony. Den leaders can help, but you need to do it so parents feel they need to attend (“I’m getting my bear tonight mom, they want you to come up with me!”) and so that the boys see the recognitions grow on each other’s uniforms so they want to stay longer and want to get awards like the other kid got.

  4. When they won’t quiet down, I just start talking in my normal voice. Soon they wonder what I am saying. It only takes once to miss something important like that pizza is being g served in the next room.

  5. Occasionally a den would not be able to prepare their presentation portion of the pack meeting, I had made a lot of 3×5 cards with jokes for 2 from Boys Life or other Cub Scout material. The Den leader would choose enough for the den to participate, If they needed an extra, a Parent works and they like being involved. This worked well for the older dens. For the younger boys, sometimes just getting up front of a crowd demonstrating a handshake or their best photo smile is enough.

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