CWRT Congress: How Do You Know What You Know?

By Mike Movius, President
Civil War Round Table Congress

“How do you know what you know?” That seems like a crazy question to ask those of you who have been involved in your CWRT for so long. But, let me explain my point. All too often, we rely on intuition about which months are the best to hold meetings, the type of subject matter members like best, who the speaker should be, etc. But is that really the best way to operate?

I’m suggesting that it’s not. Simply put: things change. For example, fewer and fewer people read the daily newspaper to find out about public events. Fewer people carry cash or write checks when making purchases. And heavy traffic and the scarcity of parking have become big barriers to many.

Let’s take a look at meeting attendance, for example. Member meeting attendance can be affected by any number of things including vacations, illness, the weather, the topic, etc.  But, if we had attendance data, we might be able to improve member satisfaction, meeting attendance AND recruitment.

While not wanting to get into a lesson on statistics, I think it is easy to understand the value of attendance data when it is compared with the month of the year, the topic of the meeting and the experience/quality of the speaker. But how would one do that?

It will take some creativity, but it is actually pretty simple. For topic, one might include battle/campaign, war strategy, biography, home front and national influences. By national influencer, I’m talking about the economy, the draft, railroad transportation, political elections, etc.

For speaker quality, it might start with a member speaker; local or non-published speakers; single published speakers; and multiple published speakers. If you are blessed with a member who has published multiple books, that person should be elevated to the “multiple published” status.

There are other things that influence meeting attendance that should be accounted for. For example, using different meeting marketing channels, marketing through those channels multiple times or in different ways, including musical bands playing period music, having a local singer perform Civil War-era songs, or having local students receive recognition and speaking during the meeting.

Consistency is the key. Ensuring that the agreed upon criteria is used every time, that changes in how and when public announcements are made, influences such as “bring-a-friend” night and other things that might influence both members and non-members to attend meetings.

Another key is to have a dedicated team collect attendance data and willing to evaluate the meeting, the quality of the program speaker (some call it the Wow factor) and the relative influence of marketing and program differentiation.

As this data is collected and evaluated over a period of time, leaders should be able to make adjustments based on real factors that affect member satisfaction and attractiveness. This is commonly called making data-driven decisions. The CWRT Congress highly recommends that CWRTs consider taking the plunge and use these techniques for improvement.

If you would like to talk about this or other proven practices, contact the CWRT Congress at or call 360-481-3117.

3 Responses to CWRT Congress: How Do You Know What You Know?

  1. I belong to a Round Table here in SE Virginia. I tried to sign up for the newsletter advertised on this group’s Web site, but all I get when I submit my information is the following message: “The requested URL was not found on this server.”

    Any help here?

    1. I want to clarify that the newsletter I cannot subscribe to is that of the Civil War Round Table Congress, not that of the Emerging Civil War.

      Thank you..

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