The advancement conferences are pretty straight forward, but allot can be learned in a few minutes sitting with a Scout. A review of his book to ensure all is in order, some questions that test the practical application of those skills or lessons learned, and then listen.
Sometimes silence is a flag waving begging the Scoutmaster to keep asking questions. In some of the conferences I have held, a long pause and stare to the ground meant, “Ask me about School” or “I need to talk about girls”. While I am not their parent, with two exceptions, the boys often times like that outside set of eyes and ears. It is the job of the Scoutmaster to be a good mentor, teacher, listener, friend. Baden Powell once said “To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.” You may just be that person they are comfortable to talk to that will get them over the hump in School, or with their other friends, or yeah… with a girl.
Most of those topics come up at the other Scoutmaster conferences and not advancement, but I always leave that door open in the event that Monday night is the night they need to talk.
Regarding conferences other than advancement.. you call it what you want… but I made a promise to my Troop that if they need a “Conference” that was a signal that they needed to talk and I would stop the world for them and give them my attention.
Make yourself accessible. There is always time. You may have to juggle some things around, but the Scout needs to know that you are there and will in fact give them time.
The Scouts of my Troop have my phone number, email, and know that if need by I can pick up Morse code when it comes to giving them an ear.
The Scoutmaster conference is more than a requirement for advancement. It is a communication tool that develops the youth as he interacts with adults. It is a friendly ear to listen, it is a place to come for advice and comfort. To the Scout it is a promise that we care about them.
Take advantage of the Scoutmaster conference to get to know your Scouts, you will not regret it. You can learn allot about them and your Troop during a 5 minute chat.