Whether you are a seasoned pro or a veritable virgin at public speaking, chairing your first PTA meeting can be a nerve-wracking experience. There might even be a case of personality clash on the committee, adding to your apprehension.
Getting bums on seats is only part of the challenge when it comes to PTA meetings — getting people to come back time and time again is the key. In order to make that happen, meetings need to be inclusive, relevant and well-run. Before you start sobbing into your sauvignon blanc, take heart – chairing a great PTA meeting isn’t impossible. Sure, there may be times when panic sets in as deadlines loom…
But, there are tactics you can use to keep your meetings on time and on topic. Read on to find out exactly how to chair your first PTA meeting and make it a roaring success.
Hey, my name is …
Introductions are a big part of making sure your meetings are inclusive. While some volunteers will probably be known by reputation (!) others may be virtually unknown.
If you have a well-attended meeting, getting each person to stand up and introduce themselves can be pretty daunting for shyer members. Often PTAs just introduce the key players in committee roles, and give all attendants a name sticker. Many PTAs hold a “social time” directly after the meeting to help members get to know one another less formally.
Have an agenda… and stick to it!
General meeting covering loads of topics? Or focusing on something specific? Either way, making sure you hit the point of the meeting is crucial. It’s easy for conversations to go off at a tangent, but bring it back to the important points you need to cover so your meeting won’t overrun and more importantly, you’ll get more done! Organise and print off copies of the meeting agenda beforehand so everyone knows what needs to be covered.
It’s a good idea to allocate a certain number of minutes to each topic and appoint a timekeeper to keep things moving. So if it it ain’t on the list…
Check out our previous blog post about planning your fundraising calendar .
Command attention – with a smile!
When multiple conversations start going in parallel, time to face the music – you’ve lost control of the meeting and it’s more than likely time is over-running too.
To chair a great meeting, you need to command attention – with a smile – when things aren’t going as planned. You don’t need to come across as condescending or rude. Try to be aware of your facial expression!
A firm and polite request to wrap up side conversations or move the discussion back onto the right topic is usually all that’s needed to get things back on track. Everyone will appreciate a shorter, more productive meeting at the end of the day.
When you assume...
Most chairs have usually been a part of the PTA for at least a short while before stepping up to their new responsibility and some are old hands at how things work.
However, newbies to the group may have never been part of a PTA or voluntary group before. They probably won’t know the rules about safeguarding, your methods for handling money or what you did behind the scenes for the spots or stripes bake sale.
If they feel out of the loop, then your PTA is in danger of coming across like a clique – something which spells disaster for getting new volunteers on board. So don’t assume that they know stuff.
Make time to give a bit of background or answer any questions thrown at you. And always remember to welcome new suggestions with grace!
Just because you might have your PTA Chairperson hat on today doesn’t mean that you need to be the dominant voice in the meeting.
A great chair controls the direction and pace of the meeting, while encouraging all members to have their say. Give everyone the opportunity to speak, particularly those who are new or usually shy to put their two pence worth in.
Don’t make decisions without support
Making decisions is a tricky part of being a PTA chair. You can’t please everyone and there will normally always be someone that opposes your plans and creates friction.
If choices need to be made, a good chairperson should have the support of the majority of the committee. It might not make you very popular at times, but make sure you stick by the outcome of any votes or decisions so that the result is a fair one.
Make sure there are clear outcomes
It’s easy to sit and discuss what needs doing, but it’s essential that at the end of the meeting, everyone has a clear idea what they are responsible for, and how and when they should report back. Make sure the minutes are written up and distributed quickly, with clear action items. (And don’t forget to share it with all parents and teachers, not just the ones at the meeting!)
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