For those in leadership in PTOs and other parent-student organizations, effectively planning and leading meetings is a critical part of success. Meetings, while necessary, often get the reputation of being ineffective for the time you put into them. However, that doesn’t have to be true. Improperly managed meetings do indeed waste time and effort, but proper planning and direction can make you a meeting hero with your staff and volunteers.
To that end, here is a brief checklist of things you can do to make the most of your next meeting.
1. Don’t host a meeting without a published agenda
Have you ever attended a meeting and asked, “What are we supposed to be doing here?” This ambiguity is a waste of everyone’s time.
Every effective meeting starts with an agenda in the hands of attendees before the meeting ever begins. A brief and clear agenda makes the first few minutes of the meeting much more effective by eliminating the need to use meeting time to establish the purpose.
2. Invite only those who are really needed
Simply put: if they can’t make a contribution to the stated purpose of the meeting, don’t invite them. While it’s tempting to invite the entire department or volunteer base, try to keep the number of attendees to a minimum. There will be occasions when you need to have an all-hands meeting, but these should be the exception.
3. Every meeting needs a traffic cop
We’ve all taken part in meetings where everyone is waiting for someone else to lead, or even worse, everyone is trying to lead at the same time. Make it clear from the beginning (preferably in the agenda) who will be running the meeting. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the highest-ranking person on the call, but should be someone with enough authority and discretion to quell unrelated conversations or redirect out-of-scope items to the appropriate forum.
4. Enlist an official note-taker
While many people will take notes in a meeting, it’s far less common for those notes to be shared in any formal way. Even if the purpose of your meeting doesn’t require it (such as PTO board meetings or other proceedings), make sure one of the participants is taking copious notes with the purpose of sharing them with the group.
5. Don’t end the meeting without…
Every meeting must have a list of things that are to be agreed upon before adjourning. In most cases, this list should include the following:
- A review of accomplishments in this meeting, particularly any decisions made or work completed
- An inventory of next steps, as well as the owners any due dates for those steps
- A plan for when the next meeting (if needed) will take place
In much the same way that you don’t want attendees wondering at the beginning what the meeting is about, you don’t want them leaving without knowing what happens next.
Manage meetings like a pro
With a little bit of prep work, effective topic management, and good wrap-up documentation, you’ll turn your meetings into highly effective activities that make your volunteer group or staff more effective.