Ah, PTO Meetings.
Those in the know recognize they’re essential: An hour of discussion and decisions each month to set the group’s course.
Despite their importance, PTO meetings can be some of the most poorly attended school functions!
Here are five reasons why no one is coming to your PTO meeting and how to fix the problem:
Reason #1: The meetings are too long
Do your PTO meetings last more than one hour?
Then, yep, they’re too long!
Parents are busy!
They simply don’t have the time to sit through an extended meeting with so much on their schedule.
Ask for report summaries to be sent to the PTO President and/or Secretary from everyone who will speak.
This will make them think about what they will be saying and they will have organized their thoughts about what they will say.
No more rambling on or shuffling through papers looking for dates, or other information.
It not only saves time, but also makes clear what actually needs to be discussed during the meeting.
Next, make an agenda and distribute the agenda beforehand, if possible.
This’ll give people an opportunity to know what will be discussed during the meeting and prepare for it.
Prep time saves meeting time!
Also, at the start of the meeting, make sure to announce that the meeting will only last an hour and remind folks to keep their remarks short and to the point.
If there needs to be a discussion of any topic at length, it probably needs its own meeting so those who are involved can have ample time to discuss and make decisions.
Anyone who’s not directly involved, but is interested, should be invited to attend.
See Reason #3 for more on this point.
Reason #2: The meetings are disorganized
Are people talking a lot, in no sense of order?
Are discussions going on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. without being moderated or anyone calling for a decision (i.e. a motion!) to be made?
You’ve got a organization problem.
It’s not fun to sit through a meeting such as the one I’ve described, and anyone who did manage to sit through it won’t be back a second time!
In addition to previous the suggestions for meetings that are too long (your new best friend should be a meeting agenda!), you’ll find a quick fix to this issue by using parliamentary procedure.
Use a relaxed version of Roberts Rules of Order to bring some organization to your meeting.
Reason #3: There are too many cliques
Do people sit in groups and whisper to each other throughout the meeting?
Even if it’s an innocent side discussion about the topic being discussed by who ever is reporting at the moment?
That absolutely looks and feels like a clique to those who aren’t part of the the convos..
It’s pretty easy to seem cliquey even when it’s the exact opposite of what you intend!
Top ways to seem cliquey are to have side conversations, make inside jokes and doing anything else that may exclude someone.
The first two, having side convos and inside jokes are pretty easy to avoid if you’re paying attention.
The last one may be happening subtly.
You can avoid it by inviting everyone to everything and just being open and transparent about decisions and processes.
Have name tags available for everyone one at the meeting. It’s a small way of making newbies feel welcome and included.
At meetings, I usually go up to people I don’t know and offer to make them a name tag and introduce myself. It’s a great way to break the ice and get people comfortable.
Reasons #4 + 5: The meeting could’ve been an email and/or are B-O-R-I-N-G
Do your meetings consist of people rattling off event titles and dates, or just passing around a volunteer sign up?
Could it have just been summed up in an email?
If your meetings are boring, or lacking a purpose and parents don’t see the value in actually putting on real pants and coming, then they won’t!
Give them what they want: insights they can’t get anywhere else.
The most successful meetings I ever had as PTA President were when we had an additional program attached to the meeting.
One time, I had a teacher from a different district come in and give a primer on the Common Core initiatives.
It was a hot topic at the time and we had many parents come for the talk, and then stay for the PTA meeting that directly followed after. Winner!
A much less time intensive option is to ask for the Principal and/or Teacher Representative to give a report about what is going on in the school.
The reports our Teacher Rep gives are relatively basic, but gives enough ideas about what’s happening during the school day.
You actually get to hear what the kids are doing in reading, math, etc., plus art, PE, music and more!
The level of detail the Teacher Rep supplies goes far beyond the “uhhhh, I dunno” I get from my boys when I ask what they are doing in school.
Invaluable to me as a parent and your parents will feel the same way!
Even More Help
Want even more insight on running monthly meetings? Snag the How to Run a Meeting Guide for PTA and PTOs that lays it all out for you!
Over to you!
Are any of these reasons you can identify with?
If so, I hope you take this advice and use it to make your meetings better going forward!
If your meeting do have a bad rep, then you’l have to do some PR work to get parents re-engaged, so follow my advice and you’ll see a difference!