Question: Cheat sheet on motions and Robert's Rules?

I am new to the PTO board this year but noticed last year that many of the parents were turned off because they didn’t understand how we approve items. There is a motion and someone seconds it, and then “all in favor,” etc. Is there anyplace I can go that spells this out? Our first meeting is coming up, and we want to explain this and then have handouts at the following meetings.

Asked by



Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Congratulations for making the effort to make new folks feel comfortable. Welcoming new parents is a particular passion for Elly. It is one of the most important things you can do as a parent group leader at all of your activities, not just meetings. And it’s a task that often gets overlooked. For most of us, it’s hard enough to get people to come to meetings. We worry about meeting attendance and complain that people don’t come. But when they do show up, we treat them like the outsiders they are.

Ironically, Robert’s Rules of Order are designed to put everybody on an equal footing. But as you point out, because they have a language all their own, they can be a turnoff to newbies. Your idea for reviewing all the formalities at your first meeting and then providing a handout is excellent; check out “Robert’s Rules for Beginners” on the File Exchange.

You might also consider a few other important steps to prevent newcomers from feeling like outcasts:

  • Assign someone to be a greeter at each meeting, one person whose job it will be to make sure newcomers see a smiling face, get settled, and feel comfortable.

  • Make everybody wear nametags—yes, you, too! You might know everybody’s name, but that newbie sure doesn’t. Nametags will make her feel more at ease.

  • Explain each issue as it comes up. Don’t assume everybody knows about the mother-daughter dance because you’ve been talking about it at the last three meetings. Supply the background so your newbies won’t feel lost.

  • Don’t allow insider talk. Education is full of acronyms and long program names. Avoid them when you can and explain them when you can’t. And stay away from little anecdotes aimed at the regulars—nothing makes someone feel more like an outsider than not understanding the joke.

In general, if you make people feel welcome and wanted, they’ll want to come back for more. And that’s a great outcome for everybody!

Community Advice

RePelle writes:
This is also a great cheat sheet:

Answer this question: