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If you are a new PTO president, you may be getting nervous about that first meeting of the year. It is a biggie, and of course you want to make a good first impression. But you aren’t about to deliver a State of the Union address. Try to relax, and remember these five tips: 

1. Tell people who you are. Start the meeting by sharing some of your background or telling folks why you wanted to be president (two minutes, tops), and then ask your board members to do the same. Ask attendees to introduce themselves, as well. It may take time to give everyone a chance to speak, but it’s worth it. It helps parents to know who is who on the board and who the other parents are. Name tags can really help, too. 

2. Use an agenda. If parents care enough to show up to your meeting, show respect for their time by having a list of items to discuss. No one wants to listen to someone who’s winging it. Parents want the meeting to have a purpose and they want you to have a plan. Also, the agenda will come in handy should you get nervous and forget what you wanted to talk about. What’s more, the agenda is a great way to halt a conversation that’s gone off track. Need help? Try our customizable agenda template

3. Be welcoming. What you want to avoid is giving parents the idea that the board is a separate and superior group within the PTO. Simple gestures at your first meeting can make a big difference. For example, don't put the board at a table in front of the room. Have board members sit at various spots around the room so they can talk to parents before the meeting begins. Parents will see your group as a team.

4. Tell parents about your group. Give a quick overview of the PTO mission, recent accomplishments, and top goals for the year. It’s important to remember that parents, especially new members, don’t always understand the purpose of a PTO. Just five minutes explaining the big picture will help parents better understand the reasons for the various events and fundraising efforts. This information may help them decide to volunteer. 

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. In other words, do your best to relax and be yourself. Yes, the work of PTOs and PTAs is important, but you don’t preside over a corporate board. The more genuine you appear, the more attendees will relax as well. If parents leave your meeting having enjoyed themselves, chances are they’ll come back. 

For additional resources, go to our new Meeting Resources List. It’s a collection of resources and tips that can help you have successful meeting all year long.