Online meetings are a great solution when you can’t meet in person. Supporters aren’t confined by childcare or travel problems, and no one has to put the chairs away afterwards.
Check your constitution to see if it has clauses that allow you to meet virtually via video or teleconference. Depending on the document, you may be able to make amendments to cover the new circumstances. If virtual meetings aren’t addressed in your governing document but you decide to hold them anyway, keep a record of the decision.
There are many options available, including Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp video and Zoom. Look into their different features to decide what works best for your PTA. It should be able to accommodate everyone who wants to attend, and should be free for participants to use. Many platforms have limitations on their free versions, so ask if any parents or local businesses have a paid version you can use. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re confident with it by doing a test run first with a small group.
Spread the word
Promote your virtual meeting via your social media, website and newsletters. Encourage committee members and class reps to spread the message. Ask the school to send out communications, even if they haven’t previously. To add gravitas, can you ask your head or some teachers to attend?
Ask participants to email the PTA so you can send out a private link with clear instructions on how to use the chosen platform. Include the agenda, financials and previous meeting’s minutes. Use a password and set up a waiting room from which a moderator can admit only recognised names – start five minutes early to allow time for this.
Once everyone’s in, explain how the meeting will work. Should they use the chat function, and if so, how? Would you rather they had their camera on? Will you answer questions at the beginning or the end? Introduce yourselves to new faces and make them feel welcome. If you’re happy to, invite attendees to have a glass of wine. Make it an enjoyable experience so that people will want to be part of it again.
Write an agenda and screenshare it to keep everyone on track. To prevent technology distracting you from chairing, allocate a co-host to monitor the chat for questions and comments. Virtual meetings can be slower than face-to-face, so allow more time than you usually would.
You may need to alter your voting system to work online. Members could vote via the chat function, or even via email. Or, provided you have enough people in attendance, raising hands could still work. As with anything else you might be unsure about, you should try this out during your test run.
At the end, consider what went well and what was challenging. Take minutes and circulate afterwards, complete with clear action points. Invite all participants to give feedback, and ensure any issues or queries are dealt with before your next online meeting.