Strategies for Running an Effective Meeting

What formats should be used for SEPAC meetings?

SEPACs use a variety of meeting formats, depending on the type of gathering and the goals. Some meetings may be ‘parent only’ meetings, while others might be parent and district meetings.

How can a SEPAC organize effective meetings?

It’s helpful to use a standardized approach when organizing meetings that can accommodate changing availability and needs.

Bring together several SEPAC members to create generic checklists of ‘to-dos’ for different meeting formats. The items on the checklist should reflect the SEPAC’s unique needs and be organized so that parent leaders can work efficiently.

Some SEPACs find that a single meeting organizer works, while others divide the task among several members. Checklists can help an organizer carry out or delegate tasks if necessary. A SEPAC can also assign one member to start meetings with a welcome and introductions and to move the agenda along. It is critical that parents have clear roles and sustainable tools for making efficient meetings happen. It is important to start and close meetings on time, and to stop discussion when it is time to move on to another item on the agenda.


  • Suggestions for meeting formats.
  • A systemic approach to organizing meetings.
  • Effective development and use of an agenda.
  • Writing and utilizing meeting minutes.
  • Strategies for helping new parents feel welcome.
  • Examples of group processes for reaching agreement.
  • Ground rules for good meetings.

Part I: A Guide for Local Action | Chapter 7 – Strategies for Running an Effective Meeting

How SEPACs Decide to Take Action

In many cases, decision making is an ongoing process, and is likely to stretch over the course of several meetings. As the SEPAC decides to take action, it will need to keep careful records of completed and outstanding items.

Two popular formats for reaching consensus and agreement are:

Voting—The most formal, and perhaps, the most familiar process is to vote. Robert’s Rules of Order offers guidelines for meeting formats and ‘rules’ of conduct, including group decision-making. Robert’s Rules of Order follows government models, where decisions are generally finalized by a majority vote.

Consensus Decision Making—A creative and dynamic way of coming to an acceptable agreement that everyone can support. Less formal than voting, it requires that discussion continue until all members of the group can agree.

(See the ‘Resources Section’ for more information on these meeting formats.)

Does every meeting need an agenda?

Yes. An agenda should reflect ongoing work as well as new efforts. It should be made available in advance of every meeting. The agenda should allow adequate time for parental input. Keep a list of topics that are off the agenda so they can be addressed at a later time, either at the end of the meeting or at a subsequent meeting.

TOOLS FOR CHANGE: Agenda templates can be found in Part III: Resources.

How should minutes be written and used?

Every SEPAC should record the minutes of its meetings. Some SEPACs have set up templates for capturing minutes at a meeting and for publishing minutes via email and online. It is a good idea to establish a role for taking minutes. Some SEPACs appoint a secretary to take all meeting minutes, while other SEPACs rotate the task so that one person isn’t responsible for every meeting.

Minutes can be a great source for reviewing input or potential resources, so aim to capture details. Record names of individuals and the input, concerns, or questions they provided to the meeting, and follow up with them to provide or obtain more information, if possible.

Publish minutes from meetings that reinforce the purpose and goals, and emphasize positive results. Be sure to record progress on issues: who raised an issue, what solutions and resources are available, who is responsible for actions, and whether an item is outstanding.

Good minutes will:

  • Present summaries that inform readers about topics so that they are knowledgeable and want to learn more and participate.
  • Focus on successful outcomes, note whether an issue needs more work, offer a call to action, and include a way to contact the SEPAC.
  • Include information about upcoming meetings and topics.

Part I: A Guide for Local Action | Chapter 7 – Strategies for Running an Effective Meeting

How can a SEPAC help new parents feel welcome?

An effective SEPAC continuously seeks to engage new parents, so it is quite possible that there will be a newcomer at every meeting. Some groups have a ‘welcome team’ comprising parents who have agreed to greet and welcome new parents. It is also helpful to review or provide in writing the ‘etiquette rules’ at all meetings so attendees—existing and new—have a positive experience and feel welcome. Some SEPACs have created a new member orientation process.

What are some good ground rules for meetings?

It’s a good practice to document meeting ground rules and, depending on context, read essential ones aloud as a meeting starts or include them at the top of meeting agendas.

  • Ask for full participation: cell phones off, avoid cross talk, and listen without interrupting.
  • Start and end meetings on time and pace agendas so that there is time for all agenda items.
  • Protect personally identifiable information so that information published in minutes or announcements will be presented from a group perspective (e.g., “the issue was raised,” not “Jane Doe said”).
  • Be clear that the SEPAC is not a parent support group. The SEPAC can help steer parents with individual concerns to the right resources following the appropriate chain of command.

How can a SEPAC build an outreach list for meetings and events?

SEPACs can use outreach meetings to build a private list of email and phone contacts. It’s important to reassure parents that their contact information is private and uphold that commitment.



  • Effective SEPACs use a variety of meeting formats.
  • Logistical checklists can help a SEPAC stay organized.
  • SEPACs need structure for decision making: consensus and majority rule are two popular methods.
  • It is important to have an agenda for every meeting.
  • Minutes are a vital part of the work of a SEPAC.
  • All SEPAC communications should respect privacy.
  • A SEPAC should consider how it plans to welcome parents who are new to the process.
  • Etiquette rules or ground rules can help ensure that every meeting is productive.
  • SEPACs need to establish ground rules.
  • SEPACs need to use and expand outreach lists.