Holding a parent information meeting is one of the most efficient and effective ways to communicate the details and benefits of the educational trip that you are planning for students.
It also is a great way to get the support from families that you will need to jump start the registration process.
Teachers are beyond busy during the school day, and after the final bell rings, there is grading, coaching, planning, and meetings. So, it's understandable that another late night at school may not sound appealing.
But trust me on this; the one night you spend at a parent meeting to discuss your school trip will pay off in tremendous time savings down the road.
1. Get the information out there - Use handouts and a presentation (if possible) to provide families with the specifics of the trip such as dates, tour highlights, inclusions, and pricing. It also is a good time to explain the registration process and to emphasize important deadlines.
2. Help them understand the value - There is a lot more to student travel than seeing monuments and visiting museums. This is a great time to explain the benefits of an educational tour, including curriculum enrichment, student growth opportunities, and social-emotional development.
3. Raising money - Discuss fundraising efforts planned to help pay for the trip. Pass out fundraising information and ask someone responsible for fundraising to explain the plans.
4. Reduce emails and phone calls - Answer questions that many families have during a Q&A session at the end of the meeting.
5. Outline next steps - Encourage registration and let families know how you will communicate moving forward. This usually includes an email follow-up after the meeting with information attached, a timeline leading up to the trip with important deadlines emphasized, as well as plans for a pre-departure family and student meeting prior to traveling.
Building Parent Trust and Support Your School Trip
Another benefit of an informational meeting is that you will increase the comfort level of parents who may be nervous about sending their children away from home. There are a few ways that informational meetings help to build comfort and trust among your students’ families.
1. During the presentation, they can see that a lot of thought, effort, organization, and heart have gone into the trip planning. Basically, they see you are trustworthy. You also can reassure them that you are working closely with a trusted student travel company like NationsClassroom to ensure a sound educational experience that is safe, affordable, and fun for the kids.
2. Administration and other teachers who are at the meeting show that there is a wide-spread support for the trip within the school.
3. Parents see friends and other families they know and they can feel like they are “in it together.” This also creates buzz and excitement that can help registrations take off.
Steps for Planning an Effective and Informational Parent Meeting
There are a few things that you can do to help make your meeting run smoothly so you can build the trust and support you need (and still get home at a reasonable hour).
1. Schedule a time and place with the person who does this at your school. Make arrangements with the custodial staff if they handle set up and take down of chairs. And, arrange for your AV needs if you’ll require a projector, screen, microphone, or speaker.
2. Announce the trip a month in advance through email, newsletters, and through every channel possible. Send out reminders weekly and the day before the meeting.
3. Require students to bring back a Meeting Invitation signed by a parent or guardian so you know that families are aware of the meeting. Determine a way for checking off the kids who have returned the Meeting Invitation. Kids who have not returned the form a week before the meeting can call a parent or guardian with you during homeroom or recess - hopefully this is less than a handful. This helps reduce the number of families who say “we had no idea!” even though you’ve made the announcement at least ten times and in multiple ways.
4. Send trip and registration information along with the Meeting Invitation so parents can review it before the meeting. Have additional forms available at the meeting for families who need them. Another option is to ask your tour company to mail the registration information directly to home addresses. Your choice, but make sure parents have the information before the meeting.
5. Recruit other teachers and administrators to help with the meeting. You will need help with greeting parents, handing out paperwork, answering questions, and helping with equipment and lights during the presentation. It also is a show of support for the trip. Bring them donuts or bagels the next morning to say "thanks!", or your NationsClassroom consultant will be happy to do this for you!
6. Prepare a digital presentation and do a test run with the technology you will use. Experienced student travel companies like NationsClassroom will provide you with a presentation to help guide your preparation. Consider running a photo slideshow of students on previous trips while families are entering the room. It’s a good way for families to see what the kids will get to do on the tour.
7. Use a microphone and speaker system if you are expecting a crowd of more than 40 people.
8. Start on time, try to smile through the nervousness, and remember you are doing this for the kids. That will help you overcome your nerves when you’re looking out at a sea of parents. Look for a family you know and focus on them. They will most likely be quick to smile back.
9. Have a Q&A session at the end. Ask parents at the beginning of the meeting to write down questions as you go and let them know you will take questions at the end. This will help keep you on track and avoid tangents, and chances are good the questions will be answered during your presentation.
10. Write down questions and follow up. If you don’t know the answer to a question, that is okay. It’s better to let families know you will look into it and get back to them than to give misinformation.
Yes, it’s another late night, but by communicating with parents en masse, you will save a lot of time in the end and you will gain the support you need to provide the kids with an opportunity of a lifetime.