How many of us have gone to meetings that were just out of control? Cross-talk, interruptions, straying off topic? With time being such a commodity, we need to make sure that the time we spend as a group is an efficient meeting time.
Developed in 1876 by U.S. Army Colonel Henry Martyn Robert and modeled after the procedures followed in the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert’s Rules of Order has enabled many organizations to adopt the same rules for running meetings as smoothly as possible.
As an ISTJ personality type, I thrive on rules and knowing exactly what is expected of me. Rules in a meeting ensure that all persons have the chance to speak, that all members are respected and that your meeting runs smoothly.
The full edition of Robert’s Rules is a lengthy one, so I condensed it down a bit further to 4 things you should know when attending a meeting that uses Robert’s Rules. You can also use these 4 points to run your own meeting!
Before speaking, a member or guest needs permission from the chair
The job of the chair is to make sure everyone has a chance to speak who would like. S/He will do this by acknowledging those who would like to speak, before they start speaking. For example:
Member A: [Stand after previous speaker has finished or after Chair has called meeting to order] “Madam/ Mister Chair!”
Chair: [acknowledges the speaker with their name or with a nod]
Member A: [says what they have to say and then sits down]
There should be NO DEBATE on a matter before a motion regarding it has been made
A common error seen at meetings is that people will make a motion to vote AFTER debating the topic, when in reality the discussion/debate happens after the topic has been brought to the floor. A topic is brought to the floor only after a motion is made and seconded by two members of the meeting.
A key point to remember when making a motion is that you have to use the EXACT language that you intend. The voting assembly votes on language, not ideas and it is not up to the secretary to interpret what you mean to say. A good idea is to have forms at the ready for people to write down their motions word-for-word.
To Second does not mean to agree
When a motion is seconded, it means that at least two people feel this idea is worth discussion, not that they agree with the motion being made. The person seconding a motion DOES NOT have to stand and be acknowledged by the chair and should be recorded in the record as a seconder. Only once a motion is seconded is it considered to be “on the floor” and ready for debate.
Debate ideas, not people
This is not the time to hash out any grievances you have with someone at your meeting. The debate should be solely about the motion on the floor, not about the person making the motion. At the same time, you should be aware if there are any guidelines regarding how long you can talk. The general rule in Robert’s Rules is that a person may speak twice on one motion for 10 minutes each time. Many assemblies will adopt different rules in their bylaws, so be sure you are aware of your local guidelines.
Do you have any meeting horror stories? What are your biggest pet peeves about meetings in general?
Until Next Time!