“The object of Robert’s Rules of Order is to assist an assembly to accomplish the work for which it was designed, in the best possible manner” according to Henry M. Robert, Robert’s Rules of Order preface, 1876.
Robert’s Rules of Order is a series of procedures written by Mr. Robert, who was a U.S. Army engineering officer. When asked to preside over a meeting, Robert realized that there was no international standard of conduct with which to rule. As a result he studied parliamentary law and wrote Robert’s Rules of Order.
What is Parliamentary Procedure? It is a set of rules for conduct at meetings that allows everyone to be heard and to make decisions without confusion. Robert’s Rules of Order is the most well-known and documented book addressing meeting conduct.
Basic Parliamentary Procedure. Here are some of the rules that help move a meeting along in an orderly, respectful and cordial manner. If the board approves the use of parliamentary procedure, it is important that the board members review and practice the guidelines to ensure that every member feels informed and prepared to fully participate in meetings.
- President calls meeting to order.
- Only those who are recognized by the president/chair may speak during a meeting which has “come to order”.
- Side conversations are not allowed.
- The president acts as a neutral “gatekeeper” in discussions of matters to be voted on, although in small gatherings the president may both offer a motion as well as vote on motions.
- In order to discuss an issue in which the board needs to vote, a board member has to make a motion (“I move that…”).
- In order to even discuss a motion, someone has to “second it” (“I second the motion”
- The president should do more facilitation of conversation (“what do you think?”, etc.) than talking him/herself.
- The minutes need to reflect who made the motion, who seconded it, the exact wording of the motion, and the outcome of the vote.
- If there is no second, the motion dies (will not be discussed and is not included in the minutes).
- The president may set a limit on the amount of time for consideration of a motion and may ask speakers to either wrap up their point soon or only speak if they have new thoughts on the topic. A timed agenda in which precise minutes are assigned to each topic ensures that the meeting does not last too long (ideal length is less than 90 minutes).
- Once a vote is taken, the president announces whether it passed or not.
- The president then gives directions or requests to ensure that appropriate action is taken by the responsible party.
- At the end of the meeting, the president asks for a “motion to adjourn”.
Parliamentary procedure is the best way to get things done at your meetings. But, it will only work if you use it properly. For more information on this topic, use the search engine on this website to find more articles and resources on parliamentary procedure.
Linda A. Bartel, PCAM®, AMS®, LSM®
Senior Vice President
Principal Management Group of Houston