Bang! Let the meeting come to order!
How many meetings have we all attended that left us wondering ‘Why were we here?’ at the conclusion? Do you feel some meetings are just to meet with no discernible action or decision-making taking place? What is needed to have a productive meeting?
Well, there’s a way to conduct meetings that has stood the test of time as a guideline that works. You probably have heard of it: Robert’s Rule of Order. By definition, it is a parliamentary authority, or a book of procedural rules on how to conduct meetings, assemblies or other types of gatherings. That’s quite an expansive scope, but at its heart, it works.
History of Robert’s Rule of Order
Robert’s Rule of Order was published in February 1876. The official title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies written by US Army Major Henry Martyn Robert. The book cover was simply Robert’s Rule of Order. Robert published it after being asked to preside over a meeting with no warning. Evidently, the meeting did not go well, and Robert spent considerable time studying various parliamentary procedures before writing his Rule of Order. Over the years, the book has been revised and edited; the current edition is the 11th. The latest edition addresses technological advances, thus keeping Robert’s Rule of Order up-to-date with the times and still relevant for effective, efficient meetings.
Robert’s Rule of Order Steps
A simplified list of generally used steps typically utilized in community club meetings, for example, may include the following:
- Call to Order – The club president or presiding officer calls the meeting to order with a gavel or maybe just a rapping on a table.
- Roll Call of Membership – Basically, who’s in attendance at the meeting? The number there may be pertinent if voting is required to ensure a quorum is present.
- Reading of Minutes – The committee secretary reads the minutes of the previous meeting, which is subject to approval. Usually, there’s a question to ensure no corrections are needed before ‘accepting as read or reported.’
- Officer Reports – Treasurer reports, membership reports, etc.
- Committee Reports – Perhaps the group has subcommittees with specific, focused projects that need to be reported to the group at-large.
- Special Order – Topics that may have been deferred or designated for discussion at a particular point in time.
- Report on Old or Unfinished Business – Reports regarding what’s in process, what’s still incomplete (and why) can take a good bit of time and discussion.
- Presentation of New Business – Bringing forward new business may need to be in the form of a motion, depending on the formality of the committee or club. To make a motion, the usual phrase is ‘I make a motion…’ which is then followed by a second (if there is no second, the motion does not move forward). The chairperson opens the floor for discussion and voting. Silence is generally considered consent.
Being part of a community club or any other type of committee takes a time commitment. Your time is valuable. Making use of Robert’s Rule of Order goes a long way toward ensuring that the group/committee/club accomplishes what it set out to do. Plus, it removes some of the worry about how to conduct a meeting. It’s not a complicated procedure and politeness figures into the overall process (i.e., talk in turn as recognized).
So, take heart if you’re asked to chair a committee. Grab the gavel and give the call to order!