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Parliamentary procedure: practical techniques for presiding over meetings.

As chief elected officer of your association, you are in the unique position of influencing the tone of meetings over which you preside. It is, therefore, incumbent upon you to be knowledgeable about parliamentary rules and to be impartial in enforcing them. Here are some practical techniques to assist you.

1. Learn basic parliamentary motions. There is no substitute for preparation in presiding. No one expects you to know all the parliamentary motions by heart. But you can arm yourself with a chart of motions that will help you see at a glance if a particular motion requires a second, whether it takes a majority or two-thirds vote to carry, and whether debate is allowed (see sidebar "Parliamentary Resources").

2. Staff with an agenda. Every meeting needs a game plan, whether it's a meeting of three committee members or a convention of several thousand delegates. Know your agenda and stick to it.

3. Think through transitional places in the agenda and decide what you will say. For example, in controlling debate during a discussion or when the results of the vote on an amendment have just been announced, you can say, "The question before us is (state the exact language, including amendments that have been adopted). Is there further discussion?" Or: "Is there any new information on this subject?"

4. Think about what specific words you will use to announce motions, take the vote, and announce the next agenda item. Smooth use of correct terminology will mark you as a pro and win the respect of your board members. For example, in announcing a motion when it is first being made, say, "It has been moved and seconded that (state the exact wording of the motion). Is there discussion?"

5. Make sure that all remarks are made to and through the chair. If, for instance, a member wishes to obtain some information from the treasurer or a committee chair, he or she addresses the question to you, then you direct the appropriate individual to answer. That person, when assigned the floor, will address his or her answer to you. All members present will hear the question and the answer, but you are clearly controlling the discussion. One member speaking to another is rarely in order, except in some committee meetings.

6. Restate the question precisely before putting it to a vote. Don't allow voting on vague concepts. Insist on specific wording. The person taking the minutes will be grateful, but beyond that, it helps everyone come to a clearer understanding of the issue. Give specific instructions such as, "As many as are in favor, say aye."

7. Stick to the rules of debate. Don't let members abuse the rights of others by talking longer than the rules allow. However, don't jeopardize a productive exchange merely to enforce a parliamentary rule. Rely on your own good judgment to strike a balance. And remember: The maker of the motion has first and last debating rights.

8. Keep in mind that you do not need a motion to approve the minutes or adjourn. Ask if there are any corrections to the minutes. If there are none say, "Hearing none, the minutes are approved as printed." If there are corrections, instruct the recording person to make them and announce, "The minutes are approved as corrected."

As for adjournment, when your business is completed and there is no one seeking the floor to make announcements, ask if there is any further business. If none is forthcoming, rap the gavel lightly and declare the meeting adjourned.

9. Remember that the treasurer's report is not adopted; it is filed for audit. The auditor's report is adopted at some predetermined point during your fiscal year. After the treasurer's report is given or acknowledged in the written material issued to each member, ask if there are any questions about the report. Then announce that the report will be filed.

10. Do not adopt committee reports. File reports that are "for information only" and thank the reporting member. Written committee reports are attached to the minutes. The recording officer should not summarize or paraphrase committee reports in the minutes.

These ideas can save you time and enable you to help your association's board of directors achieve its goals with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Parliamentary Resources

* Modern Parliamentary Procedures, by Ray E. Keesey: models for more efficient democratic action that modernize parliamentary terminology, eliminate superfluous motions, and provide valuable ideas for preventing and handling disruptions. To order, contact the American Society of ASsociation Executives: phone (202) 371-0940, fax (202) 408-9634, or e-mail books[at]; $14.95; catalog item number AMR210630.

* Motions charts can be found in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 edition, and in Goers' Guide to Parliamentary Procedure, Pinkerton Publishing, P.O. Box 5121, Godfrey, IL 62035, (618) 466-2963; $12, plus $1.50 for shipping and handling.

Taking Minutes

Minutes are the association secretary's written record of what actually happened in a meeting, as opposed to what was said. The minutes always need to be written in the third person and always in prose rather than in sentence fragments or telegraph style.

In correcting minutes, the secretary simply draws a line through the error, being careful not to obliterate it, and writes the correction in the margin beside the error or, if space permits, directly above the error. Occasionally the correction is wrong, and it is helpful to have the original language available for reference.

The phrase "Respectfully Submitted" before the secretary's signature represents an archaic and outdated contrivance and is no longer considered proper. The secretary's name and title, "Chris Jones, Secretary," along with a signature are sufficient.

Minutes must record some specific items. For example, the first paragraph of any minutes must always contain five facts:

1. the kind of meeting (for example, regular, special, adjourned);

2. the name of the assembly;

3. the date and time of the meeting;

4. the fact that the presiding and recording officers were present or, in their absence, who substituted; and

5. whether the minutes of the previous meeting were approved as read or as corrected.

The body of the minutes needs to contain a separate paragraph for each subject and include the following:

* all main motions stated in full, with the name of the maker, the fact that it was seconded, and the action that was taken (carried or lost);

* all points of order and appeals, whether sustained or lost;

* the names of all committees that gave reports and the fact that each report is attached to or filed with the minutes;

* the number of votes for each side or choice when a count has been ordered or the vote is by ballot; and

* the hour of adjournment, stated in the last paragraph.

Important: The recording officer may make no attempt to paraphrase a report or the remarks of a member or guest unless ordered to do so by a majority of the members.

Sue Goers is a professional registered parliamentarian in Godfrey, Illinois.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Board Primer; includes a brief list of parliamentary resources and related article on taking minutes
Author:Goers, Sue
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Previous Article:Conducting productive meetings: how to stay on track.
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