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Meeting Tips

Every serious member and officer should have ROBERTS RULES OF ORDER, NEWLY REVISED, IN BRIEF.

  • Concise, easy to read and understand, it covers most situations you are likely to encounter.

Some other things everyone should know, from Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR)...

#17-Can ex officio members of a committee vote?

  • The term "ex officio" just means that individual is on the committee by virtue of holding some other office, either in the association or perhaps outside it.  Beyond that, a member is a member, with all the rights that come with being on the committee, including making motions and voting.  On the other hand, ex officio members are NOT obligated to attend meetings, and so are NOT counted in the quorum number.

  • Any change in this status must be specified in the bylaws.

#16-What to do with reports…

  • Beyond adopting the minutes, reports of officers and committees are NOT voted on by the assembly unless they contain motions for action. These motions are disposed of separately, after the report is completed.

  • Reports are not “adopted”, “accepted”, or “agreed to”, unless the assembly intends to endorse every word. Written reports are filed, and may be appended to the minutes if appropriate. [RONR p.508]

  • This is especially true of the Treasurer’s Report. No action of acceptance is proper, unless the report has been independently audited, in which case it is the auditor’s report that is approved. [RONR p.479]


#15-Rules are nice, but who enforces them?

  • All members are responsible, but the Chair is most responsible.  The Chair must not hesitate to step in, tactfully, when a motion is not in order, or when a member oversteps the bounds of decorum.

  • Members must be vigilant, and, if in doubt, should not hesitate to ask the Chair for clarification of a point or process.


#14-Election Results

Out of consideration for defeated candidates, people may wonder if complete results must be read after an election.

But the correct thing to do [RONR p.417] is to read out the numerical vote results for all members to hear, and to include them in the minutes.

Why?  Consider some possibilities:


  • The result was very one-sided and the loser has had a long history of running for office. Reading the vote count might send him a message, that it is time to find another pursuit.

  • The vote is "reasonably" close.This may demonstrate to the loser that he has a good deal of potential, and may help to keep a good candidate in the game.

  • The vote is "extremely" close - one or two votes difference. The assembly may very well want to order a recount [RONR p. 419] just to be sure of the result.

  • The president, when declaring who won, makes a simple mistake and names the wrong person. That must be corrected on the spot.

  • The tellers make an error. Without hearing or reading the results how will anyone know to question them?

  • The winner of the election (or partisans of the winning side) could weigh the numerical results in deciding whether they have a "mandate", or need to proceed more cautiously.


If the vote results are not immediately available to the membership, none of the above can happen, to say nothing of the potential for manipulation or fraud when vote counts are kept secret.


#13-Know your governing documents.

  • The Rules of Order only function during meetings, and in all cases they yield to your Articles of Incorporation and your Bylaws.

  • The Bylaws are the “contract” between the organization and the members. Know your contract!


#12-“You snooze, you lose.”---Tho. Jefferson

  • The principal of “settledness” means that generally the assembly cannot be made to revisit questions already decided or actions taken, unless there is a significant violation of the bylaws or the rights of an individual.

  • Any Point of Order must be timely. Procedural objections must be made before the next item of business is called.

  • Members must be vigilant, and, if in doubt, should not hesitate to ask the Chair for clarification of a point or process.


#11-Limiting debate:

  • The assembly may, by a 2/3 vote, limit the time of each speech, or the total time available for debate.

  • While debate is on-going there should be no side conversations, or speeches not germane to the pending motion.

  • Debate doesn’t stop just because a member shouts “Question!” The speaker must wait to be recognized before making a motion “for the Previous Question”, and there must be a second.

  • There is no debate on this motion: the assembly votes on ending debate and amendment on the pending motion.

  • If 2/3 are in favor, the assembly then immediately votes on the pending motion.

  • If the 2/3 threshold is not met, debate resumes on the pending motion.


#10-Decorum in debate:

  • One at a time: no one may speak without being recognized by the Chair

  • Be brief: each member may speak twice on a motion, but no one should speak a second time until everyone has a chance to speak a first time. Speeches may be limited in time.

  • Stick to the point: all debate must be germane to the pending motion.

  • Debate proposals, not personalities: no personal attacks allowed; address all remarks to the Chair, not to any particular member.

#9-More about meetings…

  • “Meetings” are defined by WHO is meeting. Only members of the group count for quorum, or have the right to make motions, debate or vote.

  • The assembly may “suspend the rules” to allow non-members to speak (not vote!), but it may also require all non-members to leave.

  • Members must be notified of all meetings. Regular meetings should be scheduled in the bylaws or other document, or members must be notified prior to every meeting.

  • “Special meetings” must be specifically authorized in the bylaws. Special meetings can only be called for a specific purpose, which must appear in the notice to the members.  Only that business may be addressed at the meeting.

  • RONR assumes that meetings occur face-to-face. “Absentee meetings”, such as by teleconference, mail or e-mail, must be authorized and defined in the bylaws.


#8-Nominations and Elections:

  • Nominations are common, but not absolutely required—write-in candidates are sometimes the majority’s choice.

  • Nominating methods vary—committee, ballot, from the floor, or a combination—but the type, timing, process and qualifications should be specified in the bylaws.

  • Nominations do not require a second, and are debatable. The nominee should accept or decline promptly.

  • If there is a shortage of nominees, or a candidate later withdraws, nominations may be re-opened right up until balloting begins.

  • Avoid the use of the word “slate” to describe a list of nominees unless various offices are actually linked in the bylaws. Otherwise, though individuals may choose to “campaign” on similar issues, all offices are elected separately.

  • RONR does not prohibit an individual being nominated for, or being elected to, more than one office. If your organization desires such a limitation it must be specified in the bylaws.

  • Election balloting process and timing should be specified in the bylaws. Voting by mail, or any other type of absentee method, must be specifically authorized.

  • No candidate can be elected by less than a majority of the votes cast, unless the bylaws specify plurality or some other threshold.

  • If a tie occurs, or no candidate achieves the required vote threshold, the assembly must re-ballot immediately, with all candidates included, and continue until a winner is chosen, unless the bylaws say otherwise.

  • If re-balloting is not practical, as with absentee voting, the bylaws should include a tie-breaking procedure.

  • The Head Teller should report the full results, including the tally for each candidate, and the Chair should declare those elected, so the assembly can validate the result.

  • Any challenge to the result must be made before the meeting adjourns. Election is effective when the result is announced and the candidate does not immediately decline.

#7-Renew, Reconsider, Rescind, or “here we go again…”:

  • If a motion is “lost”, or rejected, it’s as if it never happened. It can be “Renewed”, or raised again, but not normally until the next meeting.

  • Under special circumstances of time and presentation, a motion may be “Reconsidered” at the same meeting or the next day.

  • An adopted motion can be amended or rescinded, even years later, provided nothing has been done that can’t practically or legally be undone.

  • Amending or Rescinding Something Previously Adopted requires a majority vote with previous notice, or a 2/3 vote without notice.

#6-Can the Presiding Officer refuse to allow a motion?

  • The Chair may rule a motion out of order, even if seconded, for several reasons:

    • If it conflicts with a statute, or bylaw, or a previous motion still in force;

    • If it is the same as, or conflicts with, a motion currently in committee;

    • If the wording is incomplete or self-defeating;

    • If the wording is too rambling or incoherent to be adequately restated for debate.

  • Whatever the case, the Chair must state the reasons for the ruling, which may be appealed.


#5-Handling a resignation:

  • A resignation is a “request to be excused from duty” and should be made to the appointing authority, usually in writing.

  • The appointing authority is the group or person specified in the bylaws to fill the office in question.

  • Once the appointing authority acts on the request—either by formally accepting, or by appointing a successor—it is “effective”.

  • Once effective the resignation cannot be rescinded, though the individual may be re-appointed or re-elected.

  • Failure by the individual to continue to perform required duties until the request is effective may be grounds for disciplinary action.


#4-Voting Thresholds, or “how many votes do we need…”:

  • Check your bylaws for any “special rules” that may apply to your organization, or to particular situations.

  • A quorum must be present, but all members present are under no obligation to vote on every motion.

  • The RONR standard for most votes is a majority, that is, more ayes than nays. Ignore abstentions. And a tie means a failed motion.

  • Some motions require 2/3 in favor, that is, twice as many ayes as nays. Generally these are motions which suspend or alter the regular rules, or rescind or amend something already adopted.

  • The latter can be adopted by a majority if previous notice has been given. As an alternative, a majority of the entire membership can adopt under almost any conditions.


#3-Learning the “right words”:

  • Many people hesitate to use parliamentary phrases because they sound archaic and strange. But every specialty, from medicine to baseball, has its own jargon, designed to make it clear to everyone just what is happening, in as few words as possible.

  • The presiding officer, or Chair, must know the proper phrases, and will have many opportunities in each meeting to "teach" the members.

  • The Chair must restate every motion---never say “you have heard the motion”---and can sometimes tactfully suggest more efficient or transparent wording.

  • The Chair should tactfully suggest the correct motion when the mover’s intent is clear, e.g., “Postpone” instead of “Table”.

  • The Chair can often use general consent (“If there is no objection…”) for non-controversial situations, or to suggest the next step when the membership hesitates.

  • If there is an objection, the Chair then moves smoothly into a formal vote process, reinforcing that sequence for the membership.


#2-What’s “executive session”, or “closed meeting”, or “in camera”?

  • A meeting or part of a meeting held in secret, that is, restricted only to actual members of the organization or committee (and designated invitees).

  • Minutes are kept, but are available only to those actual members, even if the final result or action is announced more broadly.

  • Many organizations customarily allow the public into meetings, but some topics require confidentiality, even for governmental groups subject to “sunshine” laws.

  • Some assemblies, especially committees, normally operate in executive session.

  • A member may be disciplined for divulging anything that happened in an executive session.

  • Entering or ending executive session requires a majority vote.


#1-A legitimate meeting must have:

  • A QUORUM: the minimum number of members required by the bylaws to transact business in the name of the organization.


    • Calls the meeting to order on time

    • Guides the members through the Order of Business

    • Enforces appropriate decorum and order, and

    • Makes certain everyone knows exactly what is being debated or voted on, and effect of every vote

  • A SECRETARY, who records what was done, not what was said.  These “minutes” must include

    • Specifics of the meeting (group name, time, place)

    • Officers present

    • Approval of minutes of previous meeting

    • Important motions (mover’s name, exact wording, how disposed)

    • Significant Secondary motions

    • Notice of future motions

    • Points of Order and Appeals

    • Time of Adjournment.

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