Posted on Sep 2, 2022
Parliamentary procedure is an important skill set that anyone can use. It is used by most groups as they conduct their meetings. Congress, government entities, school boards, local boards, service organizations, and other committees all practice parliamentary procedure. Often, meetings can become very chaotic when making group decisions. Everyone talks at once, trying to sway others to a different point of view. A basic knowledge of parliamentary procedure can make the group decision process more orderly, and can make the meeting run smoother. Benefits of the use of proper parliamentary procedure include the ability to focus on one item at a time, decisions that recognize the majority while protecting the rights of the minority, equal opportunity for input among participants, and faster, more orderly meetings.
Parliamentary procedure is an organized method for a group to accomplish their goals in an effective, fair, and efficient manner. It is effective by providing an orderly way to conduct the group's business and make decisions. It assures everyone gets to voice their opinion. Parliamentary procedure is a democratic process for making a decision. It is efficient in keeping the group focused. One item of business is disposed of before going on to the next. Parliamentary procedure is based on Robert's Rules of Order, which describe the procedures on how to conduct items of business.
Meetings are often the first exposure people have to parliamentary procedure. Volumes of material have been written on the fine points of parliamentary procedure, but only the basics are necessary for 90 percent of the business conducted at meetings. Start with the basics of parliamentary procedure presented in this fact sheet, then continue to learn.
Conducting a successful and efficient meeting takes preparation. It is important to plan the physical layout of the meeting space and have a consistent agenda. Agenda items such as committee reports should be obtained prior to the meeting and shared during the meeting prior to any unfinished (old) or new business. See the sample agenda.
Decisions are made and formalized most commonly through the use of main motions. A motion brings business before the group as a way to formally request action. Here are the steps to follow:
Note: Commonly used motions include referring items to a committee, laying/removing discussion on the table, disbursement of funds, and adjournment.
There may be times when members of the group want to change the motion after it has been moved and seconded and is being discussed. This is called an amendment. It is recommended that only one amendment be permitted per motion. An amendment generally strikes out, adds, or substitutes words in the main motion. Here is how to amend a motion:
Tip: For a less formal meeting, it may be best to introduce complicated ideas by discussion before the motion is made. This eliminates the need for most amendments.
During discussion of a motion, it may become evident that more information is needed or that there are details that must be worked out before voting. In these cases, the motion may be referred to a committee. It is not proper just to say, "I move to refer the motion to a committee." The motion to refer to a committee should include the name of a standing committee or how many committee members and how they are to be selected. The motion should also include when the committee is to report back; if they have the power to act; and if the club must vote on their recommendations. Giving a committee the power to act means the committee makes the final decision without the club voting; this method should be used sparingly.
Tip: Generally, a committee meets and reports back at the next regular meeting. Another motion and vote is required to accept/reject the committee's recommendations.
There may be a time when a decision on a motion may need to be delayed. Perhaps there is not enough information to make a decision. The procedure to do this is called "laying on the table," which delays a decision until another time.
Tip: Generally, a tabled motion comes back for consideration at the next regular meeting. Don't use the motion to table as a way to "kill" a motion.
Adjournment is the term used to end a meeting.
Note: A motion to adjourn can be given at any time during a meeting, but it should not be misused by club members to adjourn prematurely when there is important business yet to be addressed.
Original article: Parliamentary Procedure for Community Organizations and Boards