Robert's Rules: Using an Agenda to Produce Better Meetings

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP

It's 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. You're attending the regular monthlyof your neighborhood association. Your president, Prissy Gardner (who was elected because nobody else wanted the job), is ready to start the meeting. Prissy's really a stickler when it comes to keeping the petunias watered at the front entrance to your neighborhood, but she thinks the board is just one big beautification committee. So, she starts the meeting off by going over last month's minutes — well, just the part about the new flowerbed she wants. When she gets through with that, she starts talking about the possibility of spending some money on a sprinkler system.

In spite of the great organizational tools and techniques available in Robert's Rules, for some reason meetings happen all the time in which presiding officers like Prissy fly by the seat of their pants — going over last month's minutes, rehashing old decisions, interspersing real discussions with commentary, and suppressing anybody who tries to move things along.

If you're unlucky enough to be a member of one such organization, then you already know the importance of knowing how to make a meeting run with a reasonable amount of dispatch. If not, then the future is now for anyone who can be efficient and effective when it comes to running meetings.

Understanding the agenda

You know the only way to get the most out of your time is to spend it wisely, and you want to make every second you have count. When it comes to meetings, the way to be efficient and effective simultaneously is to prepare and make good use of an agenda.

An agenda is essentially a program or listing of the events and items of that will come before the meeting. It may be a detailed program covering several meetings in a session, or it may be a short list of the items of business to be handled in a routine board meeting. The agenda may (but doesn't have to) indicate the hour for each event, or it may just show the total time allotted to each item.

The agenda may be adopted (that is, be made binding on the meeting), or it may simply be a guide to keep the meeting on track. Adopting your agenda is sometimes a good idea because it gets everybody in agreement with the meeting plan at the beginning of the meeting.

Robert's Rules' basic agenda

Robert gives us an order of business but doesn't mandate any particular agenda. However, he does give us an agenda protocol that has been so widely used that it's almost universally accepted as a fundamental meeting plan. Not everything in the agenda shown here is necessary in every situation, and your agenda may even need to be more extensive and detailed. But in its own right, this basic agenda is a great arrangement of events, consistent with the standard order of business discussed throughout this chapter; you can find it at the heart of just about every good you ever attend.

Call to order

When the time comes, start the meeting on time. A single rap of the gavel at the appointed hour and the declaration, "The meeting will come to order" is sufficient. You can't finish on time if you don't start on time, and everybody knows when the meeting starts. A good chairman is known for starting meetings on time and will always be respected for doing so.

Opening ceremonies

Your group may customarily open meetings with an invocation and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe you sing a hymn or the national anthem. The protocol is "God before country" (meaning you invoke the deity before you salute the flag), so plan to make your invocation before you say the Pledge. This part of the agenda is also the place to include any special opening fraternal rituals, a greeting given by one of your officers, or anything else that might reasonably fall under the category of ceremony. You don't have to use it, of course, and in many types of meetings, you'll skip this item.

Roll call

If your group is a public body, or if you have a rule that certain officers must be in attendance before the meeting can proceed, this is the time to call the roll. But if you don't have a rule requiring it, you shouldn't waste your time on this item.

Consent calendar

This item isn't used often, except in specialized organizations such as public legislative bodies or a large professional society's house of delegates. A consent calendar quickly processes a lot of noncontroversial items that can be disposed of quickly by placing them on a list (the consent calendar) of items to be adopted all at once. The list can also contain special preference items to be considered in order at the appropriate time. This consent calendar is usually placed in an order of business by a special rule of order, and its placement is generally of relatively high rank.

Standard order of business

Everything on the agenda outside of the standard order of business is really just ancillary to the meeting. All the business really begins with the approval of the minutes, and ends when you're finished with any new.

Good of the order

This is a time set aside for members to offer comments or observations (without formal motions) about the society and its work. The good of the order is also the time to offer a resolution to bring a disciplinary charge against a member for offenses committed outside of a meeting.

Announcements

This portion of the basic agenda sets aside time for officers (and members, when appropriate) to make announcements. However, the fact that this is an agenda item does not prevent the chair from making an emergency announcement at any time.

Program

If you're offering some other general presentation of interest to your members, whether it's a film, a guest speaker, a lecturer, or any other program, it should be presented before the meeting is adjourned. If you would rather conduct the program at some other place in the agenda, it may be scheduled to take place before the minutes are read or, by suspending the rules, inserted within the standard order of business.

Guest speakers are often on tight schedules, so it's quite proper for the chair to ask for unanimous consent to place the program at any convenient place on the agenda, even if the only convenient place is within the order of business.

Adjourn

This part of the agenda marks the end of the meeting — time to go home. But don't leave until the chair declares the meeting adjourned, or you may just miss something important.


Robert's Rules of Order - Some Basics

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Also see Carter's Board Blog (for for-profits and nonprofits).

The following was condensed from the Robert's Rules of Order and includes typical rules to manage a board meeting. Readers wanting the last official version should see Robert's Rule of Order Newly Revised, published by Scott, Foresman (known as NONR). This is the 9th Edition of Robert's book.

About Motions
About Debate
About Voting

All motions must be seconded and adopted by a majority vote unless otherwise noted.
All motions may be debated unless otherwise noted.

About Motions

About Motions

Purpose of Motion

To Enact Motion

Main Motion to take action on behalf of the body debatable; requires majority vote
Adjourn end the meeting not debatable; immediately voted upon and requires majority vote
Call for Orders of the Day asks to stick to the agenda not debatable; requires 1/3 majority to sustain
Call to Question closes debate and forces vote not debatable; requires 2/3's majority vote
Motion to Limit or Extend Debate limits or extends debate not debatable; requires 2/3's majority vote
Point of Order is a question about the process or a particular motion automatic if granted by Chair
Point of Information to ask about the process or particular motion automatic
Motion to Rescind to change the results of a vote requires 2/3's majority vote to reverse results of earlier vote
Motion to Suspend the Rules suspend formal process for a short period debatable and requires 2/3's majority vote

About Debate

Each motion that is debated receives ten minutes of debate. The member initiating the motion speaks first. The Chair asks for a rebuttal. All members wishing to speak about the motion receive the opportunity to speak before any one member speaks for a second time.

About Voting

Majority vote is more than half of the members. 2/3's vote is more 2/3s or more of the members. Be sure to announce what is being voted on before the vote.

Return to Conducting Effective Board Meetings


Robert's Rules of Order Motions Chart
Based on Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (10th Edition)Part 1, Main Motions. These motions are listed in order of precedence. A motion can be introduced if it is higher on the chart than the pending motion. § indicates the section from Robert's Rules.

§

PURPOSE:

YOU SAY:

INTERRUPT?

2ND?

DEBATE?

AMEND?

VOTE?

§21 Close meeting I move to adjourn

No

Yes

No

No

Majority

§20 Take break I move to recess for ...

No

Yes

No

Yes

Majority

§19 Register complaint I rise to a question of privilege

Yes

No

No

No

None

§18 Make follow agenda I call for the orders of the day

Yes

No

No

No

None

§17 Lay aside temporarily I move to lay the question on the table

No

Yes

No

No

Majority

§16 Close debate I move the previous question

No

Yes

No

No

2/3

§15 Limit or extend debate I move that debate be limited to ...

No

Yes

No

Yes

2/3

§14 Postpone to a certain time I move to postpone the motion to ...

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Majority
§13 Refer to committee I move to refer the motion to ...

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Majority
§12 Modify wording of motion I move to amend the motion by ...

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Majority
§11 Kill main motion I move that the motion be postponed indefinitely

No

Yes

Yes

No

Majority
§10 Bring business before assembly (a main motion) I move that [or "to"] ...

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Majority


Part 2, Incidental Motions. No order of precedence. These motions arise incidentally and are decided immediately.

§

PURPOSE:

YOU SAY:

INTERRUPT?

2ND?

DEBATE?

AMEND?

VOTE?

§23 Enforce rules Point of Order

Yes

No

No

No

None

§24 Submit matter to assembly I appeal from the decision of the chair

Yes

Yes

Varies

No

Majority

§25 Suspend rules I move to suspend the rules

No

Yes

No

No

2/3

§26 Avoid main motion altogether I object to the consideration of the question

Yes

No

No

No

2/3

§27 Divide motion I move to divide the question

No

Yes

No

Yes

Majority

§29 Demand a rising vote I move for a rising vote

Yes

No

No

No

None

§33 Parliamentary law question Parliamentary inquiry

Yes

No

No

No

None

§33 Request for information Point of information

Yes

No

No

No

None


Part 3, Motions That Bring a Question Again Before the Assembly.
No order of precedence. Introduce only when nothing else is pending.

§

PURPOSE:

YOU SAY:

INTERRUPT?

2ND?

DEBATE?

AMEND?

VOTE?

§34

Take matter from table

I move to take from the table ...

No

Yes

No

No

Majority

§35 Cancel previous action I move to rescind ...

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

2/3 or Majority with notice

§37 Reconsider motion I move to reconsider ...

No

Yes

Varies

No

Majority

Read more: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/roberts-rules-using-an-agenda-to-produce-better-me.html#ixzz0uShVd52Q

 

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