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Long Meetings and No Results – Try Using Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary Procedure is a fancy couple of words for knowing what is needed to effectively run a legal meeting, including proper notice, meeting quorum requirements, using motions and voting. It effectively provides an opportunity for every member’s opinion on many issues of varying complexity under all kinds of internal climates ranging from total harmony to complete disagreement of opinion.

The starting point is to understand that meetings under these circumstances are designed to accomplish things, not to just talk about them.  Accordingly, books like Roberts Rules of Order are about making meetings more efficient through standard procedures, not about what is “legal.” In other words these are NOT law books.  In addition, the whole concept is to make things better, consequently, if some standard aspect is not working for your association, adopt special rules of order that work for your association.

Some of the basics that should immediately help are:

  1. Follow the Agenda
  2. Discuss ONE item at a time
  3. Address questions and comments to the Chair (to avoid fighting among the members)
  4. Decide issues through motions, seconds and votes
    1. No discussion on an issue until there is a motion and second
    2. Once a motion is on the table don’t stray to other topics until:
      1. Pass or don’t pass the motion
      2. Table the Motion for another day;
      3. Postpone the Motion indefinitely;
      4. The matter is referred to a subcommittee
  5. Minutes – Record what was Done, NOT what is said
    1. Resolutions (Motions) are recorded exactly as finally made, followed by voting result (with dissents and abstentions)
    2. There is no reason to include a summary of the debate or drafts or revisions to motions.

If you’re struggling with the length of your meetings, remember it is your and many other members time that is being wasted. Accordingly it may be worth contacting your Association attorney to develop a specific policy on how to more efficiently run meetings while giving everyone a fair opportunity to be heard.


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