Meeting Myths

Jim Slaughter

Jim Slaughter

5 Myths About Meetings & Parliamentary Procedure

If your association meetings are organized, properly run and stay on track, consider yourself lucky. If not, it’s likely your association is spending time on things it shouldn’t or isn’t doing things it should.

There are several reasons why you might be having troubles. Let’s dispel some common meeting myths and explore what it takes to run a good one.

Myth #1: Parliamentary Procedure Doesn’t Matter.

Many associations dictate in their governing documents that a certain parliamentary book will be followed when transacting business. In fact, North Carolina and other states have statutes that certain organizations, such as homeowner and condominium board and membership meetings, must follow Robert’s Rules. Ignoring or incorrectly applying these procedures can lead to embarrassment, hard feelings, and even lawsuits.

Myth #2: Any Robert’s Rules Will Do.

There are lots of books with “Robert’s Rules” in the title. However, most of these books are earlier editions of Robert’s or knock-offs. There’s only one official Robert’s Rules. The current book is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition), published in 2011. If you are supposed to follow the “latest edition” of Robert’s, this is the book you need. Each new edition brings changes to procedure; the latest has 120.

Myth #3: Parliamentary Procedure Rules Are the Same for All Meetings.

Rules aren’t one size fits all. Problems are common when large meetings behave too informally or small meetings behave too formally. Rules, like clothes, should fit. They should suit the organization they are meant to serve.

Most parliamentary procedure manuals provide that board meetings and membership meetings are conducted differently. Large meetings must be fairly formal. However, formality can hinder business in smaller bodies. As a result, Robert’s Rules of Order recommends less formal rules for small boards and committees, such as no seconds to motions, no limits on debate and the chair can debate and vote.

Smaller boards that dislike this informality may wish to follow more formal procedures. Even informal boards may choose to be more formal on important or controversial matters, just to make sure things are handled absolutely correctly.

Myth #4: Debate and a Formal Vote Are Required.

Many noncontroversial matters can be resolved without debate through “general” or “unanimous” consent. Using this method, the presiding officer might ask, “Is there any objection to ending debate?” If no one objects, you’re done. Debate is closed. If a member objects, the matter is resolved with a motion and vote. Unanimous consent allows an assembly to move quickly through noncontested issues.

Myth #5: The Chair Rules the Meeting.

The chair is the servant of the assembly, not its master. Put another way, the chair can only get away with what the assembly allows. If the rules of the assembly are being violated, any member can raise a “Point of Order.” Once the chair rules on the Point of Order, a member can Appeal from the decision of the chair. If seconded, the Appeal takes the parliamentary question away from the chair and gives it to the assembly. The assembly is the ultimate decider of all procedural issues.

Those who regularly attend or advise association meetings should learn at least the basics of parliamentary procedure. The benefits of a well-run meeting go beyond legal concerns. Proper procedure can turn long, confrontational meetings into short, painless ones. Eliminating these meeting myths will bring your meetings more in line with proper parliamentary procedure and result in shorter, more effective meetings.

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For many free charts and articles on meeting procedure, visit www.jimslaughter.com