While Robert's Rules might seem overly formal for a weekly staff meeting, you might find some useful tips in his guidelines, even for the most casual conference calls. This is because the rules ensure that no information is passed over and forgotten. So, what are the Robert's Rules of Order meeting guidelines? Should you use them at your company? What does a typical agenda look like at a meeting following these rules? Let's look at the answers to these questions and more.
Did you know that many organizations worldwide use a set of guidelines to run meetings that were initially created to organize church meetings? Created in the 1870s by an American soldier and engineer, Robert's Rules of Order is now the most commonly used guidebook for parliamentary procedure in the U.S.
While Robert's Rules might seem overly formal for a weekly staff meeting, you might find some useful tips in his guidelines, even for the most casual conference calls. This is because the rules ensure that no information is passed over and forgotten.
So, what are the Robert's Rules of Order meeting guidelines? Should you use them at your company? What does a typical agenda look like at a meeting following these rules?
Let's look at the answers to these questions and more.
Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923) was a U.S. Army officer who felt there needed to be a standard for parliamentary procedures. He was living in San Francisco at the time and felt that the meetings were chaotic and tumultuous in the area without much procedural consistency.
He wrote the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, and it was published in 1876. The shortened name of the book was Robert's Rules of Order.
Using the procedures of the U.S. House of Representatives as inspiration, Robert made several adaptations he believed were needed for use in societal contexts. He didn't base his rules on military rules, despite his role in the U.S. military.
Over the course of his life, Henry Robert published four editions of his book. The final edition published during his lifetime was expanded and revised after gaining more experience and knowledge as an active member of several organizations. He also received countless letters over the years, which he used to revise his original rules.
Robert's Rules of Order have been used in law-making bodies, youth organizations, governmental bodies, corporations, and more.
The most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order was published in 2020 and is the twelfth edition.
Are you feeling like your Zoom meetings are falling a bit short of your expectations? If so, check out these fifteen tips to run better remote meetings.
Robert's Rules of Order is a manual that can be used to structure group decision-making and conduct meetings. He had specifically designed the rules for regular societies rather than legislative assemblies, and it's recognized as the English-speaking world's primary resource for business rules and meeting procedures.
The set of rules outlined in Robert's Rules intends to follow a set of democratic principles. These are:
There have been a number of revisions to Robert's rules over the years, but all the revisions respect the initial fundamental principles that he proposed.
Each meeting needs to follow an agenda according to Robert's Rules. An agenda should be carried out starting with the first task and working through them one by one until each point is complete. Before moving on to the next business item, each issue must be voted on (or at least addressed).
Robert also prescribed that agendas are always prepared before the meeting by the chairman, president, or one of their secretaries.
The first order of business at the meeting is voting in the agenda among a group that contains more than half of the members.
However, the agenda doesn't need to be voted in if a group uses the Standard Order of Business. This is defined in the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. Some organizations might choose to use this as the go-to rule and write it into their bylaws.
If you're in charge of organizing meetings for your team, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the considerations to take into account. Gleaning inspiration from Robert's Rules can be a great place to begin when you're creating your agenda. At the same time, you want to make sure you hit the sweet spot when it comes to meeting length– not too short or too long. This recent post touches upon the ideal length of time for a remote meeting.
The first order of business when creating an agenda using Robert's rules is to build an order of business. This is basically an outline that will illustrate your meeting's flow. This can then serve as a template to use when creating future meetings.
One of the important rules that Robert outlined was that old business must be dealt with before new business can be addressed.
If you are following the Standard Order of Business, you can apply the following priority structure to your agenda:
Next, let's take a look at the general agenda breakdown as outlined by Roberts himself.
As you might imagine, the start of an agenda begins at the start of a meeting.
The first step of a meeting using these rules as a guide is the call to order. The officer presiding over the meeting will start the session by saying something along the lines of "the meeting will come to order."
While this might seem formal, it's definitely useful in the case of board meetings and even less formal meetings. This is because the person in charge doesn't have to think of what to say and can officially begin the meeting in a way that puts everyone on the same page.
Some organizations even choose to perform an opening ceremony that might include a greeting, a fraternal ritual, or the Pledge of Allegiance. If you'd rather move right along, that's fine too!
Now it's time for roll call. An appointed secretary will note who is present and who isn't. This is also the time to determine if a quorum is present, which is the "minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid."
If the roll call determines that a quorum is not, in fact, present, the people that are present can vote to take a break or schedule the meeting. According to Robert's Rules, votes taken at meetings that don't have a quorum in attendance are null and void.
The next step is the reading and approval of minutes. To begin this topic, the meeting leader will say:
"The secretary's draft of the minutes from the last meeting on (previous meeting date) were sent to you on (the day that the draft of minutes were sent.) Are there any corrections to the minutes as distributed?"
Once amendments are made or if there aren't any corrections requested, the chairman can say:
"If there are no corrections (or no further corrections, depending on the situation), the minutes stand approved as distributed (or corrected, depending on the situation)."
It's a good idea to distribute the meeting minutes with enough time before the meeting starts so that attendees can review them.
To indicate that it's time to move on to the next item on the agenda, the meeting leader can say:
"The next order of business is office reports."
Once the previous minutes have been approved, leadership members can begin sharing relevant reports. They will be invited, one at a time, to the floor in whatever order they see fit. During this time, they'll share the tasks they've completed, outstanding tasks, and any action that has been taken since the last meeting.
Debates and votes that are relevant to the topic at hand can happen at this time if there are motions raised due to the reports.
The person running the meeting can then say, "The next order of business is reports from our committees."
This is an opportunity for any special committees to speak about a report or investigation they're engaged in. When this section is finished, you can announce the next order of business.
If there are upcoming elections or nominations within the group, this is the time to discuss them. However, in most cases, there won't be special orders, and you can move on to the next order of business.
The person leading the meeting can ask: "Is there another important matter or unfinished business to come before the meeting?" This is an opportunity to deal with any leftover issues before moving on to new business.
In most cases, this will be the section that takes up most of your meeting. During this time, all members can bring up ideas or topics and even raise motions. Depending on what else is going on in your meeting, you might find that sometimes time doesn't permit attending to new business.
The person leading the meeting can now ask: "Are there any announcements to be made before the meeting?"
Any announcements or updates can now be brought up by members that they feel the organization should know about. Once all announcements have been made, it's time to plan out the next meeting. To do so, though, a quorum needs to be present.
You made it! Another successful and orderly meeting was completed. To top it off, the person leading the meeting can say, "There being no further business to come before the group, this meeting is adjourned."
When you're creating an agenda, you will want to modify it so it fits the needs of your team or organization. There is a lot of useful information available at RobertsRules.org, which is operated by the Robert's Rules Association. This group is a partnership between Henry Robert's direct descendants. One can only imagine how orderly their meetings are!
Here is a sample presented by the Robert's Rules Association themselves to give you a sense of what your agenda should look like:
Group name and purpose of meeting
Meeting date, start time, end time
STANDARD ORDER OF BUSINESS
CALL TO ORDER
READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES
REPORTS OF OFFICERS
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (IF ANY)
(For each item of business, indicate:
If you are following Robert's Rules, the agenda has to be voted on by the participants at the start of the meeting. However, many organizations choose to use the standard order of business as outlined by Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.
One of the great things about following Robert's Rules in your meetings is that it can create a lot of efficiency. By touching upon each point of business one at a time and refusing to move on to the next item until a decision has been made of some sort, you avoid the chaotic time-loss of multitasking that can be common in group meetings. Offering some order to the process can also take a weight-off everyone involved since they know what to expect and that there is an opportunity for specific issues of concern to be dealt with during the meeting.
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