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What Are Robert’s Rules of Order for Meetings?

When conducting a meeting, it is crucial to keep order and ensure the smooth execution of the meeting’s agenda. One of the most common ways to do this is by adopting a set of rules. This gives each attendee a framework for how the meeting will go while ensuring efficiency as each agenda item is ticked off. One set of rules still used today is Robert’s Rules of Order.....CONTINUE READING

What Are Robert’s Rules of Order?

Robert’s Rules of Order is a book first written in 1876 detailing the procedure of a formal meeting. One of the main parts of the rules pertains to motions and how they are executed. There are six types of motions in Robert’s Rules of Order, which include a main motion to introduce a new item.

The other motions are as follows:

  • A subsidiary motion is used to change how main motions are handled.
  • Privileged motions are used for items unrelated to the current topic but which are urgent.
  • An incidental motion brings into question the procedure of other motions.
  • A motion to table effectively ends the motion in question.
  • A motion to postpone delays holding a vote to a later time.

Now that you know the types of motions, you must also know the steps. For a motion to be carried, someone must signal to the chairperson by standing or raising a hand. Another person can then second the motion by raising their hand or standing for the acknowledgment of the chairperson. After the motion and a second, the chairperson will restate the motion for everyone to hear.

Next, a debate can ensue in which participants can engage respectfully in a dialogue. Once the debate has concluded, a vote must take place. At this time, the motion will be read one more time before asking for ayes and nays. After the vote, the chairperson will read the results, which will end the motion.

While motions are one of the most important parts of Robert’s Rules of Order, they also cover how the meeting is opened and adjourned. There are even rules for rare circumstances that would require meetings to go on recess or extend the duration beyond the allotted time.

Why Are Robert’s Rules of Order Used?

Businesses and government entities commonly use Robert’s Rules of Order in part because of widespread acceptance. So many entities already follow the rules that new entities can easily adopt them. It is simply a matter of tradition and using something that works and does not need replacement.

The book contains all aspects of meetings and procedures; therefore, it is much easier for an entity to adopt the rules in totality than to write its own. If a problem arises during a meeting and there is a question on how to proceed, a quick consult of the book should answer it.

It also sets the pace for how a meeting will be carried out as well as the proper wording that should be used when introducing a motion. While the words used may not seem like a crucial factor, this prevents any ambiguity in decisions.

Another important facet of Robert’s Rules of Order is the keeping of order and civility. A meeting can quickly devolve into a shouting match when several impassioned attendees wish to speak. The Rules of Order give specific guidance on how a desire to speak should be displayed as well as how it is acknowledged and carried out. This ensures the speaker has the undivided attention of everyone in attendance.

A common misconception is that the Rules of Order for a meeting replace the need for an agenda. However, this is not the case, as meeting rules dictate the formal process of carrying out a meeting agenda. You are still free to have the meeting in any order you wish.

Pros and Cons of Robert’s Rules of Order

Although Robert’s Rules of Order are a popular choice for meetings, you should weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision.

One of the biggest pros of the Rules of Order is that they are very in-depth and cover a wide range of scenarios. They also cover how you should proceed should these situations arise. However, this book comes in at around 700 pages because of just how many scenarios it covers, which could make it tricky to find the solution for your particular situation.

Another benefit is that, because the book has been around so long and is widely adopted, many already know its basic procedures. Therefore, you may find meeting attendees more responsive and knowledgeable than if you were choosing a lesser-known method.

Besides the length, you will also have to deal with the complexity of reading it. The original book was written well over 100 years ago, and the style and form of the English in which it was written may be hard to understand.

Finally, you may consider alternative meeting rules if Robert’s Rules of Order are too formal for your needs. The rules work well for large board meetings or government procedures, but for smaller boards or businesses, the formality of the rules could cause the meeting to last much longer than it needs to.

Alternatives to Robert’s Rules of Order

If you aren’t sure whether or not Robert’s Rules of Order are right for you, don’t worry. There are two popular alternatives that are much more streamlined and may be a better fit depending on the types of meetings you will conduct.

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure is a good option for businesses that want a set of rules but do not need the complexity of Robert’s Rules. The code is less than half the length of Robert’s Rules and does not cover all the scenarios within it. One other benefit is that it is written in a modern tone that is easier to read.

Another alternative is Atwood’s Rules for Meetings, which rely more on majority votes than the power of a chairman. Otherwise, the way motions are carried out and the process of the meeting is very similar to Robert’s Rules of Order.

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