Running an association meeting by proper parliamentary procedure is smart for two reasons. First, it helps to avoid legal challenges to your actions; second, it produces better, more productive meetings.
A presiding officer who properly applies parliamentary procedure can turn long, confrontational meetings into short, painless ones. One association had such a difficult time conducting annual meetings that all the officers dreaded attending them. None wanted to preside. The association dealt with the problem by hiring a professional parliamentarian. The professional provided the expert advice needed to keep the meeting flowing in an orderly fashion.
While a lengthy and badly run meeting can cast a pall on all other accomplishments during the year, a successful and well-run meeting will please and invigorate members. One homeowners' association had annual meetings that routinely ran overtime and failed to complete business. By engaging a parliamentarian, the board found that at subsequent meetings, it not only completed all business but ended early-earning praise from participants.
WHICH RULE BOOK?
Instead, there are several major parliamentary books, with Robert’s being the most popular. It is used by approximately 85 percent of U.S. organizations. Another well-known parliamentary authority is The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, Fourth Edition ("Sturgis"), used by approximately 10 percent of organizations. Other excellent manuals of parliamentary procedure are available. However, the fact that Robert’s is the most widely used book as well as the easiest to locate argues in its favor as a parliamentary authority. Robert’s is an excellent resource for association leaders. The book includes sections on presiding, the duties of officers, running elections, writing and amending bylaws, counting votes, and holding board and committee meetings. Robert’s is fairly easy to find-just be sure to buy the right one. There are numerous Robert’s “clones” and earlier editions that are easy to pick up by mistake. Identify Robert’s Rules of Order by its publisher, Da Capo Press, and by the number of pages (716). It’s available in both hardback and softcover.
ADOPT WRITTEN RULES
The conduct of business in an assembly often varies by size. Annual meetings of large organizations are typically formal in procedure. Similarly, business conducted in a board of more than a dozen members follows the same formal procedure. Some characteristics of formal parliamentary procedure are as follows:
In contrast, formal procedure in a meeting of fewer than a dozen may actually hinder business. Robert’s Rules of Order recommends that the procedure in smaller boards be less formal, such that:
While smaller boards can operate more informally, there are times that more formal procedure may be warranted. If a particular issue is hotly contested or likely to subject the board to publicity or a lawsuit, more formal procedure can ensure that procedural safeguards have been observed.
The American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) has two levels of parliamentary proficiency-- the basic Certified Parliamentarian and AIP’s highest parliamentary classification, Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP).
The American Institute of Parliamentarians can be contacted at PO Box 2173, Wilmington, DE 19899, phone number 302-762-1811, fax number 302-762-2170. The AIP Web site is located at www.aipparl.org
The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) also has two levels of parliamentary proficiency--Registered Parliamentarian and NAP's highest parliamentary classification, Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP).
The National Association of Parliamentarians can be contacted at 213 South Main Street, Independence, MO 64050-3850, phone number 816-833-3892, fax number 816-833-3893. The NAP Web site is located at www.parliamentarians.org
Jim Slaughter is an attorney, Certified Professional Parliamentarian, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, and past President of the American College of Parliamentary Lawyers. He is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track and lead author of Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition.
Updated and reprinted with permission from "Prescription for Troubled Meetings: Better Use of Parliamentary Procedure," Common Ground, 1998.
Charts and articles are intended to provide general information on parliamentary procedure and are not legal advice or a legal opinion.