April 10, 2008

I Call this Meeting to Order

By Margaret Deller, 4-H Clubs Educational Instructor
Pinellas County/University of Florida IFAS Extension

group meeting
If you have ever attended a meeting that had an agenda, allowed all members an equal chance to speak, and every idea was given equal attention, then you have attended a meeting that was run with parliamentary procedure.

Fundamentally, parliamentary procedure defines how groups of self governing people, no matter how formal or informal, can most effectively meet and make decisions in a fair, consistent manner—making good use of everyone's time. Even a basic background in parliamentary principles can help you and your organization hold more efficient meetings.

In order to learn and implement parliamentary procedure in your organization you will need to do some research. The most widely used authority on parliamentary procedure is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. This book originally titled A Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies was written in 1876 by General Henry M. Robert. General Robert was an engineering officer in the regular Army. Without warning, he was asked to preside over a church meeting and realized that he did not know how. He tried anyway and his embarrassment was supreme. This event left him determined never to attend another meeting until he knew something of parliamentary law.

group meetingHe discovered and studied the few books that were available on the subject. From time to time, because of his military duties, he was transferred to various areas of the United States, where he discovered everyone had a different idea of what was correct. Using his experiences he wrote his own book on the subject. The most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised is the 10th. Each new edition issued since the death of Henry Robert, has been prepared by people who knew Henry Robert, worked with him or are directly connected to those people by professional association.

The first time you try to read Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised it can be a little scary. First, it is 700 pages long and is full of words you know being used in ways you have never imagined. But there are many resources out there to make it easier. First, you can visit the official website where you can learn how your organization can adopt Robert’s Rules in your organization and get answers to frequently asked questions. Next, you can contact your local 4-H office or club; because they use Parliamentary Procedure with all of their meetings. Yes, even youth can use Robert’s Rules. In fact, there are even games to teach you how Here in Pinellas County we even have a small how-to booklet, created by Hernando County 4-H Agent Nancy Moores, called Parliamentary Procedure Made Easy for Everyday Use.

Next time you are at a meeting that is called to order and an item for discussion is moved, seconded, and passed by majority vote; remember to thank General Henry M. Robert for giving you a voice.

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