Parli What? The Basics of Parliamentary Procedure
By: Abby Burns, Program Coordinator
In association management we regularly hold board meetings for our clients. Often, boards turn to our management team to make sure they are executing business correctly and efficiently. In order to do this, they must ensure they are knowledgeable about the structure of official business meetings, as well as being well versed in Parliamentary Procedure. If you have ever seen a meeting conducted using parliamentary procedure, you know it runs like a well-oiled machine.
Parliamentary Procedure was developed nearly 500 years ago to keep order in the British Parliament, hence the name Parliamentary Procedure. Today we use the rules of meeting order spelled out for us in the commonly known book by Henry Martyn Robert entitled, Roberts Rules of Order. In 1876 he created this book to include all the parliamentary law in a condensed version to make it easy for everyone to use when conducting their meetings, whether it be a church, town hall, HOA, PTA, nonprofit or professional meeting. There is a time and place for everything within the rules of Parli Pro. To conduct your next meeting like a Parli Pro let’s start by learning the basics.
Only one subject at a time may claim the attention of the assembly or group
When items of discussion are brought to the attention of the group they have to be proposed by making a MOTION. A motion has to be made by saying exactly what you want to discuss. For example: I move we have a bring your dog to work day. From that point forward (after a second) the group would only discuss that motion until they decided to either amend, vote or table that motion.
Each proposition presented for consideration is entitled to full and free debate
Anything can be proposed as a motion if it is stated in the correct manner (of course, if you are running a professional meeting your group would only stick to the items of business that need a decision or discussion). In order for a motion to be discussed by the group it has to be SECONDED by another person in the group. If the person would like to discuss that topic they would say, “I second the motion”. Once the motion has been seconded the motion is open for discussion by the group. With that said, everyone’s motion has the opportunity to be discussed if there is interest by the group.
Every member has rights that are equal to every other member
When adapting parliamentary procedure in your group, it is important to understand that no one person is of higher standing than the other. Parli pro is meant to give the group an opportunity to equally and freely discuss important items of discussion all while maintaining order and courtesy. Therefore, the President is not “higher” than the Secretary or the Vice-president is not “higher” than the Treasurer. They are all on an equal playing field, they just have different jobs to do within the meeting in order to maintain order.
The will of the majority must be carried out, and the rights of the minority must be preserved
Majority rules is a rule of thumb in parliamentary procedure. The majority vote will determine the outcome of the motion, but only after giving the minority the opportunity to be heard. This layout of discussion and voting makes it the most germane way to carry out business. EVERY side has the opportunity to be heard.
The personality and desires of each member should be merged into the organizational unit
Ultimately, in each meeting your group is working towards a common goal (typically outlined in your agenda). Each person has valid thoughts and has the right to share them. However, you should keep your discussion limited to facts and ideas versus opinions and judgements. If not, your meeting can get out of hand when you have a large diverse group of people (it is the job of the President, Chair, Management Team or Executive Director to keep order and have the meeting remain civilized.)
At Association Services Group, our clients’ time is of the essence due to many of our Board members having full-time jobs in addition to their duties within the associations. When the management teams know the basic principles of Parliamentary Procedure it helps them conduct more efficient and productive meetings. The next time you attend or conduct a meeting, remember to implement these basic principles of Parliamentary Procedure. You will have a much more successful meeting and the attendees will feel as though you have respectively used their time!
Abby graduated with a degree in Agriculture Education from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. She enjoys camping, gardening and spending time with her family and dog Wolfie. She currently works with HazingPrevention.Org (HPO) and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA)