Down to Business

To have a successful business meeting, an organization must have some structure. If a group of diverse people didn’t have any structure when trying to decide something, nothing would ever get done. Have no fear, Robert is here. If you do parliamentary procedure (parli) you are highly aware with what this book entails. But for others this is a new book and parli is not something they are familiar with. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) is currently in its 11th edition of editing, after being originally published in 1876 under the title of “Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies.” The purpose of this book is to give a guide to parliamentary law which provides structure and rules for a business meeting. The book currently has 669 pages in it, so there is no possible way that I can explain everything in the book. While some of the actions in the book are often unnecessary and rarely used in meetings, there is one thing that almost always appears in a meeting. This is the agenda or order of business. While some organizations may have unique orders of business, those amendments must come from the organizations' by-laws. RONR provides a guided order that a meeting should take place. If an organization uses parliamentary procedure and has no bylaws creating a different process, this is the process they should take for a business meeting.

First thing: Call to Order

In The National FFA Organization, a meeting is started by going through opening ceremonies. During some parts of the parliamentary procedure competition, students are asked to conduct opening ceremonies. This practice is often mistaken that this ritual is a part of parliamentary procedure. While it does call a meeting to order it is unneeded for every business meeting of the organization. Many assemblies start a meeting by a tap of a gavel, and the chairmen stating that the meeting has started.

Taps of the gavel:

One Tap- signifies if a meeting has adjourned or if an item of business has been voted on and now it is time to go to the next item of business. One tap of the gavel can also mean to be seated.

Two Taps- signify that the meeting has officially come to order and the meeting is starting.

Three Taps- mean for the members of the assembly to stand. After the third tap, all the members should stand in unison.

Next on the agenda: Reading of the minutes

The minutes are a record of what happened at the last meeting. It is the responsibility of the secretary to take these at each meeting and to present them at each new meeting. The minutes must be approved by the body whether using parliamentary procedure or the organization's bylaws.

After the minutes: Comes the reports

The reports are provided by officers or standing committees -a committee that is always in place-. These could be treasurer reports that give the financial standing of an organization, or a decision that is made by the committee for the assembly.

What’s next: Old Business

Old business always takes precedence over new business. Old business is a motion that was made at the last meeting but was never voted on, which means it is still active. This issue usually happens if time is running out and an adjournment is called, but the motion wasn’t completed. This means that that motion will be brought up first at the next meeting because it still is on the floor. A basic law of parliamentary procedure says that only one motion can be on the floor at a time.

Down to Business: New Business

After getting the old business out of the way, it is finally time to get to the new business. A motion that is brought up must follow the steps of a main motion before it can be put into action. This applies to old business and new business, but the majority of the steps for old business had been taken during the previous meeting. These steps will be provided by clicking this link here.(I would go through all the steps of a main motion, but a member has already written a study guide that goes over these steps.) New business is usually what takes up the majority of a meeting since they are new ideas that require discussion. Although if a motion to amend the bylaws is brought up, the maker of the motion should have given the assembly prior notice of the action. If the maker did not give notice the motion requires a ⅔ vote, since it is changing a constitutional law.

How do you end this?: Adjourn

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Moving to adjourn is a privileged motion that takes precedence over every other motion. No matter what is going on in a meeting, if the motion to adjourn is passed, everything must end. Adjourn holds the most power of any of the parliamentary abilities. Even though it is this powerful, the motion to adjourn only requires a majority vote. The motion can also not be amended or discussed. Once it is seconded the assembly votes on the motion.  Some organizations may also have it set that they have a “fixed time to adjourn.” This means that once the meeting gets to a certain time, the meeting must adjourn no matter the motion that is on the floor.

If this is just the order of business, how complicated is parliamentary procedure? Parli is a complex idea, but it provides structure. There are many rules in parli, and can be confusing when trying to use the laws to prevent an error from happening. So why would anyone use this method to conduct a meeting?

Parliamentary Procedure was designed to accomplish 4 objectives during a meeting.

-Extends courtesy to everyone

Parli allows everyone to speak freely about their opinions or information they may know about the motion on the floor. To gain the right to speak they must address the chair by standing and saying “Madame/Mr. Chair.” Then the chair must call upon them if they can speak.

-Focus on one thing at a time

The way parli works is there can only be one motion on the floor at a time. If there is a motion and it is voted on and passed or failed, then a new motion can be brought up. If a new motion is brought up during the discussion of a motion then it is out of order and will not be tended to at the time. This keeps from the confusion of having to wonder which motion you are discussing at a time. The main motion can only be considered if it is stated by “I move…”

-Observe the rule of the majority

After a motion has been introduced with “I move…” the next thing that needs to take place before it can be discussed is a second. A second can be made by any voting member of the assembly. The purpose of the second is not to show that you are in favor of the motion, it is to show that you think it is important enough for the group to discuss. Most of the motions in parli will require a majority vote. Really the only time it is a ⅔ is if it limits the rights of the minority or changes a bylaw. A motion can only be put into place if it passes. If a motion does not pass by the majority vote the organization can not proceed with whatever the motion entitles. That would go against the rule of the majority.

-Ensures the rights of the minority

Everyone has the right to voice their opinion during discussion of a motion no matter which side they may be on. A group in the assembly does not have the right to restrict any rules that may take away from the minority. If the motion is moved to suspend a rule that would restrict the rights, then it must be voted on using a ⅔ vote method. The most common parliamentary ability that requires this is "previous question". This ability ends the discussion on the motion at hand and goes straight into a vote. This requires a ⅔ because there is the possibility that it taking away speaking rights from a minority.

Now that we've covered a little parliamentary procedure, next we will go into leadership skills and public speaking tips. This goes hand in hand with conducting a meeting. 

-Lisandra Mejia

Vice President and Editor for Everything Agriculture