© Nancy Sylvester, MA, PRP, CPP-T

Articles and Scripts

ARTICLES

All articles are available in PDF Format. 

Agenda and Script Lead to Better Meeting Minutes

Unless you have had a tremendous amount of practice in writing minutes of a meeting, you most likely find minutes writing an arduous task that is excruciatingly painful.  There are two documents that can make the task of minutes writing much easier and more accurate.  Those two documents are directly interrelated to the minutes.  They are the agenda and the meeting script. The preparation process should proceed like this:  The agenda is prepared.  The meeting script is written with the headings from the agenda guiding what should be in the script and done in the meeting.  The agenda and the script, as well as the actual meeting itself, should make the writing of the minutes much easier and more accurate.

Read more...

Meetings Without Migraines!

Four articles on how to effectively plan, run, and follow-up on a meeting to maximize time, achieve goals, and develop participant enthusiasm.

Read more...

There are Professional Parliamentarians!?!

When I tell people that I am a professional parliamentarian, they look at me like they think I just told them I have some strange, incurable disease. After I assure them that it is not a disease, I then proceed to explain the profession. Just in case you did not know there are such creatures as professional parliamentarians out there, let me explain my profession to you.

Read more...

What Professional Parliamentarians Can Do For You!

A parliamentarian assists the organization before, during, and after meetings. A parliamentarian also may be of assistance to the organization throughout the entire year, not just at convention time. A parliamentarian can assist the organization in any of the following ways ...

Read more...

Who is Henry M. Robert and Why is He the Authority?

Henry did not set out to be the leading authority in parliamentary procedure. He simply envisioned a need for a set of rules that were consistently followed everywhere. Therefore, when people moved to a new community, they would be able to use the same set of rules used in the previous community.

 

Read more...

Script of a Main Motion

Ever wonder how in the world presiding officers remember every step in the motion making process? While it's certainly the case that many presiding officers have a complete understanding of parliamentary procedure and know exactly what to say in almost every circumstance, a lot of presiding officers rely on what some might call "cheat sheets" but in the parliamentary world are called "scripts." That's right – they read from a prepared document which tells them exactly what they need to say and do for any particular motion. Here is a script of what you should say in processing a main motion. It is meant to make you more comfortable in a meeting. Take it to meetings with you that you chair so you are prepared to say it correctly!

Read more...

The Meaning of Votes

I am frequently asked to explain the meaning of various votes. Here are the definitions ...

Read more...

How to Write and Keep Meeting Minutes

What follows is an updated and enhanced version of the Meeting Minutes article. It is updated to the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.
Minutes are the official record of an organization. It is crucial that they are accurate since they are the legal record of the proceedings and actions of the organization. 

Read more...

Strategies for Effective Meeting Management: Effective Chairing of the Meeting

The average business person spends anywhere from 3 hours to 25% of the work week in meetings. My experience as a professional parliamentarian indicates whether it is the local city council meeting, school board meeting, or board meeting of a nonprofit organization, the number one complaint I hear is that meetings are too long. Every one of us could use some assistance in meeting management. It is for this reason I decided to write this series of articles. Each article will cover a different strategy for effective meeting management: effective chairing of the meeting, facilitating discussion, and meeting follow-up. This article will cover the effective chairing of the meeting, which includes advanced preparation, focus on agenda, using all six steps of processing a motion, and, the most difficult, remaining impartial.

Read more...

Strategies for Effective Meeting Management: Meeting Follow-Up

If you begin preparing for the next meeting about a week before that meeting, you have started planning too late. I encourage you to start your next meeting preparation during and immediately after the current meeting. Preparing for the next meeting during the current meeting is as simple as writing notes on the agenda during the meeting. Everyone needs to work out their own shorthand, but what works for me is to use double asterisks (**). If an item is actually postponed to the next meeting, on the agenda I write the word postponed and put double asterisks next to it. If, during the discussion of an item, it sounds like this issue may need to come back on the agenda at the next meeting, I put double asterisks and a question mark next to it (**?). That tells me to review this as a possible agenda item for the next meeting. 

Read more...

Strategies for Effective Meeting Management: Facilitating Communication

The basis of effective leadership in a democratic decision making process is that the leader facilitates the discussion. Effective leaders facilitate the discussion; ineffective leaders dominate the discussion and take control of the direction of the discussion. This article will cover the leader facilitating discussion during a meeting which includes facilitate, don’t dictate; keep the discussion focused; focus on the will of the attendees; and religiously follow speaking rules. Facilitate, don't dictate! The difference between a leader who facilitates a meeting and one who dictates a meeting is enormous. The leader who facilitates is focused on the meeting process and helping the group focus on the outcome that the group believes is best. A leader who dictates usually believes that he or she knows more than the group does. That type of leader typically begins the meeting with the outcome in mind that the leader believes is best and focuses the entire meeting on getting the group to that outcome.

Read more...

Guerrilla Guide Tactics for All Meetings 

In my over thirty years of experience in meetings (both meetings using parliamentary procedure and not using parliamentary procedure, such as meetings in businesses) I have learned many tactics that can make the meeting more effective and efficient! Many of these tactics are explained in greater detail in my book The Guerrilla Guide to Robert’s Rule. This article is a summary of the tactics that can be useful in all of the meetings you attend. .

Read more...

Boardsmanship Role & Relationships

In this country, we treat being a board member much like many other fields of endeavor such as parenting and leadership. We assume that if you have the desire to be one and know how to become one, then you will know how to be a good one! Unfortunately, all around us we see examples of how this theory fails. I often meet board members who want to be good board members but don't know how or go about it in the wrong way. This article will review the overall role of the board and then focus on a key success factor of effective board governance: the board/staff relationship.
Read more...

Want to Be a Better Board Member?

In this country we treat being a board member much like many other fields of endeavor such as parenting and leadership. We assume that if you have the desire to be one and we know how to become one, then we will know how to be a good one! Unfortunately, all around us we see examples of how this theory fails. Seldom have I ever met or worked with a board member who didn't really care about the organization and want to be a good board member. Often I have met board members who wanted to be a good board member but didn't know how or went about it in the wrong way. In this article we will review an understanding of board governance, some board basics and some board training subjects to pursue.

Read more...

Improve Your Business Presentation Skills

This article is designed to help you improve your business presentation skills by looking at the presentation from the point of view of the purpose, the preparation, the organization, the support and the delivery. Give the perfect presentation!

Read more...

Lessons Learned from Serving as Interim

In August, 2004, the Executive Committee of the Rockford Regional Chamber of Commerce asked me to serve as Interim President. After I accepted the responsibility, I realized I didn´t know how to be an interim! I spent a significant amount of time giving serious thought to the role of an interim president and how that role differs from the role of the president. My years of study of governance issues told me there was a huge difference and now I was challenged to put that concept into practice. In my last president´s message I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I learned.

Read more...

Parliamentary Procedure Basics

The following are the foundational concepts upon which parliamentary procedure is based ...

Read more...

Parliamentary Procedure

This article examines the agenda, tools that are in place to assist with the running of the meeting, processing a motion and the script of a motion.

Read more...

There are Professional Parliamentarians!?!

When I tell people that I am a professional parliamentarian, they look at me like they think I just told them I have some strange, incurable disease. After I assure them that it is not a disease, I then proceed to explain the profession. Just in case you did not know there are such creatures as professional parliamentarians out there, let me explain my profession to you.

Read more...

What Professional Parliamentarians Can Do For You!

A parliamentarian assists the organization before, during, and after meetings. A parliamentarian also may be of assistance to the organization throughout the entire year, not just at convention time. A parliamentarian can assist the organization in any of the following ways ...

Read more...

Who is Henry M. Robert and Why is He the Authority?

Henry did not set out to be the leading authority in parliamentary procedure. He simply envisioned a need for a set of rules that were consistently followed everywhere. Therefore, when people moved to a new community, they would be able to use the same set of rules used in the previous community.

Read more...

The New Version of Robert's and Why You Should Care

The 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised was released at the 2011 National Association of Parliamentarian’s Convention on September 23. If the bylaws of an organization state that the organization’s parliamentary authority is “the current edition of” Robert’s, then the 11th edition is now that organization’s parliamentary authority. It is also the parliamentary authority for organizations whose bylaws establish Robert’s Rules of Order, Robert’s Rules of Order Revised, and Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. Since approximately 95% of the organizations in the U.S. prescribe Robert’s as their parliamentary authority, the 11th edition is most likely the parliamentary authority for all organizations you are involved in. In this article, I am going to highlight some of the major changes that are most likely to have an impact on organizations. The areas I will cover are: rules for small boards and committees, electronic meetings, notice sent electronically, Point of Information, offering a series of amendments in one motion, and the minutes of the meeting. There are other areas of major change, such as discipline and resolving election disputes that I will not be covering in this article, but can be found in the list of changes found on the Robert’s Rules Association website (see information at end of article).

Read more...

Raising the Bar on Parliamentary Procedure Knowledge

Not long ago, people predicted that as our society became less formal, the need for an understanding of parliamentary procedure would decrease. In making that prediction, they did not take into account the increased emphasis on an individual’s rights, as well as minority rights, or the increase in litigation when any of our rights are perceived to be violated. Instead of the need for parliamentary procedure decreasing, that need has increased. Among bar leaders, the need for an understanding of parliamentary procedure is also on the rise. The purpose of this article is to help meet that need. In order to help increase your understanding of parliamentary procedure, this article will examine the following areas of parliamentary procedure: quorum, agenda, processing.
Read more...

Control the debate, control the meeting: Answers to your parliamentary questions

At the 2012 ABA Bar Leadership Institute, one of the workshops had some questions that were submitted in writing and that the speaker was not able to answer due to time constraints. Because the questions were regarding parliamentary procedure and meeting management, I have been asked to address them.

All four of the questions dealt with the debate portion in the processing of a motion in a board meeting. As you can guess, bar associations are not the only organizations whose boards have problems making the discussion portion of the meeting effective, efficient, and focused. Before I begin answering the questions that were asked, there are a few general rules pertaining to debate that apply to all four of them. When you adopt Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th Edition as your parliamentary authority, you have some debate rules already in place.
Read more...

The Presiding Officer's Impact on Closure to Controversial Decisions

For years, when training in presiding skills I have made a statement, followed by the comment that someday I am going to prove that statement scientifically, and then write an article supporting it. I still have not found a method to do the research, but have decided that the time has come to write the article. The statement is that, particularly in the case of a highly controversial motion, when the presiding officer does a thorough job of Steps 3, 5, and 6 of processing a motion [Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition (RONR), pp. 31-51], the assembly is much more likely to accept the outcome of the vote and move on to the next issue. While I don’t have proof, I do have empirical evidence to support the statement, based upon years of observation as a professional parliamentarian. I will support the statement in this article by reviewing the six steps of processing a motion, and looking closely at Steps 3, 5, and 6, including an examination of the effect of those three steps on the assembly’s response to the vote....

 

Read more...

Process For Disagreement With The Chair

In parliamentary procedure the process for disagreeing with the chair involves two motions, Point of Order, and Appeal from the Decision of the Chair. It is the process of using one or both of these motions that keep the democratic process of decisions by the people alive and well. It also keeps the chair humble! Understanding the use of these two motions will assist you in appropriately handling a disagreement you might have with the ruling of the chair. 

 

Read more...

Reconsider & Rescind

It is not unusual for a group to change its mind – circumstances change, information changes, the politics of the situation causes a change. Robert’s gives us several ways to change our minds. But they are so complicated that people frequently get them mixed up and misuse them. At a very high level, let’s look at how a group of people can change their minds, either right away, or at a later date. 

Read more...

Parliamentary Procedure: Fair, Logical and Efficient

If you are ever in a meeting and can´t remember the parliamentary rule that applies, here is the test to give as you try to figure out what to do. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is the fairest thing to do in this situation? Be sure to consider what is fairest to all, not just to you.

  2. What is the most logical answer to this problem? This one is hard, because most of us don´t have a mind that is as logical as Robert´s.

  3. What is the most efficient way of doing this? If you can get there in two steps, don´t take three!

Read more...

Script of a Main Motion

Ever wonder how in the world presiding officers remember every step in the motion making process? While it's certainly the case that many presiding officers have a complete understanding of parliamentary procedure and know exactly what to say in almost every circumstance, a lot of presiding officers rely on what some might call "cheat sheets" but in the parliamentary world are called "scripts." That's right – they read from a prepared document which tells them exactly what they need to say and do for any particular motion. Here is a script of what you should say in processing a main motion. It is meant to make you more comfortable in a meeting. Take it to meetings with you that you chair so you are prepared to say it correctly!

Read more...

The Meaning of Votes

I am frequently asked to explain the meaning of various votes. Here are the definitions ...

Read more...

 
 

SCRIPTS

Nancy's complied a list of handy parliamentary procedure templates, samples, and scripts you use. Click on the title to download the item in PDF format. 

Templates

Meeting Agenda Template

Template of a meeting agenda

Meeting Minutes Template

An easy to follow example and template of standard meeting minutes.

Samples - Board Meeting of a Board that Meets Quarterly or Less

Post Convention Board of Directors Meeting Agenda Sample

Post Convention Board of Directors Meeting Sample

Sample Meeting Minutes

Scripts

Motion to Amend

A motion to modify the pending motion before it is voted on.

Motion to Adjourn

A motion to close the meeting.

Motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted

A motion that allows the assembly to change an action previously taken. This motion can be applied to a motion adopted at a previous meeting provided that none of the action involved has been carried out in a way that it is too late to undo.

Motion to Appeal From The Decision of the Chair

A motion to take a decision regarding parliamentary procedure out of the hands of the presiding officer and place the final decision in the hands of the assembly.

A Call For The Orders Of The Day

By the use of this motion, a single member can require the assembly to follow the order of business or agenda, or to take up a special order that is scheduled to come up, unless two-thirds of the assembly wish to do otherwise.

Motion to Commit or Refer

This motion sends the Main Motion to a smaller group (a committee) for further examination and refinement before the body votes on it. Be sure to be specific which committee, size of committee, and so on.

Division of the Assembly

The effect of this motion is to require a standing vote (not a counted vote.) A single member can demand this if he or she feels the vote is to close to declare or is unrepresentative. This motion can only be used after a voice vote or show of hands vote where there is reasonable doubt of the results.

Division of the Question

This motion is used to separate a Main Motion or Amendment into parts to be voted on individually. It can only be used if each part can stand as a separate question.

Motion to Fix the Time to Which To Adjourn

Motion to Fix the Time to Which To Adjourn

Motion To Lay On The Table

This motion in essence puts aside a Main Motion until a later, unspecified time. It places in the care of the secretary the pending question and everything adhering to it. If a group meets quarterly or more frequently, the question laid on the table remains there until taken off or until the end of the next regular session. This motion should not be used to kill a motion without debating it. The motion to Take from the Table is used when the assembly wants to continue considering the motion.

Motion to Take From The Table

The effect of this motion is to resume consideration of a motion that was Laid on the Table earlier in the present session or in the previous session of the organization. When a motion is Taken from the Table, it has everything adhering to it exactly as it was when it was Laid on the Table.

Motion To Limit Or Extend The Limit of Debate

This motion can reduce or increase the number and length of speeches permitted or limit the length of debate on a specific question.

Main Motion

A motion that brings before the assembly any particular subject and is made when no other business is pending. If passed, it commits the assembly to do or say something.

Objection To The Consideration of a Question

The discussion that occurs during Step 4 of the processing of a motion, while the motion is pending.

Point of Order

Point of Order is a motion that helps us remember that leadership of the meeting is not solely the responsibility of the chair.  This motion is used when a member feels that proper decorum of debate is not being followed and the chair does not call the person to order.  It is also used when a member disagrees with the presiding officer’s decision.

Motion to Postpone to a Certain Time

If the body needs more time to make a decision or if there is a time for consideration of this question that would be more convenient, this motion may be the answer. If a group meets quarterly or more frequently, the postponement cannot be beyond the next session.

Motion to Postpone Indefinitely

This motion, in effect, kills the Main Motion for the duration of the session without the group having to take a vote on the motion. If the motion passes, there is no vote on the Main Motion which means there is no stand taken for or against the motion.

Previous Question

The effect of this motion is to immediately stop debate on the primary motion and any amendments and to move immediately to a vote on the motion. It must be seconded, no debate is allowed, and a two-thirds vote is needed to close debate.

Question of Privilege

An urgent request or motion relating to the privileges of the assembly or a member.

Question of Privilege Motion

An urgent request or motion relating to the privileges of the assembly or a member.

Motion to Reconsider

This motion enables the majority of the assembly to bring back for further consideration a motion that has been voted on.

Motion to Recess

A short interruption which does not close the meeting. After the recess, business resumes at exactly the point where it was interrupted.

Suspend the Rules

This motion is used when the assembly wants to do something that violates its own rules. This motion does not apply to the organization’s bylaws; local, state, or national law; or fundamental principles of parliamentary law. An appropriate suspension of the rules would be a motion to change the agenda, or the prescribed meeting time. An inappropriate suspension of the rules would be to allow nonmembers the same voting rights as members.

If you have a comment or suggestion, I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me with your questions or ideas for additional content you would like to see in this section.