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If you would like to know more about how Parliamentarian Procedure from Little Ben, click here for my DVD called How To Run A Meeting.

Is it time to call the sheriff?

Keeping order in a meeting

Little Ben says: Keep order instead!

Here’s a parliamentary joke.  “When meetings get rowdy it’s time to call the sheriff!”  Good grief!  Can you imagine that!  An informed presiding officer never lets it get out of hand.  Or so they say.  But I have heard of exceptions.

Recently the McConnell’s were called in on a case of a very unruly membership with a president and board that did not know how to conduct a meeting. Nor did anyone  know the basic meeting rules.  The president and members needed their help!  The company parliamentarian wrote a presiding script for the president. He carefully went over the minutes from the previous year’s meetings to see what the issues were that need to be handled.  Two days before the meeting, the president said, “oh, by the way there will be a security guard at the meeting.”  Our parliamentarian’s response was, “Really??!!”  The president told our parliamentarian that the previous year some members threatened the board members. So they hired a security guard.  It made a difference.  Fists, swords and guns did not come out as some feared.  (Swords? Guns? Really Little Ben, you are exaggerating! The parliamentarian.)

With this in mind, our parliamentarian got to work.  (He was working before, but really got to work to see that order would prevail.)  He advised the president and board to strictly follow the order of business in Robert’s Rules. He said, “Let the parliamentary authority determine the agenda and not the whims of the members”.  The parliamentarian understood that the reason there was disorder and disagreement was because members believed they were not given an opportunity to speak or make decisions.  In the past the only time the members could bring anything up was under comments at the very end of the meeting.  So this year the parliamentarian included in the presiding script after every report, “Are there any questions?” (And there were many.)

Next the parliamentarian insisted that instead of the board imposing a time limit on how long the members could speak, the board made the incidental main motion to limit debate.  The members had the opportunity to discuss the motion and propose amendments to the time presented.

Next, the parliamentarian wrote basic rules of meeting behavior for the members. It was attached to the agenda.  He also wrote a cheat sheet for the presiding officer that he could refer to when challenges arose at the meeting.

The parliamentarian also prepared himself for the member who used Robert’s Rules of Order to confuse and disrupt the meeting.  Because the president and other members did not know Robert’s Rules of Order, this member had caused mayhem the year before, took away member’s rights to speak and vote and basically controlled the meeting from the floor. This was not going to happen again and it did not!

Before the meeting the security guard told the parliamentarian that he could not arrest anyone or escort them outside.  He could only call the sheriff if there was a disruption.  The security guard was very helpful in advising the president and board how to set up the chairs to make sure people were comfortable and could hear.  During the meeting he pointed out when people did not have an agenda or could not hear the presiding officer.  But he did not have to call the sheriff because of the great work our parliamentarian did to see that the meeting was kept under control and that everyone had their rights protected.  There were several times the members tried to take control of the meeting but our trusty parliamentarian was able to help the president steer the course and save the day!