What's your strategy for the meeting?
Little Ben says: Be prepared for anything and everything!
Nations have war strategies. Entrepreneurs have business strategies. Sports teams have strategies to win games. And even individuals have strategies to accomplish their goals. But alas most meetings have no strategies for having a harmonious meeting. But sometimes a small group comes with a strategy to highjack a meeting, taking the presiding officer completely by surprise. Then leave him trailing in the dust trying to catch up with these marauding bandits.
Never fear. Little Ben and Robert’s Rules is here to help save the day! My secret weapon is the chapter in the McConnell’s book, Webster’s New World, Robert’s Rules of Order Simplified and Applied, 3rd, edition, called “Meetings” and then another chapter entitled, ”Strategies for individual motions illustrated.” On page 232 of “Meeting” begins the most important information that you find about how to plan for all types of meetings.
First the McConnell’s recognize that the word “strategy” has two meanings: a plan to achieve a goal and a plan to defeat an enemy by trickery. Since the McConnell’s are very honest people who support the democratic process where everyone’s rights are protected, they believe in the first definition of strategy. But they also know that many have plans of trickery up their sleeve to subvert the democratic process. That is why these two chapters are so important. They show the right way to have meetings with good strategies and also how to defeat the tricksters.
Let’s face it. Unless we are ostriches with our head in the sand, we all know the hot button issues that could come up at meetings. This is where preparation comes in handy.
The president should prepare this way:
- Know the bylaws and rules of the organization.
- Write a meeting script.
- Know the rules of debate.
- Be well versed in the parliamentary authority.
- Be calm, be courteous.
- Remember that he represents all the members.
- Protect the rights of all members.
Members, too, should be prepared to present business and debate the issues without being pushy or disrespectful.
- Know how to obtain the floor.
- How to make motions.
- Be well informed about the issues.
- Know the governing documents.
- Co-operate with the presiding officer.
- Know the right time to make a point of order.
- Be courteous when speaking and listen quietly when others are talking.
Often members come to a meeting wanting to do something. So there are strategies for getting something adopted, delaying action, defeating the action or compromising. The McConnell’s book tells how to proceed with all of these, plus the chapter on strategies on the motions tells how to use motions to counter the motions of others or to defend the motions that you make. These strategies can make for lively meetings but also for an orderly meeting.
But here is the most important point to remember. Henry M. Roberts says this: “Where there is radical difference of opinion in an organization, one side must yield. The great lesson for democracies to learn is for the majority to give to the minority a full, free opportunity to present their side of the case, and then for the minority, having failed to win a majority to their views, gracefully to submit and to recognize the action as that of the entire organization, and cheerfully to assist in carrying it out, until they can secure its repeal.”
So the rule is: be sure everyone gets to speak; everyone’s rights are protected; and the majority wins. Then let bygones be bygones and come together to carry it out! Cheerio…..