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The Key Points of Robert's Rules

Robert's Rules of Order is a widely used manual of parliamentary procedure for conducting meetings effectively, ensuring fairness, and achieving orderly decision-making. Most Democratic Town Committees utilize Robert's Rules as a framework for running meetings. I like the mission of these rules at a high level, but they can be very intimidating and, sometimes, overly rigid. As someone who spends most of her days in meetings in a heavily matrixed organization, I have little patience for an unfocused, disorganized meeting so I tend to lean on modified and simplified Robert's Rules in a professional, digital setting.


Let's make it simple: here are a few key principles to know:


  • Chairperson: A meeting typically has a chairperson who presides over the proceedings. The chair's role is to maintain order, recognize speakers, and facilitate discussion. This person runs the meeting.

  • Agenda: Meetings should have a pre-planned agenda that outlines the items to be discussed in order. The agenda helps keep the meeting focused and efficient and helps limit digressions.

people meeting over coffee

  • Motions: Members can propose actions or decisions known as motions. There are different types of motions, including main motions (to introduce new business), subsidiary motions (related to the main motion), and privileged motions (addressing urgent or important matters). Sample language: "I move to appropriate $50 from the DTC General Fund to purchase flowers for veterans to be used in the Memorial Day Parade."

  • Seconding Motions: After a motion is proposed, it usually requires a second from another member before it can be discussed. This ensures that there is sufficient interest or support for considering the motion. Sample language: "I second that motion."

  • Debate: Once a motion is properly before the assembly (motioned and seconded), members can debate its merits. The chairperson typically alternates recognition between those in favor and those against the motion, ensuring fairness.

people and a dog meet

  • Amendments: Members can propose changes to motions through amendments. Amendments must be germane (relevant) to the main motion and require a second and debate like any other motion. Sample language: "I move to amend the motion to appropriate $75 instead of $50 from the DTC General Fund to purchase flowers for veterans to be used in the Memorial Day Parade."

  • Voting: When debate is concluded, the chair calls for a vote on the motion. There are various methods of voting, including voice vote (Aye, Nay, Yes, No, Abstain, etc.), show of hands, or ballot, depending on the organization's rules and preferences.

  • Minutes: A secretary or recording officer typically takes minutes of the meeting, documenting the decisions made, actions taken, and any other important information discussed.

Meeting of women with coffee


These are the fundamental principles of Robert's Rules of Order so if you have these down, you're good to go. Remember that the purpose of Robert's Rules is to ensure fairness, transparency, and efficiency in decision-making processes within groups and organizations. When people try to silence you, know that you have rights and can use them.

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