This is a little basic introduction to something called "Parliamentary Procedure", based on Robert's Rules of Order. Sounds difficult? It really isn't...these are rules that make every meeting run smoothly. Everyone gets their say, and it keeps things from either coming apart or a mass of confusion. These rules are used from everything to a local union meeting to sessions of the US Congress.

Here's some real basic methods to get your point across and keep a meeting going well:

Having the Floor

When you wish to speak, it is referred to as "having the floor." It insures that you are the only one speaking at a particular moment, and you get this by being "recognized by the Chair" (the Chair being the one running the meeting). You ask for recognition by either raising your hand, or saying simply "Mr./Ms. Chairman, President, etc." (depending on who it is and their title). Once recognized, you may now speak until you are done - at which time you "yield the floor." The Chair may NOT speak on a subject unless he/she temporarily "yields the Chair."

Asking for Information and Keeping the Discussion on Subject

The way this is done is by using two methods: using Point of Information and Point of Order. Saying "Point of Information" means you wish to ask a question to the person "having the floor" (speaking) without having them "yield." If the the discussion starts to wander away from the subject at hand, or side discussions begin you say "Point of Order." You then say what you think is happening (going off subject, other people talking, etc.), at which point The Chair "rules" (makes a decision) and asks either the speaker to go back on subject, the meeting to "Come to Order" or decides that the speaker IS on subject.

Making and Voting on Motions

When it comes time to take action on a subject under discussion, this is called "making a motion." You must first be "recognized" by the Chair, then the following sequence takes place: 1) A motion is made. 2) It is "seconded" by someone OTHER than the person making the motion. 3) There is a discussion of the motion, and finally 4) the group votes (show of hands, secret ballot, verbally). If a motion is not seconded, it "dies." If someone wishes to add on to a motion that has been seconded, they may offer an "amendment" that ALSO must be seconded and accepted by the original maker of the motion. During the discussion part of the motion, if anyone feels the discussion has gone on too long, they say Call for the Question. This is a short way to ask the Chair to stop the discussion and to call for an immediate vote. Once the vote is made, all further discussion of the motion is not allowed.

Parliamentary procedure can get very complex, but if you stick to these simple rules the meeting will go more quickly and everyone will get their chance to be heard.

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