Jim Slaughter

Article Summary:

Tips for conductign an effective meeting.

How to Conduct an Effective Meeting

"Be sincere . . . be brief . . . be seated."
Unfortunately, not all members follow this advice from Theodore Roosevelt. As a result, discussion at meetings can be lengthy and repetitive.

Effective presiding officers use various techniques to keep discussion moving. Listed below are some rules of debate that must be followed in certain circumstances. Following the rules are suggestions for shortening any discussion at any meeting.

Most associations follow Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990 Edition). If RONR 1990 is your parliamentary authority, its procedures are binding except as spelled out in any specially adopted rules of order.

RONR 1990 has several restrictions on debate that apply to most meetings and conventions (but not to boards smaller than twelve):

  • No one can speak more than 10 minutes.

  • No one can speak a second time until everyone who wishes to speak a first time has spoken. The chair can facilitate new debate by asking, "Is there anyone who would like to speak who has not yet spoken?"

  • No one can speak more than twice on the same issue.

In addition to these specific procedural rules, here are some suggestions to shorten


  • Alternate pro and con. After hearing from a proponent, ask, "Is there anyone who wishes to speak against the motion?" Alternate. When no one wishes to speak on a particular side, ask unanimous consent to end debate. "Is there any objection to closing discussion? Hearing no objection, discussion is closed."

  • Encourage new discussion (and prevent repetition) by asking for speakers who have not yet spoken.

  • List start and end times for each discussion item on the agenda.

  • Announce in advance of the meeting the time the meeting will adjourn. Members often police themselves as to time when the meeting has a foreseeable end.

  • Ask for a motion to end discussion. ("Is there a motion to close debate?") Most parliamentary authorities allow debate to be closed with a two-thirds vote.

  • Set the discussion time prior to lengthy issues. ("Is there a motion to limit total debate to 30 minutes?") Such a motion also requires a two-thirds vote.

  • Establish speaking rules for all meetings by adopting special rules of order with notice and a two-thirds vote (e.g., guidelines to limit the amount of debate and number of speakers).

Jim Slaughter is an Expert on Parilmentary procedures, and an attorney and partner at Forman Rossabi Black Marth Iddings & Slaughter, PA., in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is both a Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher and a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, both of which denote his extensive knowledge, experience and ability as a parliamentarian. He has instructed parliamentary procedure in a variety of forums, including college and continuing legal education. For more information on parlimentary procedures, or to contact him, please visit www.jimslaughter.com

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