We believe 80% of the success of a meeting is determined before it is ever called to order. That’s why we work with our clients prior to the meeting to prevent the preventable problems.
Your organization’s bylaws are the operating framework of the association, codifying your structure and flow of authority. Too much detail in the bylaws can be just as damaging as too little.
Parliamentary procedure is a tool, not a weapon. No one can get away with nefarious behavior in a meeting unless others choose not to learn some simple principles. We make it easy to learn!
Snippets are free, one page articles that focus on one aspect of meetings, leadership, or parliamentary procedure. There’s a new Snippet every month. Older Snippets are kept in the Snippet Niche.
The Magic Gavel® mobile app is like having an expert in your pocket, always ready to provide motion wording, rules, and answers to parliamentary questions. Available for Apple and Android.
These four role-based ebooks for the chair, member, secretary and treasurer put everything you need at your fingertips – even during a meeting – using their table of contents and extensive hyperlinking.
View our first video “How Motions Work – Six Steps in Six Minutes.” Learn the fundamentals of decision-making. Once you master these six steps you will never get lost in a meeting again.
Need a diversion? Guess parliamentary terms letter by letter before the meeting is adjourned sine die, take a parliamentary quiz, or find related parliamentary words in a word search puzzle.
Save time by using checklists for developing agendas. Create voting cards to ensure only authorized people vote at the meeting. Design ballots, teller’s worksheets, and election reports.
Our Name is Our Mission.
A Great Meeting, Inc. was founded on the assumption that people get involved because they want to make a difference. Key to making that difference is the ability to participate effectively, which requires a basic understanding of group dynamics and the rules governing the process of effective group decision-making.
A great meeting happens when every participant has an equal opportunity to influence the outcome. The atmosphere must be cordial, yet allow for differing viewpoints. The participants must understand the purpose of the meeting and must be committed to making decisions in the best interest of the group as a whole. Decisions made in that kind of atmosphere are more likely to be lasting decisions, accepted by everyone.
Whether the group follows Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, the AIP Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (formerly Sturgis), Ray Keesey’s Modern Parliamentary Procedure, Cannon’s Concise Guide to Parliamentary Procedure, or any other book of procedural rules, the fundamental goal is clarity and fairness.
We are committed to providing the services and materials you need to make sure your next meeting is A Great Meeting!
Colette C Trohan, PRP, CPP-T President & Lead Associate
Colette has over 25 years of experience helping clients in just about every organizational situation. She is known for her ability to apply customized strategies to client issues and her energetic training style. An expert in association governance and all related rules and documents, she wrote the Great Leader Series to provide the presiding officer, delegates, other leaders, and members with the tools to have great meetings.
Colette approaches each situation with flexibility, a balanced perspective, and a sense of humor. She rapidly analyzes and easily adapts to each client’s needs, in line with its culture. Her approach is designed to provide an interesting, stress-free experience.
W Craig Henry, PRP, CPP-T Senior Associate
Craig has over 30 years of business and nonprofit organizational experience. In structured meeting situations he serves as a professional presiding officer, parliamentarian, and strategist. In smaller groups he often acts as facilitator and trainer. He contributes a wide range of organizational and management experience, including governance, leadership development, and strategic planning.
Craig is the author of Parliamentary Parallels: A Comparison of the Similarities and Differences of Major Parliamentary Authorities and has written articles for local, state and national publications. He is also a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Licensed Professional Engineer.
E Marie Wilson, PRP, CPP-T Senior Associate
For over 15 years Marie has served as a presiding officer, parliamentarian, and trainer for a wide range of organizations, from large church assemblies and unions to smaller, but no less complex, New England town meetings. She holds a masters degree in public administration and has extensive experience with state and local government and regulatory agencies.
Marie is the editor of the Great Leaders Series. Her additional experience as an editor of technical publications and regulations makes her uniquely qualified to assist with association governing documents, finding creative solutions for internal problems and externally mandated restrictions.
All three of us have earned the top designations in our field: Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP) and Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher (CPP-T). There are approximately thirty people in the world who can make this claim. We are specially trained and experienced in all facets of association issues – writing bylaws, special rules and policies; planning agendas, meetings, and preparing minutes; and training officers and boards.
Find the Right Parliamentarian
Groups that make decisions, such as for-profit corporations, nonprofit organizations, and charitable foundations, must follow procedural rules to ensure they meet their legal obligations. Some parliamentarians have been educated in more approaches than others – make sure you choose someone who has the credentials you need and understands your adopted parliamentary authority.
A great meeting starts long before the call to order. The right parliamentarian will help with agenda development, preparation of bylaws amendments and other motions to be taken up at the meeting, writing scripts as necessary to ensure a smooth flow, and anticipating problems that might arise. Using a parliamentarian who understands your association’s culture, rather than using a new person in every town, can give continuity and credibility to your meetings, making them more efficient and effective.
Customize Your Rules
Many people complain that Robert’s Rules are arcane and too difficult to use, but neglecting to develop rules can lead to serious problems. The solution is simple – use a recognized parliamentary authority like Robert’s Rules as the base and add special rules to fit your organization’s customs and culture. We specialize in writing rules for our clients that fit their particular needs, rather than forcing them into a predetermined mold. Our clients decide how rigid or flexible to be, and under which circumstances.
Written rules provide consistency over time and prevent shifting interpretations as each new president takes office. When rules are developed in reaction to a particular situation, they are often tainted by the prevailing personalities and circumstances, and may not fit subsequent situations. Associations need to learn how to develop sound governance practices with the objectivity that is only possible when rules are developed before the conflict occurs.
Associations are governed by both legal and procedural documents, starting with federal, state and local laws and, if applicable, articles of incorporation (also sometimes called the corporate charter or certificate). Many states require that the association adopt a constitution or bylaws to codify the structure and flow of authority. Other documents, specific to the association itself, might include special rules of order, standing rules, policies, and handbooks for particular activities like elections or conventions.
Documents have a particular hierarchy; if a rule in a subordinate document conflicts with one in a higher-ranking document, it is null and void to the extent of the conflict. Governance decisions don’t just have to fit the association’s needs, they have to be placed in the correct document.
Committee of the Whole
One thing people find easy to criticize about parliamentary procedure is its often pretentious nature and nowhere is that more evident that with the rules about committee of the whole and its first cousin, quasi committee of the whole. In fact, it becomes hard to explain while keeping a straight face because, in this instance, common sense and normal communication seems to go out the window in favor of pomp and circumstance. That being said, it’s still useful to understand what these motions are trying to accomplish.
The meeting snippet for October 2019 covers “ Committee of the Whole.” It should be available on or around October 1, 2019.
. . . On the agenda item “Non-renewal of Contract” between the School Committee and Gutierrez, Superintendent Michael Convery read from a prepared text:
“I have a statement I’d like to make to the School Committee on the advice of counsel,” Convery began. “This is a non-renewal of contract. The School Committee learned from the prior superintendent” — Judith Lundsten, who retired last year — “that the Administrative Assistant contract expired on June 30, 2018. The contract was for three years and in 2017 it was extended for one year. I’m recommending a motion that the contract expired without any rollover on June 30, 2018; and if any other court were to determine that it expired on any other date, it is hereby not renewed as of today.”
“So moved,” said Padien. Member Annie Hall seconded the proposed motion. There was minimal discussion.
Three votes were needed for approval. Padien and Hall voted in favor.
“I abstain,” said member Persephone Brown.
“Yeah, well…” said member Kara Stinnett. There was an uncomfortable silence as she considered her vote. She decided to abstain.
“OK, so two abstained, so it’s not a quorum. Is that correct?” Padien asked Convery.
“That is correct,” Convery replied.
On Thursday, however, Padien clarified the result for The Times. “An abstention is a non-vote according to Robert’s Rules of Order,” he said. Since four of the five members were present, there was a quorum, and with two not voting, two yea votes were enough for the motion to pass . . .
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