Come to Order! Using Robert’s Rules for Better Meetings

If you’ve ever attended a meeting and witnessed the group president call it into order, heard the secretary review the minutes of the previous meeting, heard motions, seconds and then voted, you have participated in parliamentary procedure. Very likely, you saw something called Robert’s Rules of Order put into action — even if you didn't realize it.

“Robert’s Rules spell out the procedure for conducting meetings and activities of an organization for making decisions, and that the majority will rule,” says Teresa Dean of the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP).

A Brief History

Robert’s Rules of Order were developed by Henry Martyn Robert in the 1870s when he was asked to preside over a church meeting, according to the official website for Roberts Rules of Order. Having never presided over a meeting before, that one didn’t go very well. He ended up determined to never attend a meeting again without having some understanding of parliamentary law.

There were a few books available on the subject then, and Robert studied them. As he was transferred around the United States, he discovered disorganization ruled in meetings as people from all over the country brought different ideas as to what the correct way to run a meeting was. He then decided to streamline everything by writing Robert’s Rules of Order, the first edition of which was published in 1876.

Using the Rules

The most recent edition of the rules, which have been updated over the years, is titled, Robert’s Rules of Orders Revised, 10th Edition. One problem is that the rules in their complete form can be somewhat difficult to understand.

“It’s written on the college level,” Dean says. “It’s not easy to read but there are many tools out there seeking to learn parliamentary procedure that are written on an easier level. The authors have written a simplified version called Robert’s Rules of Order in Brief, which is more understandable, user-friendly and deals mainly with the simple rules.

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