Members play an essential role in effective meetings.

It’s critical for members to understand their authority when making decisions for the organization.

Previous Michigan State University Extension articles titled I've been elected chairperson now what and Presiding officer highlight the role of a chairperson. Both articles discuss the duties of a chairperson and their critical piece of the meeting puzzle. As discussed, the goal for any meeting is to provide an opportunity for everyone to participate, for no one to monopolize the conversations, and for all opinions to be heard. In order for the chairperson to be sure this occurs, the members must also equally understand what their duties are as well.

The National Association of Parliamentarians “Solving the Parliamentary Puzzle,” explains that before becoming a member of any organization, a person should be sure that he/she subscribes to the basic goals and philosophy of the organization. This will lead to less conflict within the group, but it will also mean that the members are finding the organizations that fit who they are.

Even members who do not hold office have certain responsibilities as good members. Usually the bylaws only require that dues be paid to maintain membership, but proficient members should be familiar with the organization’s governing documents (bylaws and standing rules), further the object of the organization, insist on enforcement of the rules, pay dues promptly, and fulfill assigned duties until properly excused.

Before the meeting, members should consider notifying the meeting presider if they plan to introduce new business in the meeting, plan to move to rescind or amend previous action, or that they plan to provide notice of business that requires previous notice. During the meeting, members have several responsibilities. These include, arriving in advance of the meeting so that it can start on time and being engaged throughout the meeting.

When a member is ready to make a motion, the member should remember to address the presiding officer as “Madam Chairperson” or “Mr. President.” The member should make sure that their motion is clear and specific and stated briefly, concisely, and directly and without the ability to be misinterpreted. Some organizations require motions be written and given to the chair, however even if not required, it’s a good practice to write out the motion. The major mistake that members make is to use the word “motion” as a verb. It is however a noun. After a member is recognized by the chair, he /she should say, “I move.....” followed by whatever the motion is. The member is entitled to speak first in debate of their motion to urge its adoption. All comments should be addressed through the chair and should speak a second time only after everyone has spoken a first time.

The National Association of Parliamentarians “Solving the Parliamentary Puzzle,” explains that while one of the basic principles of parliamentary procedure is that majority decisions become the decision of the assembly, there are some things that do not require a majority, and there are things that can be done by one member all by him/herself. If the agenda is not being followed, for example, a member can call for the “orders of the day” requiring the assembly to take up the business that has been scheduled for that time. If one member is in doubt about the chair’s declaration of the result of a voice vote, the member can ask that the vote be retaken with a rising vote by calling for a “division of the assembly. “One member can make a nomination for office, object to the consideration of a question, and make many other requests and inquiries as explained in RONR (11th ed.), p. 70-72.

Members who use parliamentary procedure correctly can get the business of the organization accomplished efficiently. At the MSU Extension Parliamentary Procedure resource page you will find articles to help answer your parliamentary questions and links to helpful references and activities.

Michigan State University Extension offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more, as well as professional training in Parliamentary Procedure. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, Michigan State University Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues.

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