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Robert's Rules for Presiding over a Meeting in Style

When you’re in the chair at a meeting, according to Robert's Rules, your job is to always maintain the appearance of impartiality. The quickest way to lose control is to allow your personal agenda to control the decisions you make while presiding.

You can run the organization from day to day, and you can even have an agenda, but your floor leaders have to stand on their own when you’re in the chair. Otherwise, you’re sunk. To ensure that you’re seen as the leader of your group, keep these tips in mind:

  • Speak of yourself in the person of your position. Say, “The chair rules the point not well taken,” not, “Oh, come on, George, get real!” Or say, “Your president is proud to announce that . . . ,” not “I just found out that. . . .”

  • Avoid directing instructions to members by name. Say, “The member will please take his seat,” not “Puggy, sit down and shut up!” However, using a member’s name is appropriate when assigning the floor, as in, “The chair recognizes Mr. Phister.” When delegates represent specific constituencies, it’s appropriate to recognize them by delegation, as in, “The chair recognizes the member from Tribble County.”

  • Know your bylaws and rules of order. Probably the single most dutiful thing you can do as a presiding officer is to become intimately familiar with your organization’s charter, bylaws, special rules of order, and sections in your parliamentary authority related to serving in the leadership position you have accepted.

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