Robert's Rules of Order Book Summary - Robert's Rules of Order Book explained in key points
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Robert's Rules of Order summary

Henry M. Robert III, Daniel H. Honemann, Thomas J. Balch, Daniel E. Seabold, and Shmuel Gerber

Using Parliamentary Procedure for More Efficient Meetings

4.2 (119 ratings)
12 mins
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    Robert's Rules of Order
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    Fairness and order ensure every group member has equal rights

    Have you ever been in a meeting where one person did all the talking and you couldn’t get in a word edgewise? What about a situation where just a couple of people in the group pulled rank to take action everyone else was against? These are two big issues that Robert’s Rules of Order can solve. It starts with its principles.

    First, every member of the organization has equal rights to participate in the meeting. That includes attending, bringing topics before the group, sharing their thoughts on the topic at hand, and voting. These rights apply to every topic, whether it’s an idea for consideration or an issue having to do with the meeting itself. Second, the majority vote wins.

    An orderly meeting structure built on these principles ensures fairness and, ideally, efficiency. For example, only one topic can be considered at a time. Then, each member may share their thoughts on it at least once before another member speaks to it a second time. Further, no one can interrupt unless the matter is truly urgent.

    Sound like a dream?

    Before we get into details of how it works, it’s a good time to consider a few things you must establish before you can apply what you’ll learn next. First, your organization must formally adopt Robert’s Rules of Order as its parliamentary authority and state that in its bylaws. There’s no use in having rules if no one is committed to following them. Also, keep in mind your own bylaws will have authority over Robert’s Rules of Order, as do any state or federal laws. These rules are meant to enhance what you already have in place.

    You must also decide on what constitutes a quorum – the minimum number of people required at a meeting to take any official action for the group. In addition, you must designate a presiding officer and a secretary; both must be present for meetings to proceed. The presiding officer, also called the chair, should know the rules – inside and out – so they can be an effective referee. The chair is also responsible for developing the agenda prior to each meeting, which the board votes to adopt at the start of each meeting. The secretary takes clear and careful notes during the proceedings.

    As you might imagine, there are many more details about best practices for bylaws and the roles of the chair and secretary. For now, knowing these essentials is most important to exploring how things flow in a meeting that follows Robert’s Rules. Next, we’ll look at how these meetings tick.

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    What is Robert's Rules of Order about?

    Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (2020) is the 12th and only current authorized edition of the widely accepted standard reference for parliamentary procedure, replacing all previous editions that date to 1876. It outlines principles and guidelines that establish equal rights among members of deliberative and decision-making groups to improve the fairness and efficiency of meetings.

    Who should read Robert's Rules of Order?

    • Anyone looking to lead better meetings
    • People who serve organizations that use Robert’s Rules of Order
    • People with an interest in procedures used by governing bodies

    About the Author

    Henry M. Robert III oversaw this and the previous five revisions of Robert’s Rules of Order as the senior member of the authorship team. An esteemed professional parliamentarian himself, he was the grandson of Army General Henry M. Robert, author of the original Robert’s Rules of Order. A WWII veteran and Victory Medal recipient, he passed at age 98 in 2019.

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