Roberts Rules : A Primer

This post is based on a session I attended at the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health in April 2013 by  Nancy Sylvester, MA,PRP,CCP-T. Professional Parlimentarian. For More posts from the Governor’s Conference, click here. The slides can be found at the following link: Presentation Slides.


Robert, a general in the US army, wrote the rules of order, for meetings after struggling with differing rules across the country. His rules are now used as the standard for meetings, especially large ones requiring partimentary procedure.

The purposes of these rules include…

  • Expedite business, even with large numbers.
  • Assure legality
  • Protect the rights of the minority

The basic concepts of RR are…
RR is used during Open and free discussion (organized!) they start with a proposal, edit it when needed, and decide on it.

  • One thing at a time!
  • One person at a time! Allows for all people to hear the same information
  • One time per meeting per issue. Unless someone changes their mind, (motion to reconsider if you are on prevailing/winning side)
  • Enough of us must be here to decide
  • Protected even if absent – if you don’t give notice that the vote will be done, need a 2/3 majority, instead of basic majority
  • Silence=consent, must support decision
  • Everybody is equal

When looking at understanding of RR…

  • Gives power to the minority – opportunity to change opinion of majority, human characteristics, power of persuasion. One example- MADD/SADD drunk driving wasn’t an issue. Smoking wasn’t an issue.
  • To make a motion or recommendation you+1 = opportunity to discuss. Before you speak a second time, need to wait until everyone has spoken once. ? If there is a request for information, you can do that. If something is unfair – someone can call a point of order. Can stop discussion with 2/3 vote. Not just whenever they want to stop debate. You cannot be forced to vote.
  • You can be a ‘bully buster’ a bully who has a bit of information, leads the conversation to get their way. To be able to discuss, knowledge is power. If information is incorrect, let them know and document the information. Knowing parliamentary rules. Rad the bylaws of your board to know the rules.

For more, free information, visit . Including handouts on how to take minutes and templates for minutes.

If you meet less often than quarterly, minutes should be approved by a subcommittee for that purpose or by the board. “Minutes approval committee.”

Minutes are a record of what was DONE at the meeting, not everything that was said.


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