Powerful Meetings

When should you interrupt a speaker?

We see so many instances of rude behavior in public life today that it is not easy to keep our bearings about civility. Polite people who have been well brought up sometimes feel stymied when public discourse disintegrates. Thus, it might be helpful to review some circumstances in which people should be interrupted during a…

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How to use Point of Order and Appeal

Point of Order and Appeal are essential motions for every member of an elected public body, a nonprofit board, an academic senate, or any group that functions on democratic principles. They are key to effective use of Robert’s Rules of Order.

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Reclaiming my time is not relevant in Robert’s Rules of Order

The fascinating exchange on July 27, 2017 between Representative Maxine Waters (California) and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has reverberated far beyond Washington, DC. Representative Waters sought a direct answer to a specific question. When the Secretary failed to answer, she interrupted him numerous times, referring to the House Rules of Order, with the…

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Be a crouching tiger at meetings

As I watch meetings roll along, the good, the bad and the ugly, I often wish that chairs would observe the habits of the crouching tiger. This Sumatran beauty is lying on the rock, perfectly calm, alert and at ease – but ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. If you are chairing a meeting,…

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How well do you walk this meeting tightrope?

Chairing a meeting requires two skills that are not easy to combine. The presider has to control the meeting, which requires strength. At the same time, he has to remain emotionally connected to the members, which requires warmth. Put too much strength into your voice, and you come across as cold and uncaring. Put too…

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Do we have to obey the mayor?

obey the mayor

After a few years in this business, it seems to me that questions of authority are some of the hardest to resolve. Over and over I find city councils, boards of directors, and other governing boards struggling with the question, “Who’s in charge here, anyway?” If a group understands certain fundamental principles, it becomes much…

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Pain point: Whispering and sidebar conversations

This week a reader called me for advice about whispering and sidebar conversations. He is an officer in a small club dedicated to German shepherd dogs. At the last meeting, when a member was giving a report on research she had done, there were two separate sidebar conversations going on. I was happy to tell…

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When the chair is a bully or out of line

antique carving of bully

What can you do when the chair is a bully, or out of line? Unfortunately, sometimes the chair lets his position go to his head. We outlined some basic principles about bullying in this post, “Do you have a bully on board?” If you are burdened with a chair who bullies or intimidates others, we suggest this…

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