Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Hostages of her ranting

Dear Dinosaur: One board member was dissatisfied with the way the bylaws amendment process was handled. At the membership meeting, she proceeded to monopolize the meeting and refused to stop having the conversation. So we were all hostages of her ranting. Is there anything to do?

Answer: At a meeting, a member of an organization has a duty to speak only when recognized by the chair, and to remain silent when she has not been assigned the floor. Unfortunately if a member doesn’t know this, it’s hard to enforce. Likewise if the group doesn’t understand the situation. But if the chair directs someone that their time is up, they are supposed to obey, unless they appeal to the whole group and the group votes to give them more time.

Once the board has been educated about this and has agreed on rules for discussion, the chair should enforce the rules. If a member persists in breaking the rules after repeated warnings, in our view the chair is justified in muting her.

See our articles for more information:

Getting your board to buy in to Robert’s Rules

Rights and responsibilities of the member

What are the duties of the chair?

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For complicated questions, seek a qualified authority.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.


  1. Sheila on March 1, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Ann – I find your articles very informative. This one however leaves me with a lingering question. What do you mean by “muting her”? Thank you.

    • Ann Macfarlane on March 1, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Dear Sheila, I apologize for not making it clear that this was an online meeting. The administrator often has the power to prevent someone from being able to speak by “muting” them. Ordinarily this should not be done, but in this case, perhaps it would have been justified. Thanks for writing! Ann

    • Martin Fitch on March 2, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      I think “muting her” is a reference to pressing a button to manually mute the microphone the disruptor is speaking through – either in a live meeting or zoom meeting – the moderator can/should be able to mute any speaker and prevent them from “unmuting” themselves. This doesn’t prevent them from shouting at a live meeting of course.

      This would follow one or two statements: “you are out of order, please take your seat and be quiet” (assuming they were standing).

      • Ann Macfarlane on March 2, 2021 at 3:50 pm

        Thank you Martin.