One of the simplest yet most important ways to give our movement the leadership it needs and deserves is to chair meetings well. A good meeting:

A good chairperson is one who is prepared. Does he/she have an agenda to propose, or some method to arrive at an agenda? Is someone prepared to bring everyone up to date on past decisions? Is someone keeping notes for future meetings?


During the meeting, an accomplished chairperson keeps everyone focused on one thing at a time. Usually, the topic is an agenda point or a motion made and seconded. Unless the group has declared a timed “brainstorming” session, miscellaneous discussion on different topics must be discouraged.

Usually, it is a good idea for the Chairperson to go through the membership, one at a time, seeing who wants to speak on a given single topic. Some successful chairpersons go around the room in a clockwise motion, like dealing cards, asking each person to either speak on the issue at hand or pass. Sometimes it's the only way to get the shy people to speak and the egotistical people to wait their turn.


The Chairperson is responsible for allowing different members to talk, but is not commissioned to talk any more than any other member. If the Chairperson is allowing each member to speak on a topic, he/she must bear in mind that he/she is only one of the members, and must wait his/her turn to speak on the topic.

Unpracticed Chairpersons usually let one person talk, then they answer, then they let another person talk, then they answer again, then another, then themselves...etc.


The same big problem exists when somebody is translating from one language to another. They tend to translate somebody, then add their own thoughts, then translate another, back to their own thoughts... etc.


The minutes of a meeting should contain the decisions made. When there is a split vote, proposals that are rejected may be included. Somebody who puts a great deal of verbiage into the minutes may be obscuring the important part, not to mention that they are wasting their time and everyone else’s.

The good Chairperson, the good translator, and the good recorder promote efficiency and democracy.


The larger the meeting the more important it is to follow formal “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Here is a short summary of important rules:


Someone makes a motion, and someone else seconds, to initiate discussion. The first motion made at successful meetings is a motion to approve an agenda.


It often happens that someone attempts to amend an original motion. Amendments do not change the substance of a motion. If the initiator of the motion agrees to the amendment, it is considered “friendly” and the amended motion is the new topic of discussion. If the amendment is not friendly, then it has to be voted on separately and before the original motion. The same rules apply if someone tries to amend the amendment


If someone wants to drastically change the original motion, he/she may propose an alternate motion. DO NOT try to discuss both ideas at the same time. Focus on the substitute motion until a vote is taken, then go back to the original motion.


Usually, the Chairperson decides when there has been enough discussion and calls for a vote. Sometimes, someone else will want to end discussion. They do that by making a PROCEDURAL MOTION to end debate.

Around Texas, they usually say “I call the question” and somebody seconds. At this point, in Texas, most Chairpersons make a fatal error and call for a vote on the substantive motion at hand. What they should have done is vote on the procedural motion separately. There is no discussion on a procedural question, so the Chairperson should immediately call for a vote on whether or not to end discussion. If it passes, then discussion on the original motion cannot continue and the Chairperson must call for a vote on the substantive motion. If it fails, discussion on the original motion continues.


Another important procedural motion is to postpone, or “table,” the motion at hand. There is no discussion on this procedural motion, so the Chairperson should vote on whether or not to postpone as soon as the motion is seconded.

Once a motion is postponed or “tabled,” it cannot come up again during that meeting.


Any member of the meeting can make a “point of order” to disagree with the proceedings. It usually happens when somebody is rambling on about something other than the motion or agenda point at hand. The Chairperson has to rule to settle the dispute.


A Chairperson is not a dictator. Members can appeal his/her decisions. If the appellant gets a second, then the Chairperson must let him/her explain. The Chairperson gets a chance to explain, but nobody else may speak on this disagreement. The Chairperson has to call for a vote on the dispute. The Chairperson might be overruled by a majority vote, but a tie goes to the Chairperson.

If everybody follows these simple rules, and if the Chairperson acts with confidence, meetings go smoothly, quickly, and with maximum effect.


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