I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings where Robert’s Rules of Order were the rules of the day — in student government, in state and national student organizations, on various academic committees, and so on. By necessity, and because I’m a process dork, I paid a lot of attention to Robert’s in those environments, so when I was first asked to help chair the annual plenaries of the United States Student Association a while back I said yes.
It appears I’ve done a good enough job with the USSA gig to keep getting invited back — this summer’s conference was my sixth in a row, I think — and every year afterwards student government folks ask me for tips on chairing meetings. Those requests are now coming in often enough that it’s probably past time for me to set down some of my thoughts in a semi-organized way.
So here we go.
The first thing worth saying about Roberts’ Rules is that it’s a tool. It exists to serve as a mechanism for facilitating democratic decisionmaking in groups, particularly large ones. It’s not the only way to run a meeting, and in many instances it’s not the best way, but if used properly, it can be incredibly effective — and yes, even empowering.
To explain why, I want to go back and unpack one word from the previous