Formal Meeting Procedures: The Tools for Efficient Conduct of Meetings

A basic knowledge about the various types of formal meeting motions, provides the tools for efficient conduct of organisational and departmental meetings.
Parliamentary procedures, followed by the highest legislatures of world democracies, form the basis for formal meeting procedures all over the world. Apart from the obvious advantages in leadership training and disciplined thinking that comes from concise debate and clearly led discussion, the introduction of formal meeting procedures will give an objective lesson in working democracy.

The advantages of implementing various types of formal meeting motions as the tools for efficient conduct of meetings include orderly meetings, opportunities for all to be heard, decisions by the majority and protection of the minority. Robert’s Rules of Order by Gen. Henry M. Robert is the bible of parliamentary procedures followed the world over.

Managing Meetings: Main Motion
Main motion is the call for action: It gets the work done during the meeting or outside the meeting, as a natural follow up of the call for action. Some motions, like the privileged motions, get precedence over the main motion. Motion to adjourn the meeting, though considered a privileged motion, is at times placed under the heading of a main motion. Examples of main motion are:

* General business transactions, facilitating the main plans of action.
* Take from table: Take a motion that has been laid before and start action on it.
* Reconsider a motion/action.
* Rescind a motion/action, appeal or withdraw a motion.
* Propose a special order of business, which is not listed in the agenda.

Managing Meetings: Subsidiary Motion
As the name suggests, this is a subsidiary motion to the main motion, which helps to facilitate or modify the action to be taken on the main motion. The following are some of the subsidiary motions:
* Lay on table: See below.
* Limit debate, stop further debate.
* Postpone to a certain time.
* Refer to committee.
* Amend the main motion.
* Postpone indefinitely, similar to lay on table.

Managing Meetings: Lay on the Table Motion
This is a subsidiary motion, but considered a separate entity in itself due to its importance. Laying on the table means to take a main motion from the floor, where action can be taken, and lay it aside on the table, where no action can be taken, for an indefinite period. This motion is taken up to allow for more time to study the problem raised by the main motion. Later, when it is deemed apt or necessary, the members can take the motion from the table and put it on the floor (not literally) for further discussion and action.

Managing Meetings: Incidental Motion
These are incidental to the consideration of a main motion. They are not planned in advance, just happen as the meeting progresses. Examples are:

* Suspend rules for the time being to facilitate smooth conduct of business.
* Withdraw a motion.
* Object to a consideration.
* Point of order: If there is any flouting of the parliamentary procedures by anyone, a member can raise a point of order to bring this to the attention of the chair.
* Appeal for a decision from the chair.
* Roll Call: In case there is a fall in the required quorum during important business transactions, a member can ask for a roll call or head count.

Managing Meetings: Privileged Motion
If something happens or is about to happen during the meeting that infringes on the rights of the member, organisation, etc., a member can raise a privileged motion: “Mr.Chairman, a point of privilege……….. (state the point).”
Privileged motion gets precedence over all other motions, including the main motion being discussed at the time. The chair has to make a ruling immediately on the privileged motion. Examples of privileged motion are:
* Point of privilege, denoting infringement of rights.
* Fix time for next meeting
* Adjourn
* Recess, for some time to rest, or for consideration of important business.
* Orders of the day, if the order is being side tracked during the discussions.

Finally, a word of caution: if one uses the motions and the other tools judiciously, every meeting will be enjoyable, fruitful, disciplined, and well conducted. However if one is arrogant and uses the motions of point of order, point of privilege, lay on the table, etc. irresponsibly; the smooth functioning of the organisation can be affected adversely.