In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the naïve Mr. Smith yields the Senate floor out of courtesy to a colleague, In doing so he loses his ability to debate on his legislation to prevent graft and corruption, Mr. Smith learned the hard way about the importance of knowing procedural rules. Officers and members of boards and and associations need to know the rules of order to achieve their goals and help their enterprises succeed. Our expertise includes:
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The presiding officer is the person who is conducting the meeting. Most often this person is the president or chairman of the organization and is typically specified in the bylaws. There are occasions when the presiding officer is someone other than the president or chairman of the organization such as when the president is absent or when he or she wishes to debate a particular question.
That brings us the role of the presiding officer. He or she is responsible for opening the meeting, announcing business, recognizing members, stating and putting to vote all questions, protecting the assembly from abuse, enforcing the rules, deciding questions of order, and responding to questions of procedure. It is also critical that the presiding officer remain neutral and make sure everyone understands any questions addressed.
That is, the presiding officer is in charge of making sure that the meeting he or she presides over stays on task and gets through its business as efficiently as possible. Efficiency in a meeting means that all members have an opportunity to give their opinion on all decisions that are made in the shortest possible amount of time.
To accomplish this, the presiding officer must call the meeting to order on time. Once the meeting is under way, the presiding officer has to announce the agenda items and take up each item with as little diversion as possible. In that sense he or she must protect the members of the meeting from any one member taking too much time or from straying off topic. In some cases that means interrupting a speaker and instructing him or her to yield the floor or to get back on topic.
Most importantly, the presiding officer is responsible for making sure that every member understands what’s going on when it comes to making a decision on a motion or question. Here, the presiding officer must restate the motion and describe the impacts of the motion if it is adopted and if it is not adopted. Considerable time is lost when members are confused and don’t understand what’s happening.
Often times, however, a decision on a motion is as simple as making sure that no one objects to whatever is proposed. This is called unanimous consent and allows a presiding officer to move through noncontroversial portions of the agenda very quickly.
Above all the presiding officer must remain neutral. He or she is not allowed to debate a question while presiding over a meeting. If the presiding officer feels strongly about an issue and wishes to debate, he or she must leave the position of presiding officer and have another take that position. Then he or she may debate. Once the motion or question has been decided that individual may return to the position of presiding officer and continue with the meeting.
© 2011-2012 Call to Order Parlimentarian Service
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