Meetings can easily be derailed by one or two people who monopolize an agenda item by speaking over everyone else. This tends to happen with the more contentious items, where you have opposing views of the “right decision”.
Roberts Rules of Order was created for just this type of situation. But, don’t be fooled, the intent is not to “stifle” debate, but rather to “facilitate” it by balancing of power. The premise underlying the rules is that everyone should be afforded an equal opportunity to be heard on the item.
The most effective tool a Chair can bring to bear in this situation is a Speakers List. The idea being that when an item is open to be debated, discussed or commented on, all those who want to speak to the item should indicate this by raising their hand. The Chair would then add them to the Speakers List in order of their indication.
The Chair then goes through the list affording each person on it a chance to speak once until all those who are on the list have spoken once. Once that happens, all those who would like to speak a second time are put on another list and, again, the Chair affords each person on that list a chance to speak a second time until all those who are on the list have spoken.
This process would be repeated for each motion. So if the Main motion, for example, was to “Purchase a new photo copier not exceeding $1500”, each person could speak twice to that motion. If there was a motion to amend that motion to, for example say, “Purchase a new photo copier not exceeding $2500”, then each of those same members on the list could speak to the motion to amend again twice on the amendment.
If you want to afford meeting participants more opportunities to speak to a motion than the two provided under Roberts Rules of Order, then the bylaws, or standing rules of the organization should specify the number of times someone may speak to an item prior to voting.
The Chair of a meeting must govern with fairness, and make sure to appear to be fair. A speakers list provides transparency and allows everyone to be treated consistently. A Speakers List provides a transparent framework and structure to work within that is easily implementable even under the most contentious circumstances.
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