Parliamentary procedure is one of the most useful subjects for organizations and members. It deals with leadership, communication, meeting management, and so much more. However, because parliamentary procedure is often self-learned and limited in official coursework, there are often many “myths” in this subject. It is important to note that these misconceptions can cause errors in meetings, but, more importantly, they also impede the learning process. This makes learning more advanced topics in parliamentary procedure extremely difficult and susceptible to additional errors.
Myth #1: Parliamentary procedure is just what it sounds like — procedure for Parliament. Why would I need to know that?
Parliamentary procedure is more than just a tool for legislative bodies; it is a useful tool for organizations for board, membership, and committee meetings. These organizations range from small local clubs to national conventions with thousands of delegates.
For the organization, parliamentary procedure helps members to make effective decisions at a meeting while maintaining harmony, equality, and justice. For the individual, parliamentary procedure helps the member know his and her rights, the presiding officer learn the best way to conduct a meeting, etc.
Myth #2: Parliamentary procedure is too complicated. It will only slow us down.
Parliamentary procedure is a tool for an organization, not an obstacle. When used properly, parliamentary procedure will keep members on track and make meetings quicker and less painful. Many times, people who try to apply this in meetings do not use it correctly.
It is suggested to either have a volunteer or professional parliamentarian be present to advise the president through the meeting. The parliamentarian should have extensive knowledge of parliamentary procedure, as well as the organization’s governing documents. Thus, the parliamentarian can advise the president of any incorrect uses of parliamentary procedure and assist in correcting these errors.
Myth #3: Parliamentary procedure’s only purpose is for members to show off and make other members (or the officers, or the chair) intimidated.
Parliamentary procedure is based upon many principles, but being able to look cool in front of others is definitely not one of them. Parliamentary procedure, again, is not a weapon or an advantage for one individual.
Many organizations, though, have an extreme range when it comes to the knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Some members know the basics of parliamentary procedure. Others never heard of it. Still, others think they know everything. One solution is to offer a workshop for the membership as well as the board, preferably once a year, to develop and strengthen skills on parliamentary procedure. A basic course can be very helpful in introducing members to the subject, as well as letting them seek opportunities to learn further if they wish. The workshop can be taught by a professional parliamentarian.
As a member or chair, it is always important to be patient and helpful to members who do not know parliamentary procedure as well. Rather than scolding members for not knowing the rules, help guide them. For example, if a motion is not in order at this time, a chair can calmly inform the member and remind that member when it is possible to make that motion.