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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT'S RULES REVEALED: EP #04 – How to Debate Effectively in Meetings

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - Susan Leahy

Hi I’m Susan Leahy from, and welcome to this episode of Roberts Rules Revealed. To be sure you don’t miss a single episode. Subscribe to our YouTube channel now. Today, we’re going to be talking to Ann McFarlane from Jurassic Parliament, and her and I are going to be shedding light on some very interesting customer questions.

SUSAN: So on my YouTube channel I have thousands of views on how to debate effectively in a meeting. Ann, I think this is an important topic for us to talk about. What do you think about, and what does Robert’s talk about with respects to effectively debating in a meeting?

ANN: Well it’s a very important topic Susan, and the first thing to note is that the person who makes the motion has the right to speak first. So that person should be given the floor if he or she wishes it.

SUSAN: And that’s if they wish it now if they don’t raise their hand and they are not recognized then they don’t debate but you have to raise your hand to be recognized by the chair right?

ANN: That’s absolutely right.

SUSAN: And also about debate, I think its an important one to realize is that doesn’t Robert’s talk a little about everybody gets to speak once before anyone gets to speak twice about the same motion?

ANN: Oh this is a critical thing, Susan, and its so often ignored. No one has the right to speak a second time until everyone that wishes to do so gets to speak once. And groups that will apply this rule and apply it properly will find a great improvement in the quality of their discussions.

SUSAN: And if they could just apply that one rule wouldn’t their meetings just exponentially improve?

ANN: It would be huge Susan, because often what happens is the extroverts and the old timers dominate the debate. And they just cover the same old territory.

SUSAN:And it makes those meetings drag on and on and extroverts and those people who are the old timers don’t necessarily add anything new. In my training one of the things I do offer is a three-step process for debate, because a lot of the time when people are debating they are feeling intimidated. So if I could indulge you real quickly I want to share with you those three steps. The first step I encourage people to do is, once they are recognized by the chair is to just simply restate the motion that they are going to be talking about, because that helps to refocus everybody. The second piece is to give their opinion, and to break it up in to a, b and c. Have no more than three opinions about the motion you are talking about. The final and most important Ann, is to tell people how you want them to vote. Because I find that sometimes people will get up go debate and sit down, and then no one really knows what they are supposed to do with that. Have you ever seen that happen in a meeting?

ANN: Oh absolutely those are great tips Susan, I haven’t heard them before and I certainly recommend those tips to our listeners.

SUSAN:That’s great. Well there it is, how to debate effectively. Because it’s the end of the day it really is about the quality of the discussions that will drive the quality of the meetings.
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