I don’t care what type of organization hosts or holds what type of meetings. If the organization does not have an agreed and adhered to structure to its meeting, things can go haywire in a hurry. It can be the YMCA or PTA, people will drift when they are not directed to stick to the structure that is in place. It can be a corporate annual meeting or a community-based organization’s monthly meeting, but there should be an agenda with some action items.
The agenda identifies what will be discussed and reported. In particular, there are also those action items that will be voted on identified within the agenda. Many organizations structure their meetings with public comment at the beginning of the meeting. These are usually appeals or addresses to the board or the entire body. These are heard out, usually with a time limit like two minutes. They are not action items and do not require a comment or questioning from the board or the floor. That’s where the discipline must come in with the determined structure. Some people may know the rules, but something just prevents them from following them.
You may need a sergeant at arms or a parliamentarian. The title may vary, but the functions pretty much run along the same lines. They keep things in order when the chairperson seems to allow some things to run afoul or astray. You know some parent meetings for those Pop Warner and Pee Wee teams can get sort of heated. There may need to be some beefed up measures for an organization to keep order, so review your structure, including roles and rules.
- Roles: Who is supposed to do what? Chairperson… Parliamentarian… Secretary…
- Rules: Robert’s Rules of Order? Or, do you use another format? Be sure that all in attendance know what it is.
- Reporting: Written reports versus oral reports… time limits… published or unpublished…
- Responses: Cut down the confusion and cut off people on the board responding to comments from the floor. Address the outbursts as disorder, ask for them to stop and demonstrate some restraint, and then move on with the agenda.
You maintain order by restricting board members from responding to outbursts from the floor. If not, there will be a cacophony of chaos as people go back and forth with their various comments and responses to any and every single thing thrown out there. In many environments like school board meetings and city council meetings, people can have an outburst if they want to, but they most probably will be escorted out into either the hallway or the parking lot by security or some other authority figure. That’s realistic.
Set it up for success. If you have been in an organization where the inmates seem to be running the asylum, stop the bleeding and set some order in place. Share some insights about board training and running public meetings. Do you accept public funds? You know that redevelopment money or those block grants. Those are public funds. That means your meeting- uh-oh- is open to the public. Learn how to deal with the public in a decent and disciplined manner.