When the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America began their planning for the annual business meeting, one of their first calls was to Kirby Glad, a Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP).
Jim, the bishop of the synod, is designated in the bylaws as the chair of the meeting. The position is an elected one, and while chairing the meeting may not be the most important duty of the bishop, it certainly is one of his more visible duties.
A leader’s ability to run an effective meeting forms a lasting impression on everyone attending. The best practices for a deliberative meeting are found in Robert’s Rules of Order, which is a time-tested set of rules for meetings. A parliamentarian is an expert in such best practices.
“I only do this once a year!” Jim said, explaining that he understands the basic ideas of motions and such, but really wanted to have an expert on hand to keep things moving smoothly.
The parliamentarian reviewed the organization’s bylaws, the agenda, and even the materials to be sent to the delegates, looking for anything that might cause potential problems that would detract from the purpose of the meeting.
The PRP found that a requirement in the bylaws had not been fulfilled which might lead to an entire category of delegates being denied the ability to vote at the meeting.
When an organization does not follow its own procedures it opens itself to harmful internal disputes, or at worst, lawsuits.
But because the PRP was able to find the issue in advance it was easily remedied. The PRP gave carefully written, easy-to-follow steps, and any negative impact was avoided.
The PRP also provided some training information to first-time delegates, who might not have been familiar with the format of a meeting of over 400 people. When people are not sure how to participate in the meeting, they may not be able to completely fill the role of a delegate.
“I found the document that you [Glad] provided before the assembly to be very helpful as I talked with voting members who were new to an assembly,” said Elaine, the synod vice president.
The PRP also prepared a step-by-step script for the chair to use during the meeting. This allowed the chair to have the correct language at his or her fingertips, without having to learn and memorize sections from Robert’s Rules of Order. Using the correct and consistent steps and language gives everyone confidence that the chair is competent and the meeting will be fair and effective.
The PRP also consulted with others who had a part in the meeting, such as the Credentials Chair and Resolutions Committee Chair, and answered many questions about how they should perform their functions. These were also provided a script. This made their reports concise, professional, and clear to everyone attending.
And most importantly, the parliamentarian sits right next to the chair throughout the meeting to give support. Several times during the meeting something unexpected came up, and the chair was able to discretely get advice from the parliamentarian. “It is my job to make the chair look good!” remarked PRP Glad, “when the delegates have confidence in the chair, everything goes more smoothly, and my job is to help the chair gain their confidence.” Most of the time the audience would not even know when the chair is getting advice from the parliamentarian, and that is just the way PRP Glad likes it.
“It was very helpful to both Jim and me to have you [Glad] there to advise us on proper procedure,” said Elaine, who chaired a part of the meeting as well.
Overall, the meeting went smoothly. Most importantly, because the chair was free of stress from running an orderly meeting, he was able to deliver great remarks which inspired and motivated the group. The real benefit of all the preparation, and having a parliamentarian close by to rely upon at the meeting, is allowing the chair and the delegates to focus effectively on the real purpose of the gathering, without any confusion or distracting procedural problems.