How to Run a Meeting with Robert’s Rules of Order for an Effective Meeting Agenda

Get this: 31 hours are wasted every month in unproductive and ineffective committee or board meetings (according to a report by Zippia). The main reason is due to there being no meeting structure – anything goes. 

To avoid that, you can implement Robert’s Rules of Order for productive meetings. But what is Robert’s Rules of Order and how do you use it during committee meetings and board meetings?

I’m going to explain how to run a meeting with Robert’s Rules of Order. I’ll simplify the process so that it’s easy to follow. But first…

What is Robert’s Rules of Order?

Created by Henry Martyn Robert in 1876, the Robert’s Rules of Order (or Robert’s Rules for short) is now newly revised to fit modern board meeting agendas. 

To best explain the rules of order for meetings: It’s like having a rulebook to follow so everyone knows what to do during a meeting. This book has guidelines for the general order of business, as well as helps people take turns speaking, make decisions together, and stay focused on important topics. 

For the meeting structure, the standard order of business includes:

  • Reading the meeting minutes
  • Reports 
  • Unfinished business
  • New business 

As for the best practices and effective governance, the main points of Robert’s Rules are:

  • Let each person speak once before anyone speaks again.
  • Speakers should only be interrupted if they breach meeting rules, if someone needs more information, if someone uses a point of personal privilege, or if someone disagrees with a ruling or unanimous consent. 
  • Focus on discussing one topic or motion at a time. Don’t move on until a conclusion is met, whether with a two-thirds majority vote or unanimous consent to dismiss it for now. 

Now that you know the basics of Robert’s Rules of Order cheat sheet, let’s see how to apply this to your next meeting.

How to Run a Meeting with Robert’s Rules of Order in 11 Steps

Here is how to run a meeting with Robert’s Rules of Order in 11 effective steps:

  1. Create a clear meeting agenda
  2. Opening ceremony or exercise
  3. Roll call
  4. Approve the previous meeting minutes
  5. Officer reports
  6. Board reports
  7. Committee reports
  8. Special orders and general orders
  9. New business
  10. Make a motion
  11. Adjourn the meeting

NOTE: You don’t have to follow this order of proceedings to the T. The team at Slack, a messaging app for business, says this:

Agree on simplified rules to keep things running smoothly while promoting fairness and equity.”

1. Create a clear meeting agenda

Robert’s Rule or not, it’s crucial to create a clear meeting agenda beforehand. You then need to send the agenda out early to all the meeting and board members. This way, everyone can prepare for the meeting action items. 

A clear meeting agenda also helps everyone stay on track. You won’t branch off to random things that are irrelevant to the objection of the meeting. 

Now, the steps that I mention here can be the base of your meeting agenda. You’ll just have to come up with a topic and discussion points. 

Read More: Host Productive Meetings With These 12 Leadership Meeting Topics

2. Opening ceremony or exercise

To begin your meeting, you can start with an opening ceremony or exercise. This is just to get everyone warmed up. Here are some suggestions you can follow:

  • Have someone read through the meeting agenda and specific rules to refresh everyone’s memories. 
  • Do a fun icebreaker. This can make meeting and board members more engaged, positive, relaxed, and ready to use their creativity and problem-solving skills. 
  • Start with a prayer, the national anthem, a reading of the company’s objectives, or any other common ceremony or exercise the company practices. 
  • Welcome and introduce everyone to each other. This is especially useful if there are new members. 

3. Roll call

According to Robert’s Rules, a team meeting should always have a quorum for general consent. What’s a quorum, you ask?

It’s the minimum number of members required to be present for a meeting to happen or for valid decisions to be made for the company. So let’s say the company’s bylaw quorum is 8 attendees. If only 6 attend, you may have to postpone the meeting or discuss the topic but can’t make a final decision.

This is why a roll call is important. It will also help the meeting minutes taker to list the names of the attendees and absentees.

4. Approve the previous meeting minutes

Usually, the last meeting minutes are approved in the next meeting. So have everyone vote whether they approve of the previous meeting minutes or not. A meeting using Robert’s Rule requires a two-thirds vote for it to pass. 

To save time, send the last meeting minutes to the participants beforehand. This way, they would have already read through it again and someone doesn’t need to read it during the meeting anymore. 

However, if a board member requests a meeting minutes reading, then it has to be accepted. This is because Robert’s Rules state:

All members have equal rights, privileges, and obligations.”

Read More: How to Take Meeting Minutes – Everything You Need to Know

5. Officer reports

To make the meeting run smoothly, the Chair should have a list of who gets to report first. It can be in order of precedence or whatever is decided. 

For the most part, the officers usually go first. These are the president, vice president, financial officer, and secretary. 

Now, they have the right to give their report without any interruptions, unless one of the following things I mentioned above happens. When the report is over, other members can make a recommendation (called a motion). 

However, Robert’s Rules of Order newly revised version says that the motion will only be considered if another member agrees with it. If so, there will be a roll call vote if it should be taken into action or not. 

6. Board reports

A board report should be given by a director. Since they are the director, they can decide on their own whether to adopt a motion or not. If they do, then a vote will need to be made. 

Of course, it’s a good idea for the director to talk a bit more about the motion and ask for others’ advice. If someone makes a motion based on the first motion, that should be discussed, too. I’ll talk more about dealing with meeting motions below. 

7. Committee reports

The final reports come from the permanent committees – that’s if they have something important to report. 

Now, these reports can either be purely informational or need motions. If it’s the latter, then the committee can decide on the motion without asking for another member to agree on it. However, that’s only if there is more than one person present on the committee. 

8. Special orders and general orders

After all the reports, Robert’s Rules suggests moving on to special and general orders. These are usually unfinished business from the previous meeting. You may also discuss new special or general orders, but not until all the unfinished business is complete. 

But what do special and general orders mean? Well, here are a few examples:

  • Nomination or election of new officers
  • Proposed changes in policies, procedures, or guidelines
  • Urgent project updates
  • Addressing emergencies or critical issues that arise unexpectedly and need immediate resolution
  • The Chair answering pending questions from the last meeting 
  • The matters postponed during the previous meeting 
  • Progress and follow-up on action items assigned 
  • And more!

NOTE: It’s always wise to start with the special orders as these are more urgent, then move on to the general ones. 

9. New business

When all the unfinished orders are completed and settled, you can now move on to the new items of business. 

This phase allows members to introduce fresh topics or initiatives that require discussion, decision-making, or action. It’s important to refer to the meeting agenda at this point and follow the outlined items to maintain a structured and productive meeting.

The team at iBabs, a meeting board portal, adds this: 

“Anything that you do not manage to cover becomes unfinished business in the next meeting.”

10. Make a motion

OK, let me spend a couple of minutes here. This is because this is an important aspect of Robert’s Rules of Order. 

Remember I talked about someone making a recommendation that’s considered a motion? Throughout the meeting, anyone can make a motion once someone is done reporting or speaking. As I mentioned, this is only considered if another member seconds the motion (unless you’re a director or part of a permanent committee with 2 or more present). 

Depending on a two-thirds vote or unanimous consent, a motion can either be passed, defeated, placed for future consideration, or given to the committee.

Now, there are many types of meeting motions. The team at Slack lists the most common ones for us:

  • Motion to amend. 
  • Motion to reconsider. 
  • Motion to table. 
  • Motion to postpone. 
  • Motion to limit debate.
  • Motion to close debate. 

Robert’s Rules of Order also lists some rules during a motion. For one, you can only speak when the Chair gives you the floor. Plus, each member should only speak once and not more than 10 minutes. 

Moreover, no one is allowed to speak against or attack the motion. They can only ask questions and, if they don’t agree, vote against it.

If there is a debate, then someone can motion to table, postpone, limit, or close the debate. Again, this will need to be seconded and then voted upon. 

11. Adjourn the meeting 

Once all the agenda items and points of information are dealt with, you can adjourn the meeting. If there is still time, maybe you can end with an open forum or program. 

If you set a program, make sure you designate officers who will do the presentation. This can be on education, culture, civic, etc… Of course, you need to ask beforehand if the other members agree to this. 

If not, then the meeting can end there and then. 

Final Words

That is what it looks like when using Robert’s Rules of Order as the parliamentary procedure. As you can see, there is a set structure to keep the meeting flowing smoothly. Besides that, there is also a set of rules on how the meeting can continue when someone has a motion. 

So now that you know how to run a meeting with Robert’s Rules of Order, you can include it in your management system and start having more productive and effective team meetings. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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