What is meeting procedure?
It is basically a set of rules about how to conduct a meeting in a formal and orderly manner. The reason formal meeting procedure exists is to ensure a meeting runs smoothly and that, for example, people do not speak over others, amongst other things.
Every formal meeting, at Queer Collaborations this includes each session of Conference Floor, will usually have a Chair. The Chair is responsible for running the meeting/session ensuring everything is going smoothly and is supposed to keep discussion on track. The Chair is responsible for keeping a speaking list, and also rules on any points of order. The Chair is also responsible for organising and conducting voting in a formal meeting.
At Queer Collaborations a Secretary/ies, elected as outlined in the standing orders, assists the Chair in sessions of Conference Floor. The Secretary can be called upon to advise on the correct interpretation/application of the standing orders when a Point of Order has been called. The Secretary can also be asked to take the speaking list and otherwise assist the Chair with ensuring Conference Floor runs smoothly. Further the Secretary receive motions submitted to Conference Floor, assist delegates with drafting motions to be submitted, and advise on meeting procedure where the Standing Orders are ambiguous.
During sessions of Conference Floor, a speaking list is kept. It is a list of people at the session who have indicated they would like to speak on the issue being discussed. When someone wants to speak, they raise their hand or indicate in some way to the Chair/Secretary, and their name goes on the speaking list. When it is that person’s turn to speak, they are the only person allowed to speak and cannot be interrupted by anyone else.
The idea behind a speaking list is to ensure that people aren’t talking over one another, and that everyone (not just the loudest) are given an opportunity to speak.
A formal meeting is structured around an agenda. An agenda is a list of items or topics to be discussed during the meeting. Agenda items can either be there simply for delegates to take note of particular information, or items can be motions to be discussed and voted on. At Queer Collaborations motions to be discussed in a session of Conference Floor must be submitted before the session.
Motions are a formal proposal put to the meeting that can be either voted up or down, and that discussion can be centred around. There are two types of motions, those concerning the issue being discussed (substantive motions) and those affecting the meeting procedure and how the meeting is running (procedural motions).
A substantive motion is one that makes decisions or resolves the body to do something such as determine policy, or how conference should run in the future. All motions must be decisions that the body in question has the power to make, and they must be affirmative (i.e they cannot resolve to do nothing because that is the default position anyway). Every motion must have a mover, and a seconder. An example of a non-procedural motion is:
‘Queer Collaborations 2014 is against knock-knock jokes’
Often discussion in a meeting will revolve around a motion. A motion that forms the basis of a discussion is known as a substantive motion.
If someone disagrees with the motion at hand or they have an alternative suggestion, they may want to move a motion which is in opposition to the substantive motion. This is known as a foreshadowed motion. For example:
‘Queer Collaborations 2014 is in favour of knock-knock jokes’
Where discussion occurs like this, when the discussion ends, the foreshadowed motion is voted on first before the substantive motion. More than one foreshadowed motion can be proposed and when it comes to voting the motions are voted on in reverse-chronological order (you vote on the most recently proposed and go backwards).
If the foreshadowed motion is carried (i.e. voted up) then usually this means that the substantive motion lapses, meaning you do not vote on it, as it would not be possible to vote up the substantive motion as well the foreshadowed motion without it becoming a contradiction. In the above example, you cannot be both for and against knock-knock jokes simultaneously.
However there are some situations where the foreshadowed motion and the substantive motion are not mutually exclusive, meaning that they can be both voted up and exist together. In these cases, both are voted on.
Foreshadowed motions are not the only course of action if you do not agree with a motion. If you want to change a minor part of the motion, you can propose an amendment. An amendment is when you propose a change to a motion, rather than propose a separate motion of your own, in the previous example an amendment to the substantive motion might be:
‘Queer Collaborations 2014 is against knock-knock jokes and riddles’
When an amendment is proposed, the mover and seconder must accept it before it can become a part of the motion. If either the mover or seconder do not approve the of the amendment, then it is not included in the substantive motion.
If a mover or seconder rejects an amendment, the delegate proposing the amendment can propose the amendment separately so those present can vote on whether or not to incorporate the amendment into the motion just before voting on the motion itself. So if you had a proposed amendment to a substantive motion, the foreshadowed motion would be voted on first then the amendment to the substantive motion and then the substantive motion itself (with or without the amendment, depending on the result of the previous vote).Procedural motions These are motions that affect the meeting procedure. They include:
- A motion to introduce a time limit for speakers
- A motion to cut the speaking list
- A motion to close the speaking list
- A motion to move in to formal debate
- A motion to vote on the motion/s being discussed immediately
- A motion that the meeting takes a five minute break
A procedural needs only a mover and not a seconder, and can be proposed at any time. Once a procedural is proposed, it must be voted on immediately and nobody can abstain from the voting. Be careful when moving certain procedurals, such as cutting the speaking list or moving straight to a vote, as this can prevent a delegate with something important to say from being able to voice their ideas.
As detailed above, motions have to be voted on. There are three means of voting; you may choose to vote ‘For’ or ‘Against’ or ‘Abstain’ from a vote on a motion. A vote ‘For’ means you agree with the motion and you want it to be voted up. While a vote ‘Against’ means you disagree with the motion and you want it to be voted down. Abstaining does not count towards either ‘For’ or ‘Against’, and is the best option for motions you do not feel well enough informed about to make a good decision or motions where you cannot make up your mind where you sit on the issue. You cannot abstain from procedural motions.
For a motion to be voted up it must reach an amount known as a ‘majority’. At Queer Collaborations a simple majority is required for a motion to be voted up. A simple majority is half of the total number of votes plus one more. So if you had 10 votes, a simple majority would be 6. In essence, it’s whichever of either ‘For’ or ‘Against’ that gets the most votes that wins.
For the specifics on voting at Queer Collaborations 2014 please refer to the Standing Orders.
Points of Order
Any time during a formal meeting, a delegate present may draw the Chair’s attention to a breach of procedure or an irregularity in the proceedings. This is known as a point of order. The delegate states the irregularity and the Chair/Secretary rules on it (ie what to do). An example of a point of order is would be “John has spoken longer than the set time limit for speakers.” A point of order is only to do with procedural breaches or irregularities, not whether or not what someone is saying is true or not. Use a point of order correctly; it is not a tool to use to interject while someone is speaking.
Points of Clarification
Anyone in a formal meeting may at any time request clarification of an issue raised in immediate debate. This is known as a point of clarification. The Chair must rule on the point of clarification, and if necessary, request another delegate to respond. Points of clarification are what they suggest; a means of clarifying something. They are not a means to express your own opinion.
Formal debate is a type of formal meeting procedure that is designed to emulate more of a debate, with two sides, then a discussion. If a procedural is passed that moves the meeting into a formal debate, the order of the debate is usually as follows:
- Speaker against, followed by a speaker for, repeated until the list for or against is exhausted;
- Right of reply (the mover);
No member with the exception of the mover may speak twice in formal debate.
Quorum is the minimum number of delegates that need to be present at a formal meeting of a body, in order for that meeting to be valid. It exists to ensure that decisions are truly representative of all members of the body. A meeting must be quorate for decisions and votes that occur during the meeting to be valid. Quorum for Conference Floor is 1⁄4 of the number of delegates registered for the first day of Queer Collaborations.
Want more info?
The Standing Orders govern all sessions of Conference Floor at Queer Collaborations and provide more specific information in regards to the running of sessions of Conference Floor.
There is also a workshop on “Meeting Procedure and Facilitation 101” running during conference to help those with less knowledge about formal meetings.