I recently had a question about how a meeting should be conducted. I checked with “Robert’s Rules of Order” and got my answer. I also found that many of “Robert’s” rules were not always being followed. One such rules demands that to speak you must be first to stand after the current speaker finishes. I suspect this taxes the legs in the same way long-winded diatribes tax the ears of listeners. You can find the rules of Robert online at robertsrules.org. You can find my rules right here.
Let’s deal with the blowhard, the person who finds no music sweeter than his or her own voice. The person who filibusters a whole meeting is displaying a not-so-subtle form of control. Not only do you hear only that person’s ideas but no one else gets to share their ideas. Even those who wish to speak begin to self-edit in an effort to save time and never fully speak. Some people may even simply say nothing because they worry this blowhard will then spin out of control verbally based on a new idea.
I believe talk at a meeting is important. Ideas are brought to light this way however many of those creative ideas should form prior to the meeting. On the boards I have sat on, you are sent the agenda and the pertinent information upon which agenda items will be decided. Much of the creative process should occur prior to the meeting, based upon information sent prior to the meeting. If everyone has to listen to the “magic” of a board member’s creative process as it is born, we may all still be sitting in our chairs when the creative process graduates college. I like to read the information sent to me and then consider it when I am working at home. I then can bring my thoughts to the meeting and communicate them quickly so that others may do the same.
Off-topic comments or even worse; off-topic soliloquys kill meetings as they dilute important topics with hot, flavored air. We all agree to an agenda at the beginning of a meeting and to occasionally go off-topic is not so bad but to intentionally spend large portions of precious meeting time off the topic kills-off the creativity which might have been shared had other board members had time to speak.
Some meetings will feature a person who treats the meeting like their own personal question and answer session. I will give an example. Let’s say you were on a school board meeting and one of your children’s teachers also sat on this board. Now instead of following the agenda and being professional, you decided to ask the teacher about your child’s failing grades. This subject is something that should be dealt with at a private meeting of parent and teacher-not board member to board member. It is unprofessional and very disrespectful to other board members. Personal questions and those questions made in the interest of voters should be presented at the proper time and should not invade time allotted for the other.
Come prepared to a meeting. When I attend a meeting, I assume people have paid for me to be there to listen and to share ideas I have considered beforehand. This is not coffee at the local café. Anyone can express an opinion; it takes a good board member to express an informed opinion. I always get a kick out of it when someone comes to a meeting totally unprepared and then expects some nice person to find them an agenda and whatever else they should have brought themselves.
If you are consistently late to meetings and are over the age of ten then please go cut yourself a switch and find someone to spank you. Oh yeah, and if you think your life is so busy that you are justified in your consistent tardiness, try explaining to the other members of your committee how arriving to a meeting on time means they have empty lives or don’t work as hard as you.
Cell phones are to be turned off or left in your vehicle. If you feel you must make a dramatic rush need to rush from the meeting room each time your cell phone rings then please keep rushing once you’ve left the room. If you have agreed to give time to a meeting then respect the others who have done the same. Make the meeting, the agenda topics and your fellow board people’s ideas a priority.
I think there are few more noble acts than spending your time in the service of the public office. However, good service means you are properly prepared, act in a courteous manner, communicate effectively and check your ego at the door. My rules; simple enough?