How to Get More From Your Meeting with Parliamentary Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order

How to Get More From Your Meeting with Parliamentary Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order

By Guest Contributors Elizabeth Jordan and Larry Lyons

How many times have you attended a meeting that didn’t have a clear sense of purpose, didn’t keep to time and the chair did not maintain proper control? Many of us can identify with this type of situation.

‘Stop the Madness’, an article in HBR, reported survey results which support the widespread dissatisfaction with meetings. 182 senior managers were surveyed across a range of industries. 65% said meetings kept them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings were unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings came at the expense of deep thinking and 62% said meetings missed opportunities to bring the team closer together.

What can you and your organisation do to improve this situation?

One approach to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of everyday meetings and boosting attendee satisfaction is to apply parliamentary procedure, specifically Robert’s Rules of Order.

The book Robert’s Rules of Order was first written in 1876 by Henry Martyn Robert to address the chaos he observed at many of the meetings he attended. The most widely used version of his book today is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, which has been updated multiple times since its original publication.

Robert’s Rules of Order describes the set of rules and codes that provide a structured framework for managing discussions, making decisions, and ensuring orderly conduct during meetings. With this systematic approach to conducting meetings, decisions are reached democratically, and desired objectives are achieved.

Here are some suggestions for how to start using this approach to running meetings.

  1. Choose your Chair wisely

In parliamentary procedure, the role of the chair or facilitator is pivotal to the success of the meeting. The chair should command the respect of the meeting and be seen to be fair to all. For example, calling people wishing to speak by their name, and allowing each person the same length of time to speak. By making sure the discussion is relevant to the topic in question, and ensuring the meeting stays on track.  Another important role of the chair is in summarising what has been discussed at the end of each specific topic to ensure that everyone is given the same information regarding any decision that has been taken and the next steps to follow. This avoids the well-known problem of people leaving the meeting unsure of its purpose and what is required of them.

  1. An Agenda is essential

Under Roberts Rules of Order, an agenda is considered essential to provide a clear structure for conducting meetings. A draft agenda should be circulated in advance of every meeting and be adopted at the start of the meeting. ‘Adopting the agenda’ sends a strong signal that attendees buy into the meeting and are ready to participate. The items on the agenda are then followed in a systematic manner, with each item addressed and discussed before moving on to the next one. This prevents the discussion from becoming derailed and promotes a focused approach to the meeting. This, in turn, decreases the likelihood of important matters being overlooked. In fact, there are some people who feel strongly that without an agenda, there is no point in attending a meeting.

  1. Lead an orderly discussion

There are times during meetings when the loud extrovert voices may dominate the discussion and exclude quieter more introverted members. Parliamentary Procedure offers a solution to this common problem. It provides a process by which the discussion takes place in an orderly manner. A person wishing to speak has to first address the chair, and the chair then has to call the person by name and invite them to speak, this respectful interchange helps to set the tone for an orderly discussion. In this way members, one after another, have a chance to express their opinions without interruption, leading to a more positive and productive discussion and decision-making. Roberts Rules of Order also allow for people to challenge the chair (politely) if it is felt that the correct procedures are not being followed. It also allows for people to request work to be sent to a committee, adjourn the meeting and much more. This makes for an orderly and productive meeting using an established framework.

  1. Make efficient use of time

One of the major complaints about meetings is that most run over the allotted time. Robert’s Rules of Order offers opportunities to overcome this problem in many ways.  The use of a process known as ‘unanimous consent’ to expedite non-controversial matters being addressed is a tool that could be used in everyday meetings. For example, the adoption of the agenda, the approval of the meeting minutes, and moving a meeting to a new date and time could be dealt with in this manner. Having the agenda and related documents circulated in advance of the meeting increases the chance that people will arrive prepared and ready to participate ensuring that time is used efficiently.  By enforcing time limits on discussions, people are encouraged to be clear and concise in their presentations. The effect of adhering to these rules is an efficient use of time and more productive meetings.


Parliamentary Procedures, outlined in Roberts Rules of Order, provide a clear path to achieving fair, focused and productive business meetings. Once the team become familiar with the process your organisation will reap the benefits.


  1. Perlow, Leslie A., Hadley Constance Noonan, Eun Eunice, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017, pp. 62-69,
  2. Ross, Hannah (2022), ‘No Agenda, No Meeting. How to create meaningful meetings’. Available at: (accessed 12 April 2024)
  3. Robert 111 Henry, M, Seabold Daniel, Honemann Daniel, Gerber Shmuel, Balch Thomas, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition Paperback, Hachette Book Group


Elizabeth Jordan is Director D71, and Larry Lyons is Parliamentarian D71 at Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit