There are few things worse than an inefficient meeting that gets drawn out and ultimately doesn’t achieve much at all, other than perhaps, two inefficient meetings. We understand, we know the regret of wasting yet another opportunity to do something meaningful and productive (and/or heaven forbid, fun) while you are trapped in yet another meeting where the same issue has been discussed three weeks in a row now. Simply because no one really seems to know how to move forward and make a decision.

The good news is that meetings need not be ineffective and go on endlessly or without any clear direction. Whether you are a part of a school or organisational board, community group or even your local tennis association committee, there are several meeting procedures which may help you to streamline its activities. Throughout this series “Effective Meeting Procedures,” we will be discussing the importance of acceptable amendments, voting procedures, the roles of certain committee members such as the Chairman and the responsibilities of the Public Officer. We will be discussing these points as items on our agenda, which itself may be the most important part of a meeting.

The Agenda

The agenda, essentially, is a list of the things which are to be done at a meeting. In our experience, having acted as advisor’s on several organisational boards, one of the biggest causes of an unproductive meeting is the lack of an appropriate and well drafted agenda. So before you get started, make sure your agenda contains all that is to be discussed at the meeting, listed in the order by which they will be discussed and is then circulated with enough notice prior to the meeting. This allows all members required at the meeting to familiarize themselves with the issues to be discussed. Along with this, it is important that any documents which are necessary to the decision making process or discussion are provided. A well drafted agenda can remove unnecessary time wasted from the meeting that can otherwise be used effectively discussing the necessary items that need to be addressed, which leads us to our first item, motions.

Item 1 on the Agenda – Motions

‘Motions’ are a vital part of keeping issues moving forward and stopping the endless debate. A motion doesn’t have to prescribe everything that needs to happen to resolve the issue. It can simply be a proposal about what the next step should be, (for example – the motion might simply be to agree to undertake further research by whom and by when, to obtain a quote to better assess the value, or, to invite a professional to give independent advice).

In essence – A motion is a proposal put forward by one person that prescribes what should be done next to further the resolution of the issue.  All motions are tested by being put to a vote and then if agreed to by a majority vote, is deemed to have been ‘carried’ and consequently becomes a resolution.  As a motion can have legal effect, the motion must be noted in the Minutes along with whether it was carried or not.

So with those ineffective meetings in mind, I hear you ask – What should I know to make sure my motion has the best chance of being carried?

Desirable Characteristics of a Motion

General practice is that a motion is to be presented to the Chair before it is brought up at the committee or board meeting allowing it to be added to the agenda. This allows the Chair to ensure that all motions are valid, and they may decline the acceptance of a motion to be put to a meeting for debate if it does not comply with certain requirements; such as if the motion is contradictory to the nature of the meeting or if it does not make sense. Below are several characteristics which will help you get your motion passed.

  1. Word your motion in such a way that it allows a ‘yes’ vote.

The aim is to get unanimous agreement not unanimous disagreement.

  1. Keep the motion short and to the point.

If you need to preface your motion with reasons for putting forward the motion, make sure it is clear to everyone when your speech stops and the motion starts.

  1. Make the motion a statement that consists of one properly formed sentence.

Every motion should start with “I move that…”

  1. Use straightforward, every-day, plain language so people can understand what is being proposed and can then vote with confidence. 
  2. Make sure the motion is consistent with the rules and standing orders of the meeting, as well as any previously passed resolutions.
  3. Propose a motion only if it is relevant to the business and for which the meeting was intended, 

Otherwise, you may be the one wasting everyone’s time.

If you require any legal advice then do not hesitate to contact us Tri-meridian. Keep an eye open for the coming items on the agenda in this Blog series, discussing amendments to a motion and the debating process.

For further reference;

Lang A D. (2010) <em=””>Horsleys Meetings: Procedure, Law and Practice. Reed international Books Australia Pty Limited trading as Lexis Nexus. Australia. Chatswood NSW</em=””>

For further information, please contact the author.

This article is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Tri-meridian Corporate & Commercial Law and is intended to be used as a guide only. It is not, and is not intended to be, advice on any specific matter. We do not accept responsibility for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of this article. Before acting on the basis of any material in this article, we recommend that you consult your professional adviser.