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  • Writer's pictureLaura J. McPhee

Meeting Excellence Made Easy: A Quick Primer on Procedure

By Laura J. McPhee

Running a productive meeting or managing decision-making processes within an organization can be a challenging task. In Alberta, as in many other places, one invaluable tool that can help maintain order and ensure fair proceedings is Robert's Rules of Order. This comprehensive set of parliamentary rules and procedures has been in use for over a century, providing a structured framework for organizations to conduct meetings efficiently and effectively. In this article, we'll explore the basics of Robert's Rules of Order and how they can benefit organizations across Alberta.

The Origins of Robert's Rules of Order

Robert's Rules of Order, officially titled "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised," is a set of parliamentary rules and procedures first published in 1876 by General Henry M. Robert. It has since become the standard for parliamentary procedure in organizations, formal and informal business meetings throughout the United States and Canada, including Alberta. The rules were developed to ensure that meetings are conducted in a fair, orderly, and democratic manner, allowing all members to have their say and make informed decisions.

Key Principles of Robert's Rules of Order

  • Equality: Every member has an equal right to speak, make motions, and vote. No one person's opinion should dominate the proceedings.

  • Majority Rule: Decisions are made by a simple majority vote, ensuring that the will of the majority prevails.

  • Orderly Proceedings: The rules dictate a structured format for meetings, which helps maintain organization and efficiency.

  • Fair Debate: Members are given the opportunity to discuss and debate motions before voting, ensuring informed decision-making.

Commonly Used Terminology

Understanding the terminology used in Robert's Rules is crucial for effectively participating in meetings. Here are some common terms:

  • Motion: A formal proposal made by a member during a meeting.

  • Second: After a motion is made, another member must second it before it can be discussed.

  • Debate: The discussion and consideration of a motion.

  • Main Motion: The primary motion being discussed.

  • Amendment: A proposal to change the wording of a main motion.

  • Majority Vote: A vote in which more than half of the members present vote in favor.

How Robert's Rules Benefit Alberta Organizations

  • Efficient Meetings: By following a structured agenda and rules for debate, meetings can be more efficient and productive.

  • Fair Decision-Making: Robert's Rules ensure that all members have an equal opportunity to contribute and that decisions are made based on a majority vote.

  • Order and Decorum: The rules help maintain order and civility during meetings, preventing disruptions and chaos.

  • Legal Protection: Following parliamentary procedure can help protect an organization's decisions from legal challenges.

Applying Robert's Rules in Alberta

In Alberta, many organizations, including nonprofit associations, boards of directors, and government bodies, use Robert's Rules of Order as their parliamentary authority. To effectively apply these rules, organizations can:

  • Adopt and Customize: Organizations should formally adopt Robert's Rules in their bylaws and may customize them to suit their specific needs.

  • Train Members: Provide training to members on the rules and procedures to ensure everyone understands and can participate effectively.

  • Appoint a Parliamentarian: Appointing or hiring a parliamentarian or having someone well-versed in the rules can help facilitate meetings.


Robert's Rules of Order is a valuable tool for organizations in Alberta seeking to conduct meetings in an organized, fair, and efficient manner. By adhering to the principles and procedures outlined in Robert's Rules, organizations can foster a culture of democratic decision-making and maintain order during meetings. Whether you're a small nonprofit or a large government body, understanding and applying Robert's Rules of Order can lead to more productive and effective organizational governance in Alberta.

Do you have questions about formal meeting procedure? Reach out to Blue Rock Law’s Registered Parliamentarian, Laura McPhee, for assistance.

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