In the interests of cohesion and goodwill it is desirable to reach decisions by consensus. However that’s not always possible and it’s important to know the rules of formal meeting procedure. Here is a basic summary, with some links below for more detail.
Making and recording decisions
Even if a consensus is reached easily, it’s a good idea to record the decision as a motion, so that it’s clear in the minutes that a decision was made and the wording is clear. The Chair can simply ask for the motion to be put (e.g. “The minutes of the previous meeting should be approved as a true and accurate record”) and ask the meeting if there is any dissent. If there is not, the motion is carried unanimously. However in some circumstances a motion should be put to the meeting and a formal vote taken, for example:
- The meeting cannot reach a consensus
- Discussion is taking too long or going around in circles
- There are many competing ideas and no clear way forward
- The decision has important implications for the future and a formal motion and vote needs to be recorded in the minutes for future reference.
What is a Motion?
A motion is a proposal for action. It can be “moved”, that is proposed by any member at the meeting, except the Chair. (The Chair should remain neutral and facilitate discussion rather than entering the debate.) The motion must be clear and propose a definite action: not “We don’t like the new uniform” but “The club president will seek a meeting with the principal to discuss our concerns with the new uniform.”
Mover and Seconder
So that the Committee’s time is not wasted with unpopular motions, any motion must have at least 2 people to support it before it is voted on. The “mover” proposes the motion and the “seconder” supports the motion. If nobody seconds the motion, it fails and no vote is required.
Voting is by a show of hands. The Chair should ensure the wording of the motion is clear and call for:
- Those in favour
- Those against
- Abstentions (i.e. those who abstain from voting)
The Secretary should count the hands and announce the result. If the motion wins majority support it is “carried”, if not it is “defeated”.
All motions should be recorded in the minutes, with the exact wording, the mover and seconder and the result (e.g. “carried unanimously” or “5 for, 2 against, carried”. Which way individual members voted should not be recorded unless they request it.