"Be sincere, be brief and be seated." Unfortunately, some meeting attendees fail to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s sage advice. As a result, discussions can be lengthy and repetitive. Effective presiding officers use various techniques to keep the discussion moving. If your meetings are dragging on and on and on and, well, you get the picture, try a couple of these techniques:
- No one can speak more than five minutes.
- No one can speak a second time until everyone who wishes to speak has spoken once. The Chair can facilitate this by asking, "Is there anyone who would like to speak who has not yet spoken?"
- Alternate pro and con. After hearing a proponent, ask, "Is there anyone who wishes to speak against the motion?" When no one wishes to speak on a particular side, ask "Is there any objection to closing discussion? Hearing no objection, discussion is closed."
- Encourage new discussion and prevent repetition by asking for speakers who have not yet spoken.
- List start and end times for each discussion item on the agenda.
- Announce at the beginning of the meeting when the meeting will adjourn. Members usually police themselves when the meeting has a set ending time.
- If a few continue to prolong debate, ask for a motion: "Is there a motion to close debate?" Debate may be closed with a two-thirds majority vote.
Keeping meetings short is an important part of attracting volunteers. Remember old Rough Rider Teddy and take chaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!