Chairmanship Help

Help with Meeting Procedure

This Workshop is designed to give some experience in the kind of issues that you may encounter if you have to chair a formal business meeting. It is not a detailed exposition, but an introduction. For more information on formal meeting procedures, check the three Web Pages below and follow additional links there.

Robert's Official Rules of Debate

Simplified outlines by Cagle

An Australian version by Renton

Toastmasters International has recently produced a simple outline of Chairman Procedures. You can order it from the TI website - it is Item 200.

The suggestions following are based on experience of what works. Many organisations adopt specific procedures, some of which may be different from those suggested here.

Note:  Where I have suggested words to be used by the Chairman, they are in italics.

Some General Rules

  • The Chairman’s role is to help the group to make decisions.
  • The Chairman should be impartial, and not attempt to influence the decision made.
  • The Chairman should maintain a balance between allowing as many members as possible to express their views, and constantly trying to complete the business by putting the matter under debate to a deciding vote.

Some Specific Rules

Insist upon a specific motion and do not allow general discussion.

However in elections nominations do not require a seconder.  The nominated person must accept the nomination.  A person may nominate themselves when acceptance is assumed.

Insist on the motion being submitted in writing or written down by the Secretary before the Proposer speaks to the Motion.

Do not accept the motion if there is no Seconder.  (Some organisations do not require a Seconder.

The Proposer of the Motion is the first speaker.

The Seconder may speak at the time of seconding, or reserve the right to speak later.

The Proposer of the Motion has a Right of Reply before the Motion is put. No-one else may speak after the Reply.

After the Mover and Seconder have spoken, call for a speaker against the Motion. If there is no speaker against, put the motion immediately. In this case, the Proposer has no Right of Reply because there is nothing to reply to.

Alternate speakers for and against the motion.

A member may speak once only to the motion. (Except the Proposer exercising a right of reply).
When there are no more speakers either for or against the motion, attempt to put the motion. Sometimes it is wise to accept one additional speaker for the previous side, i.e. a second speaker for, or a second against, but it is unwise and time wasting to allow any more.


Often there will be attempts to improve the motion by changing it. A motion can be amended by

  • Inserting words
  • Striking out words
  • Replacing words (effectively striking out and inserting)

Some Rules for Amendments
Reject proposed amendments which will have the same effect as voting against the motion.

An amendment needs a seconder.

An amendment is a separate item of business, so a member who has already spoken to the main motion can speak to the amendment.

There can be amendments to an amendment.

Put amendments and amendments to amendments in reverse order – last in, first out.

A carried amendment becomes the Motion. The original proposer still has a right of reply. (Some organisations do not accept this.)

Some Good Practices

1. Maintain good order at all times

  • No-one may speak when the Chairman is speaking. If someone persists, stand and wait for silence before proceeding.
  • Do not permit interjections during debate (but use good sense with this rule)
  • When any procedural dispute arises, consider the matter briefly, consult with the Secretary if appropriate and then make a confident ruling on the matter. If you sound as if you know what you are talking about, the meeting will usually accept your ruling.
  • Accept all procedural motions with good grace, including motions to disallow your rulings. Deal with them. Accept the result and get on with the meeting.

2. Put motions in the following form:

  • I now intend to put the motion “That ….”
  •  All those in favour say Aye (or Yes) (Pause briefly to hear the Ayes)
  •  All those against say No (Pause briefly to hear the Noes)
  •  I think the Ayes/Noes have it.
  •  The Motion is Carried/Lost.

If anybody objects to your opinion on the result of the vote, then announce a Ballot and appoint two Tellers, one for the Ayes and one for the Noes. Members mark their vote For or Against on slips of paper, which are counted by the two Tellers. This result is final. If there are equal votes, then the Chairman casts his/her deciding vote.

3. Prepare for your role as chairman of a formal meeting.

  • Check the Cagle website. It has lots of valuable information and suggestions.

Some important Toastmaster business meetings

Club Officer elections

Weekly clubs elect Officers for 6 month terms, July to December and January to June.

Other clubs elect Officers for 12 month terms, July to June.

The elections should be held in good time to lodge the new Officers with Toastmasters International.

The elections should be conducted by the outgoing President or their deputy - usually the Vice President Education.

In practice, most positions have only one nomination. In that case, in a club that does not meet weekly, a technical accurate way of handling an election for say, Vice President Membership, would be

The next position is Vice President Membership.

A there any nominations for our club's Vice President Membership. [Assume Jill Blow is nominated and accepts nomination.]
Are there any other nominations. [Allow a decent, but not excessively long, pause.]

There being no other nomination, I declare Jill Blow elected as Vice President Membership.

If after going through the nomination process, there is more than one nomination, conduct an election.

The following is the simplest, technically accurate way of doing so.

I will now conduct an election for Vice President Membership. There are two nominations - Jill Blow and Jack Spratt. All those in favour of Jill Blow please raise one hand.

[Count the votes and state the number you have counted.]

That was 9 votes.

All those in favour of Jack Spratt please raise one hand. [Count the votes and state the number you have counted.]

That was 5 votes.

Jill Blow has been elected Vice President Education.

[Some clubs will conduct the vote by way of a ballot which is counted by Tellers. For advice on this go to the Cagle website.]

Major expenses requiring full Club approval

Most minor expenses are dealt with by the Club Executive made up of the 7 elected Officers and the Immediate Past President. The Club Executive will use a similar format to that proposed for Club approval.

Require a specific motion which is either submitted in writing or written down by the Secretary and read out before it is accepted.
For example: That the club authorise the Vice President Public Relations to purchase a data projector for the club to a maximum value of $450.

Require a seconder.

Conduct the debate in the style detailed before, permitting amendments and a Right of Reply to the mover of the motion.

Conduct a vote, either on the voices or by show of hands as judged appropriate at the time.

Conclude the vote with the words "The motion is carried." OR "The motion is lost."

Accepting new members

Toastmasters International recommend that new member applications be accepted (or rejected) in the following formal way.

The vote is taken in a full club meeting, usually conducted at the beginning or end of the normal meeting. The President announces "We have applications for membership from Jill Blow and Jack Spratt. Jill and Jack - please go outside while we conduct a vote on your membership application.

[The Sergeant at Arms will conduct them out of the meeting and ask them to wait. The SAA then returns to the meeting.]

The President says, I have read Jill Blow's application. It is in order. Does anybody wish to speak against her being admitted to the club?

Normally, no-one will speak against the application. The President will then say "There being nobody opposing the application, I declare Jill Blow elected to be a member of our club."

The second nomination is then treated in the same way.

If there is a member who speaks against the nomination then ask if anybody wishes to support it, and alternate speakers against and for the nomination.

Then put the nomination formally and conduct a vote either on the voices or by show of hands.

When all applications have been processed, the Sergeant at Arms brings back the applicants and the President announces the result.

Are there other important Toastmaster activities needing advice?

Send me your queries by email or phone me.

David Nicholas DTM
David Nicholas DTM
0401 011 212