Parliamentary Procedures

Parliamentary Procedures

Why are Parliamentary Procedures so much fun?

The more people outside the meeting are effected by the decisions taken, the more precise and transparant the decision making process has to be. That’s why we use Parliamentarian Procedures, to run meetings smoothly, fairly and transparantly.

Parliamentary Procedures guarantee a respectful democratic process. They ensure

  • free and fair exchange of arguments
  • the majority to decide ánd the minority to be heard
  • clarity about the subject at hand

How do PP help us?

We have a Chair who is the traffic controller, maintaining rules, preserving and restoring order if necessary. The chair ensures we do one thing at a time: the adopted agenda defines the order, we deal with one question/motion at a time and one person speaks at the time. You speak to the chair, not to each other.

We have 23 motions for all sorts of situations to help us. The Chart of motions shows an overview. Here’s a short explanation of the ones we use most.

Main motion

To bring something up a member ‘moves’ the topic in front of the assembly.

  • Another member has to say: I second, to validate the topic is relevant for more than 1 person.
  • Seconding doesn’t necessarily mean you agree; it means you think the topic is relevant to discuss. You don’t have to state your name or have to be recognized by the chair when you second. If nobody seconds, the motion fails
  • The Chair repeats the motion and opens the floor for discussion. First the motion carrier can speak in favour, next anybody opposed can speak up, this continues to and fro.
  • If all has been said the Chair will ask if you are ready to proceed to the vote. Those opposed raise their hand, in favour, abstentions.
  • The chair announces the result in numbers and whether the motion is carried or rejected.

When you think about it:…..There’s a rhythm to this proces, the rythm of the motion.


Piece of cake. But what if during the debate about a motion someone wants to change the wording of the proposal? The only way to do so is to ask for a majority to change the motion at hand. A change can be to insert, add, strike out or replace words.

We follow the same procedure as with the main motion. If the amendment is approved the pending motion is changed and the amended motion is debated. If the amendment is rejected the original main motion is debated. Fortunately there’s a max of 2 amendments per motion.

Here’s an example. Someone moves that all District Officers get a training in Parliamentary Procedures in Hawaii. During the discussion someone moves to replace District Officers by District Council members, and later someone moves to also replace Hawaii by Mumbai. Now we’ve reached the max of 2 amendments, we‘ve reached the top so to speak, so now we walk down by voting for the 3 consecutive motions.

Time management can be an issue during Toastmasters business meetings. Therefore the chair can always state before the start of a topic that she will limit the time of the debate in a certain way. You also have the right to make a motion to limit or extend the time of the debate.

If the debate starts being repetetive and the Chair doesn’t proceed to the vote, you can use the motion Previous Question to stop the debate on the pending motion and vote.

You have the right to ask for clarity about the question at hand by using the motion Request for Information.

If you have the impression that the rules are violated you can use the motion Point of Order. The chair will ask you to state the point, and she will either take the point and restore the order or explain why the the rules have not been violated.

The Chair may at any time state a point of order and explain why an action or motion is out of order.

It really makes a difference for a meeting and its participants when Parliamentary Procedures are properly used, so I encourage you all to develop this transferable skill in the safe environment Toastmasters is. Enjoy!

Parliamentarian: Marike Dijksterhuis

Assistant Parliamentarians: Pascal Vilarem, Lucy Sennef, Mariana Florea, Gerben Broens