Perhaps you shouldn’t be moving in a meeting?

Perhaps you shouldn’t be moving in a meeting?

‘Can I have a mover for that?   John?  Thanks. And a seconder?  Sally.  Right, let’s move on to the next item, the annual accounts.’   I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been around boards and committees for any length of time this, or a variation of it, will be familiar to you. But if a mover and seconder are required why aren’t speakers required to stand when they are speaking, why are members allowed to speak more than once, and why is the Chair allowed to take part in the discussion? You see, these plus many other rules are part of the formal rules of debate. The solution though is not to require compliance with all these rules at your board meeting, but to drop the requirement to have a mover and seconder. A bit radical for you? Let me make you a bit more comfortable then.

A ‘mover’ is somebody who proposes a motion, where a motion is a proposed resolution. Which if passed by the meeting is some action that the organisation will take. A ‘seconder’ is somebody who supports the action of the mover. (Notice that I said the mover’s action, not the motion itself. Their support is merely for the proposition that the motion should be considered – they don’t have to agree with the proposed action.)

Organisations have two kinds of meetings: meetings of directors or committee members and general meetings of the members. The latter is likely to be large compared to the former. But the purpose of both is to make decisions, right? And you want to do this efficiently. Well to do this for larger meetings they invented the formal rules of debate. But when the only participants are those sitting around a board table these rules add unnecessary time and complexity to the decision-making. So although you might need them for a general meeting, you don’t normally need them for a board meeting. So a discussion at a board meeting can be started without the formality of somebody moving a motion and somebody else seconding that motion. Which is what usually happens, isn’t it?

But is it legal to not record a name for the mover and a name for the seconder? I am not a lawyer, but I am reliably informed, and have successfully relied on this advice for decades, that, in the absence of a requirement in your constitution (which would not be typical), there is no legal requirement to have a mover and seconder.

So save time and paper and neither a mover nor seconder be.

2 thoughts on “Perhaps you shouldn’t be moving in a meeting?

    1. Ted Sherwood Post author

      Glad you liked it Marcia. I’m sure it will save you some time and paper. Renton’s Guide for Meetings and Organisations, Volume 2, Guide for Meetings, is generally thought to be authoritative in Australia. See [4-70] in the Eighth Edition (Lawbook Co, 2005.).

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