How to Preside Without Being Overbearing
Review and understand your governing documents
Your primary function when presiding is to know the rules and ensure they are being followed. The best analogy is that of being a fair referee at a football game. No referee can be fair if they don’t understand the rules of the game. Your bylaws and the bylaws and charter of the state and national party should be something that you haven’t just glanced at. Take the time to read and most importantly understand those documents. If you have questions, reach out here or email me personally and I will help you in any way I can or point you in the right direction.
Learn about the history of the organization
Customs and traditions are important. Knowing where the organization has been can help alert you to triggers that may inadvertently cause issues. Knowing the path the organization has been on and making sure any changes in that path are made in a deliberate and considerate way can go a long way to ensuring the success of your organization.
Understand the people/group dynamics of the organization
Every organization is different because every organization is member-driven and every member is different. What works in Spokane may not work in Bellingham and what works in Bellingham may not work in Seattle. The culture and sub-cultures in your organization and how you address them can greatly determine your effectiveness as chair. Some organizations expect a top-down approach, becoming member-driven only when necessary. Others put the membership in the drivers seat and the chair is the planning and executing agent. You may be able to change the group dynamics, but without understanding it first, your job will be infinitely harder.
Consult with the parliamentarian and the other officers before the meeting
This one step can greatly increase your chances of having a successful meeting. When officers aren’t on the same page or when the chair isn’t aware of a motion or resolution an officer is planning to bring, the membership will very quickly clue in on that and their confidence in the path laid out can erode quickly. Also, making sure you are coordinating with your officers can help with time management and make sure matters are addressed instead of being overlooked. If you have a parliamentarian (and even if you don’t) reviewing the agenda to ensure you are prepared for say, a Motion to Rescind, and know the proper process will make the meeting smoother and help you explain specific rules that the membership doesn’t understand.
Meet with business presenters to understand their topics
Scheduling speakers is a great way to help make your meetings more interesting. Knowing what they are going to say, at a high level, and how long they plan to speak or letting them know how long they have to speak will maximize the time of both the speaker and the membership. You can also provide ideas to the speaker or insight into how they can most effectively reach the membership (if you have put point “3” above into practice).
Arrange for subject matter experts to be present as needed
Having a discussion about amending the finance section of your bylaws? Consider inviting a treasurer from a neighboring organization to participate in planning and presenting at the meeting. Has a member proposed a resolution on crumb rubber in playfields? Invite a local resource to answer questions the body may have so they can make an informed decision. Remember, you don’t have to know it all or learn it all. Relying on subject matter experts shows that you realize your limitations and helps reinforce your willingness to solicit help. There’s nothing worse than a know-it-all who is found out to be a knows-nothing.