What are Robert’s Rules of Order Speaking Time Limits?

Robert’s Rules of Order Speaking Time Limits

Robert’s Rules of Order serves as a guideline for conducting meetings. It outlines general rules for keeping meetings on track, including speaking time limits for debating a motion.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order speaking time limits, each member is allowed to speak for no longer than ten minutes per turn. If the organisation has adopted different time limits, then the member must follow them. Members are not allowed to give their speaking time to another member.

Purpose of speaking time limits

Speaking time limits are intended to keep meeting discussions focused and maximise participation. They ensure that order is maintained and the proceedings run on schedule. 

Time limits also promote fairness by preventing a single member from monopolising the available discussion time. This way, dominant personalities cannot overshadow quieter members. 

By limiting how long a member can have the floor, speakers are encouraged to use concise language and stick to the point. This improves the focus on the agenda items, ultimately boosting meeting productivity.

How to implement limits

Adopt Robert’s Rules

Ensure that your company formally adopts Robert’s Rules of Order as its parliamentary authority. This means including the rules in the company byelaws and adopting them as meeting etiquette to guide all business proceedings.

Designate someone to be in charge

Assign someone to act as the timekeeper. This person is responsible for monitoring speaking times and enforcing time limits during meetings. They are appointed by the presiding officer or chairperson.

Use timekeeping tools

Timekeeping tools include stopwatches, timers and digital clocks. They allow the timekeeper to perform their duties with efficiency and accuracy. Ensure that these tools are in a prominent location in the meeting room, visible to the speaker and other members.

Exceptions to the speaking time limits

Robert’s Rules of Order outlines specific motions to overturn speaking time limits temporarily:

  • Limit or extend debate: If a member believes that speaking time limits should be adjusted for a particular topic, they can use this motion to change them. It requires a second and two-thirds vote to pass.
  • Suspend the rules: Members can move to suspend the rules temporarily if they wish to make an exception for a specific topic or speaker. It has to be seconded and needs a two-thirds vote to adopt.
  • Consider informally: When adopted, this motion allows the deliberative body to act as a committee. As a result, debating restrictions are removed and members can consider the pending motion informally. It requires a majority vote to pass.
  • Previous question (close debate): This motion is used when a member thinks that the debate has run its course and wishes to put the pending question to a vote. It requires a second and two-thirds vote to adopt.

Handling violations of the limits

  • If a member approaches their time limit, the chair should give a polite warning to wrap up.
  • If they exceed their time limit, the chair should use the gavel or an agreed-upon signal to remind them that their time is up.
  • If a member repeatedly violates the time limits, the chair can give a firmer warning or impose speaking restrictions for the remainder of the meeting.

Another member can raise a point of order that the speaker has exceeded their time limit. The chair has the authority to rule for or against the point raised and take the necessary actions.

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