Can our meeting be held via conference call?

Guidelines for groups wanting to hold meetings using a conference call.

Professional Registered Parliamentarian Nancy Sylvester explains that synchronistic meetings have been conducted using both teleconferencing and videoconferencing for years. What is different now is that the parliamentary authority (Roberts Rules of Order) for the vast majority of organizations in the United States in its newest edition addresses those methods of conducting meetings. What is also different is that technology has made conducting synchronistic meetings far more reasonable and affordable. It is finally reaching the stage of technological development where conducting meetings using videoconferencing is less expensive than participants traveling to a specific location to hold an in-person meeting. See the National Association of Parliamentarians article Electronic Meetings for more information.

Roberts Rules of Order states that boards may hold meetings by conference telephone call only if the bylaws specifically authorize the group to do so. If they do, such meetings must be conducted in such a way that all members participating can hear each other at the same time, and rules should be adopted to specify the equipment required to participate, as well as methods for seeking recognition, obtaining the floor, submitting motions in writing, determining the presence of a quorum, and taking and verifying votes. [RONR (11th ed.), pp. 97-99; see also p. 159 of RONRIB]

Roberts Rules of Order also reminds boards that the personal approval of a proposed action obtained from a majority of, or even all, board members separately is not valid board approval, since no meeting was held during which the proposed action could be properly debated. If action is taken by the board on the basis of individual approval, such action must be ratified by the board at a regular or properly called meeting of the board in order to become an official act. [RONR (11th ed.), p. 486, l. 33 to p. 487, l. 12]

During the next review of the groups bylaws, consider including rules for synchronistic meetings if members want the opportunity to participate in that way.

Michigan State University Extension educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about parliamentary procedure. The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. 

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