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    Making the most of your meetings

    Often the difference between a successful organization and one that is challenged comes down to how organized the board and committee meetings are. This resource was developed to help you create meeting plans that will not only assist your organization but also help it to grow and prosper.

    This resource has been specifically developed for commissions, committees, societies, and associations that have boards that require training and support.

    Guide Materials

    There are eight sections in this guide. Each focuses on specific elements aimed at helping you organize and create more successful meetings.

    The topics covered in each section include:

    1. No Hidden Agenda - Creating and establishing an agenda for your meetings
    2. It Will Only Take a Few Minutes - The importance of taking minutes at your meeting
    3. Going Through the Motions - How to engage members to create motions
    4. Give Them Something to Talk About - Developing guidelines for debate and discussion
    5. The Deciding Vote - How to effectively hold and tabulate voting results
    6. Ain't Misbehaving - Reviewing how your meetings should be conducted
    7. And the Position Goes to - Creating a platform for member voting
    8. Looking for Commitment - Setting ground rules for the future

    Section 1: No Hidden Agenda



    An agenda is a motion developed by the members at a regular meeting. The agenda keeps the members, particularly the Chairperson, on track during the meeting. Because each member receives a copy of the agenda in advance of the meeting, it also serves to help members prepare and thus participate fully in the meeting.

    It is the responsibility of the Chairperson with the assistance of the Secretary to set the agenda for the meeting. Once the members have approved the format for the agenda, it is important that it remain consistent at subsequent meetings.

    The Secretary should attach all handouts, reports and other documents that support the agenda items at least four working days before the meeting so that the members may prepare for the upcoming meeting.

    It is the member's responsibility to read the proposed agenda and assess whether it needs modifications.

    The preferred time for making changes to the agenda is prior to the meeting. Members should submit changes to the agenda to the Chairperson or Secretary a minimum of two days prior to the meeting to allow for modifications to the agenda.

    The Chairperson may call for changes to the agenda during the opening of the meeting, but prior to the meeting is preferred.

    At the start of the meeting, the agenda is approved by motion with recording of the mover and seconder.

    Sample Agenda

    Organization Name:

    ( ... ) Meeting:


    Full Location

    Place, Ontario:


    Meeting called by: Chair's Name

    Recording Secretary: Name

    Meeting Type: Business, formal, annual, other

    Attendees: Attach list

    Reading list: Attach necessary items

    Please bring: Supply list

    1. Call to Order - Chairperson, (time)
    2. Welcome and introductions - Chairperson, (time)
    3. Approval of and additions to meeting agenda - Chairperson, (time)
    4. Possible amendments and approval of previous meeting minutes - Secretary and Chairperson, (time)
    5. Executive and Committee Reports - see below, (time)
      • Secretary
      • Treasurer
      • Vice-Chairperson
      • Chairperson
      • Committee Report
    6. Unfinished Business - Previously discussed proposal/info (time)
    7. New Business - New business a member has contacted the Chairperson with (time)
    8. Other Business - Typically brought up during the meeting as a brief memo/FYI tidbit (estimated time)
    9. Next meeting date - Chairperson, (time)
    10. Adjourn - closing time

    Section 2: It Will Only Take A Few Minutes


    The minutes of a meeting act as the public record for all the interactions throughout the meeting. They are accurate records of the discussion and actions of the organization during regular meetings and committee meetings. The organization of minutes is important because attention must be given to all privacy laws that affect the organization.

    This section describes the role of the Secretary in taking minutes as well as the difference between regular meetings and in-camera or closed sections of the meeting.

    A good Secretary will assist the Chairperson in planning, conducting, and concluding a meeting. The Secretary can be indispensable to the Chairperson, allowing the Chairperson to spend his/her time more effectively and efficiently.

    Secretaries often take on many tasks. Their responsibilities start before meetings and continue during and beyond the meeting. Preparation, administrative, clerical, and follow up work falls under the roles of the Secretary.

    Just as the agenda requires an approved format, so do the minutes. Generally, the minutes have three sections:

    Section 1 - General Information

    • Type of meeting
    • Name of the organization
    • Meeting date
    • Time and place
    • Names of the Chairperson and Secretary
    • Name of individuals who moved and seconded the approval of the previous minutes

    Section 2 - Motions

    • Motions
    • Nay votes (if so specified by the voter)
    • Conflict of interest (specifics of the conflict including person, subject, action)
    • Points of order or points of business (where there are mistakes)

    Section 3 - Closing the Meeting

    • Name of person who closed the meeting
    • Time of adjournment

    In-camera Meetings

    In-camera sessions of the meeting are the portions that are not open to the public due to the sensitive nature of the information shared.

    Although in-camera discussions are held in private, decisions or motions are made publicly in the regular portion of the meeting. No minutes or notes are taken during in-camera portions of a meeting.


    Sample Minutes

    Organization Name:

    Minutes of ( ... ) Meeting:


    Full Location:

    Place, Ontario:



    • list every individual who attended beginning with the executive members and their position followed by the rest of the attendees
    • if either the Chairperson or Secretary aren't present, list who is replacing them for the day

    Guests: list all guest speakers who joined in on the meeting - attendance for the public at large doesn't have to be taken

    Regrets: list those (and their position if applicable) who couldn't attend the meeting

    1. Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by the Chairperson at _____.
    2. Approval of the agenda: Additions if necessary
    3. Minutes of Meeting
      • Amendments or changes from the previous meeting minutes if applicable
      • Moved by: _________ Seconded by: _________(Approval)
    4. Officer Reports
    5. Committee Report(s)
    6. Delegation (if applicable)
    7. New Business
      • Item 1
      • Moved by: _________ Seconded by: _________ (Approval)
      • Major discussion points
      • Motion Carried or Fail; Any no votes recorded with person's permission
    8. Unfinished Business (if applicable)
    9. Other Business (if applicable)
    10. Adjournment: Meeting adjourned at _________.

    Section 3: Going Through the Motions


    Making decisions or taking action is done through motions, thus making them critical to an effective meeting. A motion is a proposal by a member that the group take certain action.

    This section reviews the making, seconding, and passing of motions, as well as the types of motions and the protocol for making them. Recording motions and who made them is also important for the history of an organization.

    Defining the key actions in the structure of a motion

    • Move: A mover makes a formal motion that requires a seconder.
    • Second: For a motion to move forward, it must have support. The seconder is one who agrees or is willing to support a motion. Following the 'second', the motion is open for debate and discussion.
    • State: The Chairperson reads out the motion that is now before the organization for discussion.
    • Discuss: The motion is open for discussion. The mover has the first opportunity to speak about the motion set for discussion.
    • Amend: As a result of discussion, a motion can be changed. This is done by using a motion to amend.
    • Call: The Chairperson calls for consensus as to whether a motion is ready for vote.
    • Restate: The Chairperson reads the motion with all agreed amendments.
    • Vote: The members vote upon the motion.
    • Declare: The motion declared as accepted or defeated and recorded as such.

    In order for any motion to be valid, a quorum must be present as indicated in the bylaws. A quorum is the minimum number of members whose attendance is required to conduct business at the meeting. Quorum is often a minimum of 51 per cent of the membership. Once quorum is established, the number of yea votes must exceed a certain number of nay votes as designated in the bylaws for the motion to pass. The Chairperson must determine if a quorum is present. The only business that is not null and void without quorum is the motion to adjourn the meeting in the absence of quorum.

    There are various types of motions but those considered in this section are the type most commonly used and simplified here for ease of use. Motions generally fall into four categories:

    • Main Motion is a question posed by a member to bring business before the group.
    • Subsidiary Motion affects the Main Motion that is already on the table.
    • Privileged Motion introduces matters dealing with immediate actions and may interrupt the motion currently on the table.
    • Incidental Motion affects rules and procedures of the discussion not tied to a Main Motion.

    Note: The Chairperson must also determine who of those present are actually eligible to vote, as it is a privilege of those with full membership in the organization.

    Parliamentary motions guide

    A parliamentary motions guide has been provided in this section, giving you the details to create effective communication and motions throughout your meetings.

    The motions below are listed in order of precedence. Any motion can be introduced if it is higher on the chart than the pending motion.

    You want to:You say:Interrupt?2nd?Debate?Amend?Vote?
    Close meetingI move to adjourn
    Take breakI move to recess for
    Register complaintI rise to a question of privilege
    No vote required
    Make to follow agendaI call for the orders of the day
    No vote required
    Lay aside temporarilyI move to lay the question on the table
    Close debateI move the previous question
    Limit or extend debateI move that debate be limited to…
    Postpone to a certain timeI move to postpone the motion to…
    Refer to committeeThe move to refer the motion to…
    Modify wording of motionI move to amend the motion by…
    Kill main motionI move that the motion be postponed indefinitely
    Bring business before assembly (a main motion)I move that (or "to")…

    Section 4: Give Them Something To Talk About

    Debating a motion

    Decisions regarding motions are often just as important as the motions themselves. All members of an organization like to have their opinions heard. However, it is important that all discussion and debate remain focused. Discussions need to be as professional and impersonal as possible. Speakers never attack or question the motives of another member.

    This section describes a discussion model called CARE, reviews the process by which a Chairperson calls for debate and provides some basic discussion etiquette.

    How the debate should work

    The Chairperson asks the group whether they are ready to begin the debate or discussion of a motion once it has received a seconder. The Chairperson restates the motion, providing clarification and ensuring members are focused. Members need adequate time to discuss the pending motion and a representative number of individuals must participate. Discussions cannot be cut short for an immediate vote.

    It is also important to note that the member who made the motion has the opportunity to speak first. The Chairperson must acknowledge a member in order to speak; this can be as simple as eye contact and a nod from the Chairperson, to stating the member's name. Time limits for one person's discussion vary from group to group. Parliamentary procedure indicates that a member may only speak twice during the ensuing discussion.

    Speakers, including the Chairperson, are not addressed by first names during the discussion. As an alternate to a formal title, the member might refer to the "previous speaker." Parliamentary procedure calls for more formality recommending the use of the person's title (for example Councillor), Mr., or Ms., and the last name of the person.

    It is rare that the Chairperson participates in a discussion. If the Chairperson wishes to participate in the discussion, the duties of the Chairperson in running the meeting may be assigned to another member, usually the Vice-Chairperson. Without the views of the Chairperson, the organization can be missing valuable experience as the Chairperson often has a long history with the organization and its business.



    The CARE model calls on participants in discussion to be clear, concise, adaptable, respectful, and exact. As a participant, you can adhere to the following:

    Clear and Concise
    During any discussion, carefully formulate your ideas before you speak so that you are clear and concise.

    Be flexible and willing to adapt your view to the views of others.

    Always be respectful to others that are participating in a discussion.

    When participating in a discussion, make comments that are exact and on topic.

    Section 5: The Deciding Vote

    How to pass a vote

    When deciding the fate of an issue, it is not always as easy as a show of hands; the vote determines the direction that the members wish to take the organization. The close of the vote commits members to that decision. This section outlines what determines a majority, how to identify a conflict of interest, and what to do in the situation of a tie.

    How it works

    Once a motion is made, seconded, and sufficient debate has taken place, the Chairperson calls for a vote.

    In order for any motion to be valid:

    • A quorum must be present as indicated in the bylaws.
    • The number of yea votes must exceed a certain number of nay votes as designated in the bylaws for the motion to pass.
    • The only business that is not null and void without quorum is the motion to adjourn the meeting in the absence of quorum.

    The Chairperson must also determine who of those present are actually eligible to vote, as it is a privilege of those with full membership in the organization. The Chairperson is generally to be a neutral party regarding organizational business; therefore, the Chairperson does not usually vote and guests are not eligible to vote.

    There are a variety of methods used for voting, including:

    • Email - Can be used if permissible by bylaws.
    • Mail - Can be used but is not used as often today as in the past.
    • Voice or Viva Voce - The term given when the group says yea/nay simultaneously.
    • Roll Call - Calling a member's name as he or she votes.
    • General Consent - The Chairperson asks if anyone objects. If there are no objections, the motion is accepted by general consent.
    • Division - A person stands or raises a hand to be counted.
    • Ballot - Members anonymously place their vote on paper. Note that because a ballot method preserves anonymity, the Chairperson could participate, as it respects the neutrality of the Chairperson's position.

    Proxy voting

    This means that if one member (the principal) will be absent during a vote, he or she can give another member (the proxy) the authorization to vote on his or her behalf. The proxy then has two votes. The bylaws must indicate if the organization allows voting by proxy. Voting by proxy would not be considered a best practice for most volunteer organizations.

    Organizational bylaws

    These indicate if the Chairperson can routinely vote. The other exception to a Chairperson voting is in the case of a tie. In the case of a tie, the Chairperson must vote.


    Section 6: Ain't Misbehaving

    Proper conduct at a meeting

    In a meeting it is important for members to keep on track and stay focused. Ground rules for common courtesy should be laid our beforehand at any meeting. If any difficulties arise, the Chairperson should use parliamentary procedure to ensure cooperation from all members and to resolve any conflict.

    All members play an important role in the organization ensuring a positive working environment and ensuring the organization accomplishes its goals. Each member needs to approach the organization in a professional manner and display respect for all other members, those they represent and the public who interacts with the organization. However, it falls to the Chairperson to demand a professional, respectful, equitable and orderly environment during a meeting.

    Trust and respect is the base for effective meetings and the basis for ground rules.

    If rights and regulations of anyone are violated, the Chairperson may need to resort to disciplinary procedures to rectify the situation. The Chairperson has these options:

    • Address the member during the meeting
    • Apply monetary fines
    • Suspend the member
    • Expel the member

    Fines, suspension, and expulsion occur following the guidelines of the bylaws.

    What are the keys to a great meeting?

    Remember to have fun. Be prepared, be early and bring the needed documentation. It is best to have only one person talking at a time. When you participate, sit up straight and pay attention to your body language. A good rule of thumb is to turn off all electrical devices. Keep your ego in check, don't interrupt or start a side meeting. And remember to challenge the idea, not the person.

    Section 7: And The Position Goes To

    Electing your members

    Successful elections provide a positive light on a sometimes complicated but necessary process. The better organized your society or group, the more likely the members will consider candidacy. This section reviews the positions of an organization, how to choose the appropriate voting method, and the installation of executive officers.

    There are two different approaches to holding elections for the positions in an organization: elections from the floor, and slating.

    Elections from the floor are just that. If you don't have a Nomination Committee, members are nominated from the floor during a meeting.

    Slating is to have a written list of candidates to be considered for election or nomination. The frequency of elections is determined in the bylaws. The bylaws indicate who is eligible for an executive position in the organization. Where there is a large membership or if the organization is concerned about bias in the nominating process, a Nomination Committee is formed to assist in generating nominations.

    If ballots are used, Election Committee members are critical in making, distributing, sorting, validating, and counting the ballots. While viva voce, voting vocally by yea/nay can be used, in larger settings or with multiple candidates, ballots tend to be more reliable. The duty of the committee, and indeed all members making nominations, is to assess the weaknesses of the organization and recommend a slate, potential list of candidates, whose skills would strengthen the organization.

    Nomination Committee members should be representative of the overall membership in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, etc.

    In larger organizations, the coordination of the elections may require the formation of an Election Committee and the designation of a particular day and meeting just for elections. Election Committee members respond to questions and concerns of the membership as the election process and day unfolds.

    Once the new executive has been announced, executive members need to formally accept their positions. If a member does not accept the position, a by-election needs to be called for that particular position. In some organizations, an oath of office, as indicated in the bylaws, is taken upon acceptance of the position.

    It is essential that a plan be in place for the training of the new executive. Training can be formal, such as a review of duties and responsibilities led by a former Chairperson, or informal, such as a recommended reading list.

    Section 8: Looking For Commitment

    Organizing a committee

    Sometimes having an entire organization work on a project is not always efficient or effective. A smaller group of the organization, perhaps in the hands of public experts, is more effective at accomplishing the task. This section describes two types of committees to determine terms of reference and how to report a committee's activities.

    Ad hoc or temporary committees

    They are set up for completing a specific task such as a conference or seminar and then they disband. The duties or terms of reference of an Ad hoc Committee are outlined when the committee is formed. This includes determining who makes the final report.

    Standing committees

    The duties of a Standing Committee are often outlined in the bylaws and standing rules of the organization because of its permanent nature. The term of a member on a Standing Committee is similar to that of an Executive Office. In general, the Standing Committee reports during regular meetings. The frequency and content of those reports is outlined in the bylaws.

    Striking a committee identifies resource people who are able to dedicate the time and effort needed to complete the project. The committee can look outside of the organization for assistance thus broadening the time and skill available for the project. As is the normal process with motions, the subsidiary motion to refer to a committee is seconded, discussed and voted upon. If passed, elections can be held to determine who of the members will head the committee.

    Sometimes bylaws dictate ex-officio members of committees. For example, the bylaws might indicate that the person elected Treasurer must be a member of the Finance Committee. By virtue of his or her position, the Treasurer is ex-officio to the Finance Committee.

    The Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, the Solicitor General and Public Security, and the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development with the assistance of Christie Communications have developed this resource, "Running Effective Meetings".

    Thank You to the following:

    Lauren Loder - Content Writer Dynacor Media - Booklet

    Growing Forward is a commitment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to support the development of a profitable, innovative agri-food sector that is adept at managing risk and responsive to market demands.

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    The content of this resource has been reproduced with permission from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies who developed the content. Copyright remains with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (Rural Extension and Industry Development Division).


    While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, none of the sponsoring agencies or authors accept responsibility for errors or omissions. The publisher, editors and all contributors to this publication cannot be held responsible for publication errors or any consequences resulting from the use of this publication.

    Copyright ©2012

    Her Majesty the Queen in the Right of Alberta (Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development). All rights reserved.

    ISBN: 978 1 4606 0018 4