Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


Pointers for Presiding Officers

These Pointers for Presiding Officers will assist anyone in conducting meetings. The chairperson has authority to conduct the meeting in an orderly fashion.

The presiding officer has the following rules to help achieve this objective:

  • He/She may decide in what order speakers shall be recognized.

  • He/She may refuse to recognize members offering dilatory, absurd or frivolous motions or motions intended, in his/her judgment, to obstruct business.

  • He/She may restrain speakers within the limits of the rules.

  • He/She may enforce good decorum.

  • He/She may appoint committees.

  • He/She may decide points of order.

  • He/She may vote in cases where his/her vote would change the result; e.g., to make or break a tie.

  • He/She should avoid influencing a vote by his/her own comment on a motion under consideration.

  • All actions of the chair, however, are subject to an appeal to the body.

Useful Pointers for The Presiding Officer

  • Insure that the physical facilities will be conducive to effective discussion.

  • Call the meeting to order at the scheduled time.

  • Start the meeting with a tentative agenda — a list of things to be covered by the meeting. An agenda saves time and keeps the meeting running smoothly.

  • State the purpose of the meeting at the beginning and read the agenda aloud. Odd as it may seem, members do not always know why they are there. Informing them of the purpose helps them concentrate on what the meeting is to accomplish. It helps direct their thinking.

  • Keep the meeting moving. A meeting is seldom any better or any more productive than the interest of its members.

  • Speak clearly. The presiding officer is the spearhead of the meeting. He/she has the agenda. He/she knows what it's all about. If he/she can't be heard, control can't be exercised. If he/she has a low speaking voice, the gavel should be rapped for silence before speaking.

  • Listen with respect and appreciation to all ideas. Remember that people grow in group thinking and discussion.

  • Prevent confusion. When everyone talks at once, no one can be heard. When no one can be heard, nothing can be accomplished. Insist on order.

  • Avoid talking to individuals without talking to the group. Side conversation disrupts a meeting.

  • If the presiding officer has a comment, or feels called upon to take part in partisan discussion, he/she should ask for the floor as a participant. Reminder: The presiding officer's opinion does count in the discussion, but his/her views should be kept out of the discussion as much as possible. The job is to get the ideas of others out for an airing before decisions are made.

  • Keep the speaker talking clearly and audibly. If a member asks for the floor and it is given, it is up to the presiding officer to see that he/she uses it properly. Interrupt, if necessary, and have the person repeat what was said if there is the slightest suspicion that not everyone heard.

  • Repeat all motions for the benefit of the members. It is up to the presiding officer to determine if the  motion is in order, and to get the decision of all members on the item of business.

  • Call attention to unanswered questions for further study or for reference to the membership.

  • Stop aimless discussion by recommending committee study. Occasionally subjects are discussed on which general agreement, at the time, cannot be reached. On such occasions, submit the matter to further study by a committee — which the presiding officer appoints.

  • Keep control of the meeting at all times without stifling free comment.

  • Don't argue with the speaker. Remember, the presiding officer is supposed to be neutral. No matter how ardent one feels, let the group make the decision. The presiding officer is conducting a symphony, not playing a solo.

  • Know when to adjourn. An announced closing time at the start of the meeting may help to keep the action moving but may also hamper wise decision-making at the close. (A second meeting may be necessary.)