If an organization follows Robert’s Rules, there’s likely a time during the annual meeting or convention when the chair says, “Are there any nominations from the floor?” And generally, there are two responses to this question: (1) silence, and everyone hoping the meeting doesn’t last much longer, or (2) speakers forming at the microphone, and everyone hoping the meeting doesn’t last much longer.
If you’re one of those speakers at the microphone (or if you’ve always wanted to be but never had quite enough courage to do it), here’s a step-by-step guide for how to make a nomination from the floor—i.e., submit someone’s name to run for office.
Step 1: Wait for the right time.
It’s logical to conclude that nominations from the floor will occur during the time on the agenda designated for “nominations.” But precisely when during the “nominations” timeslot depends on whether your organization has a nominating committee. If it does, that committee gets to give its report first and tell everyone who they think should fill each spot open for election. After that report is when other people get to also tell the whole group who they think should fill the open spots.
Best practice is to wait for the chair to ask, “Are there any further nominations for the office of ___________?” Or, “Are there any further nominations for the board?” That’s your cue to speak up.
P.S. The chair must ask for nominations from the floor unless the bylaws explicitly say, “No nominations from the floor.”
Step 2: Say, “I nominate (a person’s name).”
This step seems simple enough, but I know that people are often reticent to speak in a group, especially a large one, unless they know exactly what to say. So, here are the exact words for you. When the chair says, “Are there any further nominations for the office of ___________?” then you say, “I nominate (a person’s name).”
Step 3: Know your limits.
So, I understand what often happens: you’re fed up with the current leaders of your group and want an entirely new board and have a long list of people you are very ready to see elected. However, just know that with nominations, there’s a one-at-a-time rule.
Nomination courtesy works like this: Offices or a group of positions (e.g., a set of spots on the board or a set of committee members) are discussed one office or one position group at a time. And when the chair invites additional nominations from the floor for an office or position, you can only nominate one person at a time, even if you’ve got several in mind. You can nominate a second person (or more) after everyone else in the nomination line has had his turn to nominate.
Step 4: Be prepared to give a speech, but keep it direct and short.
Giving a speech in favor of your nominee is a common practice—and a good one in my opinion, with one caveat. The speech should be direct and short.
In my experience, the reasons that a person should fill an office or position in an organization can be stated well in about two minutes max. Talk much longer than that, and you’re pretty much just filling time (and frustrating the waiting crowd). Remember that you’re nominating someone for an office or position in an organization, not for President of the United States. Give members a well-crafted mini-list of reasons they should elect your nominee and then sit down. Everyone will thank you.
I’ll finish with a “go-for-it” encouragement: If you know a person who is qualified for a certain position, and who is willing to serve, then nominate them. And nominate from the floor if you have to. Don’t be afraid to nominate a person simply because they weren’t on the nominating committee’s slate. You never know—that person, voted in because of your suggestion, may make a huge difference in the future your organization. It’s a fundamental rule of parliamentary procedure that voice is valued, so nominate freely.