Ham Radio For Newcomers

I had hoped to give a presentation to a bunch of university students in Toronto. The date was arranged after I was approached by a delightful young woman at the Maker Fair held in Toronto this summer who said she was really, really interested in Amateur Radio.IMG_0567

It’s not everyday that somebody under the age of 25 who (a) appears normal; (b) isn’t dressed in dungarees (not that there’s anything wrong with wearing coveralls); and (c) is a woman of any age but especially one 1/3 my age expresses an interest in Ham Radio. (That’s Rod and his daughter Emma staffing the booth.)

I was thrilled to meet her. It was like running into ET for me 🙂 I couldn’t believe she was real.

Anyway she asked if I’d be willing to speak to her group of students who were also interested in Ham Radio and despite the group being in Toronto and me in Oakville I said yes right away. After all it’s not everyday we get a chance to promote the hobby.QST_Cover_August_2015_TILTED

So today i regret to say that I just got an email from my young friend and she has had to cancel the talk as the administrators at her school have cut her funding (which I bet was pretty minimal to begin with) and there’d be no talk.

Okay no talk but heck we’re all Hams here and we communicate, as the ARRL says: “When All Else Fails” so here’s the talk.


HamRadio – Here’s the original keynote.

Please feel free to use these slides or PDF at your club or group.

And Katherine, if you’ve not already got your license (my wife has hers…that’s her in the photo)) go study and pass the exam.

There’s a world of great fun, fellowship and learning that needs more Katherines 🙂 I hope to work you on the air someday soon.

73 (best regards) and 88 (love and kisses) from all of us at the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.

Oakville ARES Report

We’re approaching our second season of reorganizing and revitalizing our ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) here in Oakville and the future is looking bright.

ARES groups are formed at the local level and most often sponsored by individual clubs which can provide insurance protection for members. While there is some organization to ARES, almost all of the initiative and energy comes from the bottom and flows upwards.

This means at the local level your ARES group is open to any licensed Amateur Radio operator and clubs can make a decision about whether to insist that all members of their ARES group are also club members.

Here’s a link to a PDF from the Grey County ARES group that can provide some useful insight into ARES.

Normally it’s considered good practice to join the local club especially if you’re a regular user of the club’s assets such as the repeater system.

Here in Oakville we run a VHF and UHF repeater plus a new D-Star repeater. All this costs the club money in materials and insurance and we’re always appreciative of users who have enough self-awareness to chip in. Some do not and that’s unfortunate and costly to the club.

Whoever is representing the ARES group, called the Emergency Coordinator needs to be someone with sufficient communication skills to work with people.

It’s especially nice if they’re presentable and mentally stable. That’s not always been the case. (RAC has been having a fairly major breakdown of its ARES organizational structure with many key people leaving in frustration with the lack of leadership and vision within the organization and the anti-social behaviour of some of the participants.)

When it comes to your local EC it’s great if they’ve got some current business experience so they can make a good impression on municipal officials and fit into the municipal government environment as there’s going to be meetings. 🙂

What you want to avoid in your EC is someone who is impressed with the own title and but doesn’t get around to doing any of the work or providing any leadership. This has happened in the past and nothing gets done.

Being an EC isn’t real hard and most of us learned by doing as it isn’t rocket science and can actually be a lot of fun.

And it doesn’t take much to make an ARES group work either. A call-out tree of names and telephone numbers combined with attendance at a few community events and you’ve got more training than most.

The really eager beavers might even build their own quick response box (called a Go Box) so they can be ready at a moment’s notice if they get a call and take some first-aid training.

Here in  Oakville we’re proceeding with the installation of our MESH network which will help us expand our ability to provide communication services across the entire municipality.

The Burlington group is considering doing the same and there is some activity in the Mississauga and Peel clubs.

If you’re a licensed Radio Amateur or you want to become one and you live in or near Oakville, Ontario consider joining the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month (no meeting in December as its our annual festive Christmas dinner) at Abbey Park Secondary School 1455 Glen Abbey Gate or join us every Saturday morning at 6:30 for breakfast at Cora’s restaurant on Dorval Drive north of the QEW.


Section Manager – GTA Quits

It appears that George Duffield, VE3WKJ, has quit his RAC appointed position as Section Manager – GTA following a dispute over the formation of ARES groups in Halton Region.

If true, this resignation is unfortunate, unnecessary and (at least in my opinion) definitely unwanted.

I’ve met George Duffield on several occasions and I’ve found him to be forthright, honest and devoted to the betterment of Amateur Radio and ARES in the GTA. His resignation leaves a large hole in an already struggling ARES organization here in Ontario.

The issue that is at the heart of this resignation may well have been the result of the formation of the Oakville ARES team which took place earlier this year.

The Oakville club, of which I am a director, has struggled for years with low attendance and difficulty finding affordable meeting places. In last couple of years, the current board of directors worked rather diligently (not me but them) to balance the books, attract new members and start new projects.

Their work has resulted in the OARC now meeting monthly in a Halton School Board room. Plus the books are balanced, our club insurance paid and new members are joining. We’re going to have a QRP CW transceiver build-a-thon in the new year and our D-Star repeater is up and running and our MESH system is in the works. Plus older members are returning.

This is all good stuff.

One of the more ambitious projects was to reform the Oakville ARES group as last year a couple of our regular members formed a new group in Milton called SHARES devoted to public service work in north Halton. We wished them well but missed their service as Oakville ARES members.

SHARES it appears subsequently asked George Dufflield to be made part of the ARES organization in the GTA and despite there being no incorporated club to support it (an ARES requirement I believe) George appears to have given his go ahead.

Now back here in Oakville, the Oakville ARC decided to resuscitate its ARES group and appointed an emergency coordinator (EC) and asked for official ARES recognition.

For whatever reason the GTA section emergency coordinator who approves the appointment of local ECs wasn’t as forthcoming in approving the Oakville ARES group as we in Oakville would have liked and we appealed to George Duffield.

Months went by. Emails were sent and read and more emails were sent. George Duffield and members of the board of Oakville ARC met in person to discussion our intention (which was to form our own ARES group within the Oakville). In time, our EC and the Oakville ARES group were approved and we got to work here in Oakville.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of the issue. Seems there was some dissension which ended with George Duffield removing the SHARES group from the GTA ARES organization. The SHARES EC George Davis was likewise removed from his position and also from the position of District Emergency Coordinator of Halton where it was to have been his job of coordinating the restructuring of the Milton, Georgetown, Oakville and Burlington ARES groups.

This is a great loss as George Davis has extensive experience as an ARES member and group leader and no one can question his dedication to public service work.

So why is this Oakville ARC and Oakville ARES’s issue?

From what I’ve been told there are some rumours floating about that SHARES was formed after some members of the Oakville club were thrown out.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Oakville ARC has never in my living memory voted out a dues paying member or refused membership dues from any candidate for membership.

It’s entirely possible that some former members may not have received an invitation to the 2014-2015 annual general meeting as you had to have paid your dues for the past year to be on the membership list.

Also, it’s not the executive’s responsibility to ensure you’ve paid your dues. And, nobody is preventing anyone from mailing in their dues and having their say and casting their vote at business sessions. To think otherwise would be at the very least delusional and at worst convenient if someone wished to create an issue where none exists.

We were looking forward to working with SHARES as we know so many of its members on a personal basis. That isn’t likely to happen now. That’s not to say something couldn’t be worked out as we should all be working for the good of Amateur Radio and not just our own purulent objectives.

To have this factious conclusion and the resignation of our Section Manager is unfortunate in the extreme and does no good for anyone involved.

This is a bad day for Amateur Radio in the GTA.

Field Day Report

I’ve been going to the ARRL Field Day now for over 50 years and it never gets tired 🙂

This year the Oakville ARC held its annual Field Day inside the beautiful Bronte Provincial Park just to the west of Oakville.

So in brief here’s my take on how it went:

  • Conditions sucked for most of Saturday.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • The weather was perfect.
  • The venue was idyllic.
  • Bronte Prov. Park staff are A+.
  • The GOTA station worked (once we figured out a power issue).
  • The GOTA antenna worked (once we added 50′ of coax on the G5RV-JR).
  • We had the annual grumpiness putting up antennas 🙂
  • We figured it out.
  • The smaller generators (we had three) were quiet and worked well.
  • Tons of media coverage as our two local newspapers showed up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • We got some of our bonus points and lost on others.
  • We brown-bagged dinner and that worked.

Next year we need to figure out a way for folks to read their emailed instructions (which we sent multiple times) or take notes during meetings. Too many guys were asking questions which were answered in those emails. HI. While we struggle to erect two antennas, we might ask the guys who setup 27 or more how they do it!

Generally once we got up and running the CW station performed as always (thanks to Harry VA3EC) and the SSB station (thanks to Todd VE3LMM) was staffed most of the time despite some not responding to repeated requests for when they wanted to operate.

Makes it tough to put together a schedule when few reply but that’s a common issue not just relegated to Field Day. Something to do with ageing 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m starting to think we might want to run a CW-only competitive Field Day operation which we’d likely win and maybe even consider going QRP.

Next to it we setup an SSB station which runs under a different call and is open to all members and non-members, licensed operators and visitors alike as the GOTA station this year proved pretty popular.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did an educational session on QRP radio that went over fairly well I thought.

Most of the guys had never listened to a direct conversion receiver so the NorCal 20 and CRK-10A’s ability to produce super clean, artifact clear, bell-like tones in the headphones from an almost noiseless background was enlightening. Especially when considering I bought the NorCal 20 (which now has a memory keyer chip in it) for $35 at a flea market and the CRK was $65.

I even managed to do one Q before the contest on 20 with another QRP station setting up for Field Day in Idaho near the Canadian border. Great fun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Field Day is not only an annual exercise in emergency preparedness plus a built-in contest, it’s also an opportunity to work together in a friendly cooperative and supportive way to get things done.

While we might win our category, IMHO we’ve got some room to improve in other areas. But then again I’ve only been doing this for 50 years. I hope I’ve got another 20 or 25 to get it right 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you haven’t participated in a Field Day event you’re going to have to wait until next year now. Find a club near you and join the fun.

QRP On The Cheap

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get onto the shortwave bands after you’ve passed your exam and got your ticket is to buy a used rig (often referred to as a boat anchor) for somewhere between $500 and $1,000 put up an antenna and get on the air.FT101B (Medium)

But not everyone can drop that much cash so quickly on an HF rig especially if they shelled out $100 to $500 on a VHF/UHF hand held.

So I would offer that going QRP (5 watts or less) isn’t a bad thing.DSCF2052

You’ll hear a lot of the old sparkies say that newcomers should avoid QRP as trying to talk to other guys at five watts or less is too frustrating. I’m here to say to that “Nutz!”

I regularly contest with my FlexRadio 1500. True at $500 used it’s not dirt cheap but this software defined radio (which needs a fairly robust computer to make it work) runs circles around rigs costing ten times as much. (See Sherwood Engineering’s Receiver Data site.)

Besides the difference from running 100 watts compared to 5 watts is an S9 signal compared to an S7 signal. That’s it. Two S units. If you weren’t watching your S meter your ears would never be able to tell the difference.

As I am typing this post I again am listening to 40 meters alive with signals on 7030. My rig? It’s the Chinese-made CRK-10a CW transceiver that runs a staggering 3 watts and costs $65 new! crk10a_front

Now this isn’t necessarily a rig I’d recommend as your first rig but it’s a contender even though it doesn’t have any controls and is fixed on one frequency only (thus the low price). But it does have a built-in keyer and honestly there is something very nice about listening to a direct conversion radio. There are none of the artifacts generated by radios that use IFs to change the frequency of the radio or even SDR rigs that used a computer’s soundboard and tons of processing.

So where do we start when it comes to QRP?

First many if not most QRP rigs come as kits. You’ll need a soldering station and some basic tools but these will last you a lifetime.IF

When it comes to really simple kits you can’t get much simpler than a Tuna Tin 2.

This transmitter only runs 330 milliwatts (1/3 watt) and needs a receiver and an antenna to make lots of contacts on 7030 kHz the QRP watering hole on 40 meters, I’ve got one and it actually works. Takes an hour or so to assemble.

Next up there’s the slightly more sophisticated rig I really like which is my HB1A (aka the Ten Tec 8263R4020). This 5-watt dual-band (40 and 20 meters) vfo controlled rig has a built-in keyer (it can also take a straight key) and runs off internal or external batteries or a 12-volt power supply. It has a variable filter and can hear sideband as well as CW although it only transmits CW. It originally cost around $200 and there’s a new four-band model at $300 but used you might find a used HB1A around $100 or so. Really good rig for the $ but early versions had reliability issues as it was made in China.

Just about any rig from Elecraft (if you can afford it) or Wilderness Radio or Oak Hills Research (which sells a very nice QRP wattmeter. See photo.).

DSCF1187Some of the new radios coming out of China are dirt cheap but as I said reliability has been an issue in the past so you take your chances.

A new all-band CW/SSB rig out of China, the X1M Pro is about to be replaced by a seven-band version.

These rigs are coming in around $500 to $700 which is a bit of gamble but sure attractive based on price.hand-v3

QRP is an excellent solution to finding a nice rig for very little cash outlay. Have fun and hope to hear you on the bands.


How To Get Your Ticket

This post is the virtual part of my real information table I am setting up for the Oakville Amateur Radio Club’s Field Day which takes place Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at Bronte Provincial Park just outside of Oakville, Ontario.7439940598_04eee7e719_z

One of the reasons I am posting this bit follows a talk I had last weekend at the ARES Day at RadioWorld with a Burlington, Ontario guy who had just got his Amateur Radio certificate. He had his ticket now but knew just about nothing about Ham Radio. So this post is for you my friend.

If you’re wondering where to start, allow me to suggest finding a local club. There are hundreds of Amateur Radio clubs across Canada and the U.S. so finding one nearby shouldn’t be a challenge.barc1

Finding one that is active and doing interesting things might take some looking around.

Next see if the club is offering classes this fall. Some do and that’s the easiest way to get your ticket. Getting on the air may take some more effort but we’ll come to that in a minute.

Checkout the Industry Canada website for information on how to get started.

VE3EP Amateur Radio website has a very good guide on what’s involved and how to proceed. i’d recommend you check out the site.hamstudycover

The Hamstudy Basic guide found at this website is a great help as well as is the Canadian Amateur Radio Basic Qualification Study Guide found here.

Seriously consider learning the Morse code!

Even though you can get licensed without it, Morse code is an art form all in itself. Knowing Morse code and practicing until you can run around 10 to 12 words per minute working your way up to 20 wpm or more allows you to access a whole new world of communications.

CW rigs can be exceptionally inexpensive yet provide efficient, dependable communications even at QRP (5 watts or less) levels. It’s not all that hard to learn but does take practice (best done in small groups).IMGA0007

Finally ask someone who is active in your area if you could visit their station. Most hams will be flattered and proud to show off their equipment and offer explanations of how it works.

Once you’ve got your ticket getting on the air is the next challenge. You can get on the air for next to nothing or spend $10K easily. For your first rig, consider buying used to save some money. The Ontario Swap Shop or your local club members can be very helpful in locating a suitable rig. Don’t limit yourself to a VHF/UHF FM hand held. There’s so much more to Amateur Radio (digital modes, satellites, contesting, building, experimenting, public service work, club activities, TV, SDR and the list goes on and on).

Welcome to the hobby.

Field Day 2014

This post is also appearing on the Oakville ARC Blog VE3HB.

This year Oakville ARC is running a two-station Field Day with a Get-On-The-Air (GOTA) third station for newcomers (or for people who haven’t been on HF for year or more) at Bronte Provincial Park.

We’ve been going to Bronte now for a few years. It’s close by and its got trees and lots and lots of space.IMG_0187

We’re going to put all three stations under the humble pavilion and locate our antennas as far apart from each other as possible.

It looks like the CW station is going to be well staffed but we’ve not got a response from anyone for SSB yet so Ian, VE3JI, and I are thinking it’s going to be just us for the 24 hours. It’s too bad that some of the guys don’t appreciate how much work goes into the planning for this contest and just show up at the last minute expecting to sit in. That might happen but it might not and if you’re anticipating participating Ian would appreciate hearing from you.

Field Day (June 28-29) is a great day of fellowship, emergency communications training and a contest all rolled into one.

The Oakville ARC effort is usually pretty competitive. I think we came in second in Canada last year thanks to a major effort by our CW crew and this year’s crew looks just as formidable (Harry, VA3EC; Tony, VE3RZ; Dennis, VE3JAQ).

ARES Oakville

The Oakville Amateur Radio Club has had an ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) group since the earliest days of the club which goes back at least into the 1960s.Ares125

I can remember back to the 60s (honest) when a bunch of us who were on GRS (Citizens Band) got so fed up with the behaviour of some the CBers who were members of local REACT groups (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams) who were routinely running linear amplifiers, running off frequency and had really unprofessional operating procedures (foul language was the least of the issues back then) that we started the ALERT group.

We hoped to provide a more professional and better trained and equipped volunteer group to work with local officials. We were actually washed and shaved and we bought ourselves some pretty neat bight yellow jackets with A.L.E.R.T. in big letters on the back. We thought we were so cool. Funny none of us got many dates in those days but maybe if we hadn’t been wearing the jackets and matching hard hats (I kid you not.) and took the yellow flashing lights off our vehicles we might have had more luck.

ALERT stood for Associated Light Emergency Radio Teams. There were about 40 of us at our peak and we aligned ourselves with the Ontario government’s Emergency Measures Organization where we took training in first aid, light rescue work (we once lowered a member from the second floor of the EMO building on Dundas St. near Burnhamthorpe Road. He was tied to a gurney and I can still hear him scream as we lowered him by rope.) and all of us studied and passed the government’s Restricted Radio License.

How many ARES folks today have their Restricted Radio License?

The highlight of our EMO experience was the weekend we spent at Camp Borden running the provincial government emergency repeater system. The low point was when one of our guys took the big EMO rescue truck to Harvey’s and lifted the overhang from the roof off the building. We never got to drive the rescue truck again.

Over the years we participated in a ton of events including searches for missing people, road races involving bicycles, cars and people. Our top event was the annual 30-mile Miles For Millions Walk-A-Thon which at its peek had 100,000 walkers and went for over 18 straight hours. We met in planning meetings for six months every week to get this job done.

I was in charge of communications and one year we had over 300 mobiles on four separate services (CB, Ham Radio, mobile phone which was brand new, and commercial business radio). We even had a helicopter at our call and police staffing a radio in our communications room which was on top of a 20-storey building at Eglinton near Avenue Road.

As time went on we grew up and moved to other communities (some of us even got married) and the old ALERT group sold its converted Eaton’s van. We had HF, VHF, UHF and police and fire radios installed in this bright yellow delivery truck. I got to drive it once up Hwy. 400 and yes it had flashing yellow lights everywhere. HI.

I joined the ARES group up in Peel Region and participated there in events with fellow club members of the Peel Amateur Radio Club (which I hear is doing really well these days).

Here in Oakville the ARES activities have been on and off over the years and it’s wonderful to see the Oakville ARC reforming their ARES operation as they focus on the needs here in the Town of Oakville.

At one of our Field Days (which is coming up June 28-29) I arranged for every participating club in the province to send a message to the Office of the Premier advising the government that local ARES groups were deployed across the province on this emergency exercise. It was a pretty good public relations effort if I do say so myself.

There are other ARES groups which were formed out of existing clubs (Burlington being one) and they provide excellent community service when it comes to times of need or during community events. Clubs also often have liability insurance for their members which may or may not be available to ARES groups.

ARES is administered here in Canada by Radio Amateurs of Canada.

If you want to become an ARES member or start an ARES group in your community it’s a pretty easy process and the RAC administrators are always asking for more members.

Here’s a link to the RAC info.

ARES has a 300-page manual available online which is actually pretty good (especially if you avoid some of the over-the-top language about “tactical vests and tactical debriefings” – I didn’t make this up.  – and RED teams and “ground truth reports” and the bit about how Ham Radio is considered by the authors to be an archaic term and how amateur radio operator is much preferred – Seriously?)

I can appreciate the authors were trying to cover all the bases (This is a four volume training manual!!) and if we ignore the overly militarized language and thinking, it’s actually pretty good and worth reading. There’s a lot of the old EMO thinking being revisited here._main_52There was a time I would have been critical about the over-the-top preparation for terrorist events (and then we had the Boston Marathon) or mass evacuations (like what happened during the Mississauga Train Derailment) or floods (Winnipeg) or Ice Storms (Quebec).

Having said that most ARES guys (and gals) just want to use their radios in the service of their local community.

For the most part all they need is a VHF or VHF/UHF portable unit or an FM rig in the car, appropriate clothing for the day, water and lunch (if they’re not being feed) and the desire and openness to learn a few new things. Sure there’s more to it than this but this is a good start when you’re new to ARES and maybe even Ham Radio.

I believe in training on the job.

I’ve run ARES nets where we passed formal, informal and even emergency (life or death situations) traffic was passed. The participants on those nets learned what to do and did so by following the simple direction of the experienced net controllers.

It’s quite gratifying to be on a well-run net that transitions from loose, informal communications to a net handling only formal or emergency messages and then to witness the controllers take the net back to informal communications when the crisis has passed.

One of the best ways to learn how to run a net is volunteer to be the talk-in station at your club’s next flea market or similar event. Trust me you’ll have your hands full and it will be fun.

The Oakville ARES group is looking for new members and we have a meeting this evening at the Tim Horton’s on Bronte Road south of the QEW at 7pm and if you’re in the area guests are always welcome.

We will be talking about our upcoming Field Day operation and the possible integration of a MESH network (which I commented upon in a past post) and the progress around the installation of a D-Star digital communications systems to our existing FM repeaters.

The Minds and Hearts

Last night’s annual general meeting of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club was a big success (we elected new bunch of directors one of whom, I’m delighted to say, is yours truly) with a small but enthusiastic turnout.

Over the last few years the Oakville club has gone through some hard times even entering a period of no activity and for awhile it appeared it might fold.

Well thanks to a few patient and long-suffering members the Oakville ARC is alive and well and we’ve got some great plans in the works. For more info please visit the Oakville ARC blog (which I’m building up as we speak).

I did have a disagreement with one member who took umbrage at last post which appeared here and an email to all club members about my thoughts on the suitability of folks who run for the position of club director.

Not to throw too much gasoline on the fire, I’ve been an amateur student of Buddhism. At a week-long retreat I took some months back we were given copies of the Japanese Zen poem called the Sandokai. Here the writer says that among human beings there are wise ones and fools.

I’ve always identified with the latter so it was with some interest I got my morning email from1005630_187x169 James Altucher Insider’s List where he talked about this challenge to understand that the critique from others isn’t about him or what he said but what goes on inside the minds and hearts of the critic.

He is so very correct and this is something I too often forget.

In the face of anger or even bullying I need to remember to be compassionate in my thoughts about what might possibly be creating this reaction in my brother.

All in all I’m very excited about some of the new projects we talked about last night and even a demo that Rod, VE3RHF and I did at the end of the night went off pretty well. We even worked a station in Illinois! Now that’s DX on a handheld.


Those Who Serve

With the club elections coming up for the Oakville Amateur Radio Club I can’t help but compare our radio club to my Toastmaster club.

While the radio club has about 25 paid-up members of which less than half are what I’d call active members, the Toastmaster club started the year with well almost 40 members (and we had six guests to our first meeting of the season) and will end the year with as many as 60 members. (Toastmaster clubs have at least 20 members to be granted a charter from Toastmasters International.)

There are seven people on the Toastmaster executive (president, vice presidents of education, membership and public relations, plus a recording secretary, a treasurer and a sgt.-at-arms. In addition to the executive there are special (party) and standing (video) committees and tons of volunteer opportunities which are always quickly filled.

Each of these executive members has already attended a half-day training workshop provided by Toastmasters. Each has a lengthy list of responsibilities to fulfill.

The new executive members are taught that as members of the executive team, it is their job to serve the club and not to attempt to govern it.

Having said that, the executive lays out a weekly program months in advance with a list of roles for members to carry out months ahead of time. There are about a half a dozen contests which require extensive planning as well as a summer, Christmas and Charter party which are big events in the Toastmaster calendar year.

The club has an active mentoring program for all new members and each member has their own individual educational program as set out in a series of speech manuals provided by Toastmasters International.

Right now our radio club has a five-member board of directors. Since we have few regularly scheduled meetings members participate or club events, there’s not much for our executive to do as far as I can see.

Sure there’s the collection of the club dues which at $20 is 10 per cent of what we pay for our Toastmaster membership. And there’s the annual Field Day and we do meet at a local restaurant for a Christmas dinner which is well attended by members and spouses. But after that, I don’t know.

At the Toastmaster club the weekly agenda involves at least 20 members directly who carry out roles ranging from greeter at the door to general evaluator of the meeting. There are three formal speeches delivered every week followed by three formal evaluations of the speeches. All of this activity is captured on video and rendered into movie files which are uploaded to a private club-members-only DropBox for viewing.

At every meeting, there’s a 15-minute timed business session. When the 15 minutes are up, a red light shows on the club’s timer and the business session is over. At every business session the minutes of the previous meeting are read and approved. Executive members give reports which are one to two minutes long and then there’s five minutes or so for new business from the floor.

Almost all of the decisions and new business for the club originates from the members who rise, are recognized by the chair, and who then move a motion which is seconded, debated and voted upon.

The club uses Robert’s Rules of Order to maintain order and decorum. Every year I teach two workshops for area Toastmaster club members on the effective and proper use of Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure.

So here’s the takeaway on Robert’s Rules:

  1. They allow the majority to get things done quickly
  2. They allow the minority opinion to be heard
  3. They prevent bullying and allow everyone to speak if they wish
  4. They speed up business meetings
  5. They should never be used to obstruct or control but to facilitate the decision-making process

When I conducted my last RR of O workshop I assigned the newest member in the room to be the “parliamentarian”. I did this to demonstrate to the over-flow crowd of Toastmasters that they didn’t need to be an expert to participate in business sessions conducted using RR of O.

So long as one person had a grasp of RR of O, they could assist the entire assembly in quickly, efficiently and with great camaraderie conduct the business of the day.

Here’s a link to beginner’s guide to RR of O. (NOTE: References to specifics such as a quorum is at least 50% do not refer us as the OARC is governed by rules supplied to non-profit organizations by the Ontario government which essentially say we can determine our own numbers in our own bylaws. The Ontario government guidelines essentially refer only to the duty of directors to act in good faith and rules to protect association funds.)

Without RR of O protecting the rights of every member, the decision-making process can be hijacked by the loud, the aggressive and those with hidden agendas or desire for power.