About the Congress agenda

How is the Congress agenda set?

The main business of Congress – debates on Resolutions and Matters for Discussion – is generated entirely by RCN members. Submissions are now open and will be reviewed by the Agenda Committee on 21 and 22 January 2020.

The agenda will be approved by Council at its meeting on 3 February and then published on the RCN website.

What is the agenda committee?

The RCN agenda committee compiles the Congress agenda, contributes to the planning of the event and runs Congress on behalf of RCN Council. Its members - including the Chair of Council and Chief Executive & General Secretary - meet twice a day during Congress to consider any emergency resolutions which have been submitted.

The agenda committee provides a vital link between delegates and the Chair and Vice-Chair of Congress, and advises them on your thoughts and opinions. Agenda committee members are always happy to answer your questions and provide advice to help you participate in debates.

Speaking at Congress

Have your say

Any RCN member can speak in a debate. It’s a fantastic opportunity for you to get your voice heard, and it’s crucial for a good debate that as wide a cross section of views as possible are heard. It can be a daunting experience, but you’ll soon discover that all speakers – especially those taking the microphone for the first time – receive a very warm welcome.

The speaking queues

There will be two speaker queues at the front of the auditorium. It will be at the chair’s discretion to manage the queues to ensure fairness and speakers will be invited from the queues to speak from the microphone on the stage.

Members unable to queue should:

  • speak to the agenda committee beforehand who will arrange for them to be able to speak by either informing the chair beforehand or by ensuring that the chair is aware during the debate
  • or speak to an ambassador who will liaise with the agenda committee so they can proceed as above.

A roving mic will be available at the agenda committee desk for those unable to go to the stage to speak.

At the podium

  • When you are at the microphone, introduce yourself with your name and where you are from (such as branch or forum).
  • The Chair of Congress will then let you know how long you have to speak. Look out for the red light on the podium as that tells you when your time is up.
  • Be factual, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want others to hear - remember Congress webcasts are accessible to the public.
  • If you feel like your point has already been made by others earlier in the queue, please leave the queue and give others the chance to speak.
  • The speaker queue will be cleared at the end of each debate.

How long is each debate?

The Chair of Congress is responsible for the timings of debates. Each debate runs for a maximum of 25 minutes, but the Chair and may decide to amend the timings of the debates if appropriate.

The proposer has five minutes to introduce the debate from their perspective. Resolutions are seconded with a two-minute supporting statement.

Speakers are then given two minutes each to put forward their opinions.

The proposer returns to close the discussion after which the vote is held.

New to Congress?

If you are a first-time attendee, a first-time speaker, or simply need a bit of encouragement to approach the microphone, then come and speak to the agenda committee. They have all faced their first moment at the microphone, and know all there is to know about Congress so will be able to answer any questions you may have?

What gets debated

To get a flavour of Congress take a look at previous debates

Voting at Congress

Who gets to vote?

With around 435,000 members all around the UK, it’s crucial that any votes cast at Congress properly represent the views of the entire membership of the RCN. In order to achieve this, votes are distributed proportionately between the branches, forums and the UK Representative committees. 

To find out how you could be a voting member at next year’s Congress, speak to your local branch or contact governance@rcn.org.uk


Generally, voting will take place by a show of hands, with voting members holding up the relevant ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Abstain’ pages included in their delegate packs. Only those eligible to vote may do so, and it is for this reason that it is important that voting members sit within their allocated voting area as votes cast outside this area will not be counted.

Where the vote is very close or if the Chair determines that it is appropriate then a card vote will be held.

In the case of a card vote, voting members should use the appropriate voting card from their delegate pack, and follow the instructions given by the Chair of Congress.

Card votes are counted by members of the Governance team, and the result returned to one of the Governance team who will inform the Chair.

Procedural Pointers

Points of order

Points of order are raised to challenge the conduct of a meeting or to seek clarification from the chair about an item. Any member can raise a point of order using the card provided in their delegate pack.

Procedural items

Procedural items are usually to request that:

  • Congress moves on to the next items of business
  • the vote is taken
  • the debate is adjourned
  • the agenda item is referred to Council for further consideration
  • the order of agenda items is changed.

A vote must take place and be passed by a majority for any of the above to happen. Only voting members may raise a procedural item using the card provided in their delegate pack, and, should a vote be required, only these members may vote. Again, it is important that voting members sit within their allocated voting area as votes cast outside this area will not be counted.

Substituting voting members

If a voting member cannot attend a session it is possible for a non-voting member from the same entity to take the vote instead. Both members should go to the registration desk before the session to make the necessary arrangements with staff.

Policy and process

To find out more about the rules of Congress please see the Congress policy and process document

Page last updated - 05/09/2019