Though it may not seem obvious, chairing a crisis committee is a very different job from chairing a General Assembly or Specialized Agency. The intimate size and rapid pace of crisis committees presents a unique set of challenges which the chair must overcome, as well as a unique set of tasks to manage. The excitement and humor which accompanies crisis updates along with the capacity for stronger committee bonds make this difficult job worth it. That being said, for first-timer crisis chairs, there is a certain list of things that you must execute in order to run a productive, successful committee which yields an educational and enjoyable conference experience for all delegates involved.
Cooperate with crisis staff.
The functionality of a crisis committee is entirely contingent upon the ability of the chair to cooperate effectively with the crisis backroom staff. To do this, be sure to clearly distinguish your roles: crisis staffers manage the backroom, respond to crisis notes, deliver crisis updates, and manage the larger arc for the committee. The chair, on the other hand, manages all affairs within the confines of the committee room. Distinguishing the respective roles of crisis staffers versus the chair and co-chair will avert any overlap or disputed decision-making which might result in frustration or tension. Additionally, as the chair, it is common etiquette to establish a friendly relationship with your crisis staffers. If this is a well-established conference, chances are you will be working alongside your crisis staffers to plan the committee arc for months before the conference weekend. If this is the case, then do what is natural: be friendly, respect their opinions, listen to their expertise, and work collaboratively. If the conference is less-established, then you might only meet your crisis staffers a few days before the conference weekend begins. In this set of circumstances, use proper social etiquette: approach them before entering the work environment, introduce yourself, and engage in conversation.
Know the committee arc.
As a chair, you will not only judge the performance of delegates in your committee, but you will also be a resource at their disposal to help move debate forward and monitor the progression of committee. In practice, this means that delegates will frequently turn to you for clarification on crisis updates and the status of the crisis arc; all of this boils down to the notion of timeline. Before entering the committee weekend, be absolutely certain to familiarize yourself with the sequence of events that the crisis staff has mapped out for committee. If this is a historical crisis, then know exactly what date the committee starts in. A proper crisis staff will have an end date or event in mind for the committee; this is information you need to know by heart such that you can relay it to delegates who may request it.
Keep it substantive.
Part of the fun of crisis committees are the notoriously crazy crisis updates in which crisis staffers bang on the door and run into the committee room, often times clad in some sort of costume or carrying props. Delivering passionate updates in foreign languages and acting out scenes is certainly a delightful way to lighten the mood in war cabinet committees; however, these kinds of activities should largely remain within the purview of the crisis staffers, not the chair. Maybe you deliver a passionate speech or two to your delegates to inspire them to take action during a particularly dull committee session, but avoid getting caught up in the theatrics. Leave that to the crisis staffers. However boring it may be, your job as the chair is to force delegates to focus and maintain substantively in the midst of all the goofy updates.
As a crisis chair, you carry the burden of maintaining balance between the theatrics of crisis updates and the substantively of committee. Tread carefully.
Monitor the relaxation of procedure.
With crisis committees constantly operating at such a rapid pace, procedure is traditionally much more relaxed than in General Assemblies. Crisis committees are also much smaller than most General Assemblies or Specialized Agencies, so strict rules are not necessarily needed to maintain order when the room is so intimate. As the chair, it is entirely up to you how far you are willing to relax procedure while still maintaining order. You need to read the room and gage the engagement and maturity of your delegates to determine the best level of procedural strictness.
Remember that all procedural alterations should be made with the intention of boosting the efficiency of the committee, not taking shortcuts or messing around.
Though it may seem impossible to juggle all these balls at once, many of these responsibilities will blend together and seem natural. The first committee session may be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you’ve never participated in a crisis committee yourself, but by the second or third session, I guarantee that certain tasks which once seemed insurmountable will become second nature. By keeping in mind this set of goals, your committee will run like a well-oiled machine faster than you can say “delegates, we have a new crisis update.”
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