When preparing for conferences, the importance of parliamentary procedure (parli pro) is often overlooked in favor of topic preparation. While it is essential to come to a conference with research and a game plan, your chances of gaveling without knowing the rules and structure of the committee are slim.
Parliamentary procedure is an invaluable tool because it lets you sway proceedings in your favor.
From the moment you step into the room, everything you do is governed by a motion – a specific proposal for the advancement of the committee after being called upon by the chair.
Before anything can begin, the chair will call on someone to open the primary speaker’s list. These operational motions continue throughout the entire session, and controlling them is essential even if they directly impact the debate itself. Especially during longer competitions, your fellow delegates will face exhaustion. Balancing writing clauses with note passing, speaking, merging resolutions, and maintaining control over a bloc is tiring, and few delegates will prioritize logistics. However, just as your competition faces fatigue, so do your chairs. They will appreciate someone who makes their job more manageable, and it is often the differentiating factor between you and others in your chamber when it comes to awards. Being the person in the committee who takes care of coordination is an easy way to get noticed.
Already, you can see that basic knowledge of how to transition the committee from one phase to another will be beneficial—most high schoolers who do Model UN know how to move for a moderated caucus. Limited knowledge of motioning will put you at a disadvantage. Everyone else in the room will be vying for a moderated caucus on their favorite topic, and yours is never guaranteed to make it onto the floor.
Knowing how the procedure works will distinguish you from everyone else in the room.
Using your parliamentary procedure knowledge is just as important to predict the strategies of different bloc leaders, especially during the climax of the committee: introducing working papers might not benefit you if you don’t have enough signatories and getting stuck in a repetitive cycle of moderated caucuses could very well be a tactic of your main adversaries to catch up if they’re behind you. Noticing the maneuvers of others in the room is vital to know if you should put effort into countering them.
If you don’t understand why certain motions are made, you will never understand why the committee leaves you behind at the moments you seem to be doing well.
So do yourself a favor, and learn parliamentary procedure before your next competition. If you want to gavel, you need to be able to distinguish yourself in more ways than knowing your country’s position and advocating for it throughout the weekend. Presenting yourself as the obvious choice for administrative duties while also using the rules to propel yourself to the forefront of discussion significantly increases your chances of an award. Your chairs will thank you as you use your newfound knowledge to game the system and command the room. Linked below is a free guide.