drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,

So, You Want to Attend the WorldCon Business Meeting?

It seems not unlikely that some WorldCon attendees who have not attended a Business Meeting before may want to do so this year. I'm not an expert, far from it. I've just been sucked in. A little. I can stop any time I want. Any time.

1. There are likely to be four meetings, if I recall correctly. The first involves reviewing the agenda and deciding how much time to allocate to each item. (I'm not clear on how folks get stuff on the agenda, but that's not something you can do for this year at this late date, so don't worry about it.) The second and third meetings go through each item, in order. I think the chairman can switch the order, but generally doesn't, unless there's a clearly logical reason to do so. People vote. The fourth meeting involves wrapping up finances, I think -- I've not yet attended one of those.

2. Meetings run 2-4 hours, in the mornings.

3. Are you at WorldCon, as an attending member? If so, you may attend each and every Business Meeting. The people making decisions that we praise or grouse about are us.

4. I recommend doing a lot of listening at your first year's worth of Business Meetings. This will help you understand the procedures followed and what does and doesn't work. It will help you identify allies, honored opponents, and generally cool people that you'll want to stay in touch with after the convention. Listening will also keep you from accidentally sabotaging your own side on items dear to your heart. More on that later.

5. You do not need to attend every single meeting. You can walk out in the middle of a meeting. If you just want to vote or hear the debate on one or more items, you can probably skip the first meeting. I encourage you to attend for part of it anyway, as it's a good introduction to how things work, and it will give you an idea of when your cherished items will come up and how much time is allotted to debate them. But, if you've got a friend attending the meeting, and that friend has a good sense of how the business meetings go, your friend can probably tell you which of the next meetings will cover your items.

6. Packing the meeting with supporters for your position is completely appropriate. I've helped do that. It is also completely appropriate for your opponents to do this. This is not a dirty trick. It is a way to get people who care about an issue there to vote on it.

7. When an item comes up, there is a certain amount of time set aside for discussion. The amount of time was determined at the first business meeting. If the item involves a vote, half of this time goes to those supporting the motion or amendment under consideration, and the other half goes to those opposing it. The chairman will recognize people, alternating between those for and those against, and when someone speaks, the amount of time this person takes is subtracted from the amount remaining for his or her side.

This is an extremely important point to remember. It is why I advise spending your time listening, even if you are dying to speak. The time you spend speaking comes out of your side's time. If you are not clear, concise, and on topic, then you will hurt your own side by using up precious moments of its time.

This happened last year. A fan supporting a motion started by explaining his credentials to speak, going on and on about why he knew what he was talking about. This damaged his case. If he'd kept it to half a sentence, maybe that'd be fine, but really? You're at the meeting. You're eligible to speak. Tell me why I should vote the way you want. Don't ramble. Don't filibuster or grandstand -- you're hurting your own side here. Every second this man spent talking was a second supporters of the motion he favored lost.

8. All those caveats aside, if you have something important and on topic to say, something that has not yet been said, raise your hand. If the chairman recognizes you, go to the front or take the microphone, depending on how it's being done, state your name for the record, and then say your piece, clearly and concisely. Don't ramble. Leave your allies as much time as you can for them to support and build on your points.

9. Sometimes, it will be apparent that the meeting needs more time to discuss an item. You can make a motion to extend the amount of time. The extension will not always be granted, as we do all want to attend the rest of WorldCon. Don't ask for an extension if all of the arguments have been made already.

10. If you're getting confused, raise your hand and say, "Point of Information". (I think that's the phrase. You'd think I remember, as I use it at least once during the convention.) Then, ask your question. If it's me, my question is usually, "So, which motion are we discussing, again?" Sometimes, there are motions and countermotions flying so fast and thick that it's hard to remember which sub-debate we're in. I have even seen an old hand at business meetings need to be told that it was time for him to stand, because it was his original motion that we were finally voting on.

11. Votes are done verbally. If the chairman isn't certain who has the majority, each side stands up and counts off. That is, the first person says "One", and sits. The next says "Two", and sits. And so on. Sometimes, the chairman will go right to this method.

12. There's always next year. There's always another chance to get in a favorite motion that failed. Don't despair. Do enjoy the rest of the convention.
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