All in all, I’ve put in 3 volunteer stints as a Parliamentary Assistant – sitting by one of the microphones in the plenary meetings, checking credentials of those who wish to speak, helping them get questions answered and form motions, and handing out the color-coded paddles that tell the Moderator whether each of the speakers is intending to speak for the motion, speak against the motion, make a new motion, raise a question or move to close debate.
The volunteers are pretty much all presbytery stated clerks. We work in pairs. One of us sits closest to the microphone and asks the speakers what they want to do, handing them out the proper colored paddle. The other wears an electronic headset to communicate with the overall coordinator on the platform, who keeps track of who wants to speak where.
The Assembly uses a speaker recognition system. The Moderator can look down at her laptop there on the podium, and tell right away who wants to speak where and what each person’s purpose is. That way, she can insure there’s a fair distribution of speakers from the various locations around the hall, and also make sure the speakers alternate, pro and con.
The little handsets we’d ordinarily use to communicate the ID number and general intent of each prospective speaker to the platform weren’t working. We did it the old-fashioned way, instead – relying on the headset not only to receive information from up front, but to send it on up there, as well.
I gained a new appreciation for how complex the task of running a General Assembly meeting really is, and of how fair-minded and considerate the folks on the platform are, as they do their best to make things run smoothly. Generally, they succeed.