So you’re a Young Green, wondering what to expect from your first time at conference. It can be quite a confusing experience, but a great one if you can make sense of it all. Here’s a list of things to expect that I wish I’d known about before my first one-
Conference has its own indecipherable language. I remember voting wrongly at my first conference because I had absolutely no idea what ‘suspension of standing orders’ meant. It can make participating very daunting, especially when everyone else around you seems to be fluent in conference. However, anyone on the conference floor will be happy to help if you ask and once you get your head around the terminology, you’ll be chatting about minor textual amendments and points of order like a pro.
Conference provides the perfect opportunity for some Green Party caricature bingo! How many socks and sandals can you spot? Double points for a hessian shirt!
What to say about attunement. It certainly took me by surprise at my first conference! It’s a moment of silent reflection at the start of plenary sessions so that members can make decisions with a clear head. Yeah.
The crash space-
You might be a bit nervous about crash space, but it sounds more daunting than it is. In reality, everyone is mostly very respectful of each other, and there are different rooms allocated for different purposes. So if you don’t fancy staying up until 3am arguing the toss about what Lenin really meant the role of the vanguard party to be (I’ve heard similar!), then you can retreat to one of the spaces designated for sleep.
The plenary sessions-
This is where the main decisions get voted on. It can be quite hard to keep up at first, but if you team up with a more experienced Young Green, they’ll be happy to keep you abreast of what’s going on. Reading the agenda in advance can be helpful, making a few notes about your ideas and thoughts as you go along. That way, you can get a good idea of the motions and seek any clarification before you go into the plenary, and you’ll be more likely to keep up with the debate.
If you want to speak during plenary sessions, then raise your hand and wait to be chosen. If you are, start by saying your name and party branch before going into the point you want to make.
These are different to fringe events in that they focus on a particular motion in the agenda. They’re open to everyone and the attendees debate the motion and identify any possible issues or minor textual amendments. A straw poll is also taken. This all gets reported back during the plenary session, to feed and inform the larger debate.
Don’t be surprised if Caroline Lucas walks past or Natalie Bennett sits down next you in the conference hall. They really are just ordinary members when it comes to conference, they get one vote the same as everybody else. In fact, don’t be afraid to have a chat with them. They’re very approachable and responsive.
If your first experience of conference is anything like mine, I can promise that you will come away feeling invigorated and excited. The most important thing to remember is to not be afraid of asking for help. The Young Greens will have a stall somewhere prominent in the conference building, so if you need anything at all, head straight there and you’ll soon be set in the right direction.