Let’s be frank: your first conference will not be pretty. Parliamentary Procedure is one thing on paper, or in a casual club simulation, but it is an entirely different experience in a high-intensity, competitive environment. You will show up with research, but there will most definitely be moments in which you feel out of the loop or lost in the complexity of solutions proposed by more experienced delegates. This first conference weekend will be a blur of excitement and nervousness, and you may leave feeling like a lot of committee’s happenings went completely over your head: fear not, the first conference is nothing if not a learning experience!
All that matters is that you stay engaged in committee, participate as much as you possibly can, and then take time to reflect on the experience afterwards as to ensure progress at your next conference.
1. Off-Topic Research
It may not come as a surprise that one of the biggest mistakes many first-time delegates make is arriving to committee with an incomplete understanding of the topic. Poor research is a universal mistake in Model UN that plagues delegates of all performance and experience levels, but the difference is that first-time delegates typically don’t intend to show up unprepared: it happens by mistake. While more experienced delegates tend to blow off research due to overconfidence or arrogance, novices tend to spend a lot of time researching the wrong things.
Memorizing your assigned country’s GDP, or other generalized facts, will not help you in committee: research needs to be catered to the topic of debate. When you’re in the trenches of debate and under high stress, your mind won’t be able to recall everything you read while preparing for this committee: so be sure that where you spend your time researching is worthwhile.
Lost on where to begin the research process? Check out this guide: How to Research for a Model UN Position Paper
2. No New Solutions
The most classic mistake made by novice delegates is a failure to include solution brainstorming in their research process. Showing up to committee with a thorough understanding of the topic of debate is, unfortunately, not enough: you need specific ideas to be proposed as new solutions, and then you need to advocate for them.
If you waste time in committee figuring out what you want to pursue as your solution, you’ll quickly fall behind.
During those first few unmoderated caucuses, it is easy to point out the leaders versus the followers: a select group of delegates will be proposing brand new ideas or well-researched approaches, whereas everyone else is either objecting to minor details, adding non-substantive additions, or sitting by apathetically. If you don’t have a solution to discuss that you can convince others of, you will be forced to only respond to others’ ideas: you lose all control.
3. Falling Silent Out of Intimidation
Regardless of the level of conference you attend as your first, there will always be louder, more confident delegates who thrive off of intimidating younger delegates. Intimidation tactics are a constant in Model UN, plain and simple. Your response to them, however, is something that should improve and mature as your experience grows.
Novice delegates are most susceptible to intimidation tactics from other delegates because they are not as accustomed to them, and they are not entirely familiar with how Model UN committees proceed. Even if you prepare enormously and feel very confident, you may still be hesitant at times: that is normal. The key is this: worry about participation before you worry about leadership. The nuances of Model UN strategy, well, that is something that comes later with more practice and experience. At your first conference, focus on engaging with committee as much as you possibly can. Deliver speeches, send notes, make motions, ask questions: do not worry about coming across as unintelligent. Every delegate in the room was once a first-timer, too.
Related Article: Top Ten Things MUN Beginners Screw Up
Related Article: Crushing the Game Outside of Committee: A Beginner’s Guide