1.) Read the news
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer Crisis or General Assembly; being knowledgeable about the world will give you an edge in any committee you get assigned to. Staying informed doesn’t need to be a burden as current events and political news updates are now easily available on your phone via social media accounts or more credible news apps. You can also read the New York Times’ Daily Briefing or the Wall Street Journal’s What’s News?. I recommend listening to The World Next Week by the Council on Foreign Affairs (available on any podcast platform.) This podcast talks about the most important events in foreign affairs that will happen in the following week. You can listen to it and then follow up by reading articles about the events as they happen. The best way to be properly informed is to read a proper printed newspaper on a daily basis. Bonus points if you read an international or foreign newspaper. Avoid cable and television news networks, you likely won’t find anything useful for Model UN there (celebrity scandals and Kardashian updates won’t serve you in committee).
2.) Practice with your team
After a long summer of internships, Netflix binging, standardized testing prep, and (hopefully) some time under the sun, you will not be as fast and avid as you were at the end of your last conference. Practicing with your team is not optional. First work on the essentials, i.e. parliamentary procedure, flow of debate and how the UN works. Mock debates are great to focus and help less experienced members more comfortable.
The bottom line is that attending the first meetings of the year for your MUN club may seem like a waste of time for returning members, but getting back to basics is the best way to kick your brain back into MUN mode after three months away.
3.) Play games with your team
Not only do games speed up the bonding process for MUN teams, but they are a great way to sneak in some lighthearted training without boring or stressing out delegates. I recommend playing games like “Mafia” for crisis delegates especially, as it will help with getting into character and fine-tune debating skills. In my team at Portsmouth Abbey, we invented a new game to master different forms of motions and points: it’s very helpful with familiarizing the group with the rules of Parliamentary Procedure. I especially recommend this game for GA delegates. Essentially, everyone sits down in a regular GA format. There are two teams, or blocs. The first bloc has the goal of attempting to get their (fake) resolution passed. The second bloc has the goal of running out the clock, or avoiding going into voting procedure, by making as many motions and points as possible to delay the process. Each side has to accomplish their goal following the rules of procedure (no crosstalk or distractions allowed). Have the moderator set the timer for 10 minutes and repeat with reversed roles at the end. While one side of the room is desperately trying to get to voting procedure the other will try to add as many motions as possible. You can even add an extra twist by not allowing motions or points to be repeated more than once. Generally speaking, though, the game you play isn’t important: it’s that you get your team members having fun together and you gradually move back into the MUN mindset with some activities outside of plain lectures.
4.) Up your wardrobe game
Nothing says you’re ready to take that gavel more than looking the part. It’s time to treat yourself to some new Western Business Attire that will last all season long. You don’t have to completely redo your formal attire wardrobe in order to accomplish this: all you need to do is add a few small pieces or accessories in order to refresh your MUN style and boost your confidence going into your first conference of the year. I recommend going to the clearance section of a big department store (i.e. Macy’s, Saks, Nordstrom…), check out some outlet shops, or hit up Goodwill or other thrifting locations. Order some lapel pins online, invest in a new tie or piece of jewelry, or finally replace that missing button on your favorite blazer. However you go about it, a little can go a long way when it comes to heading into your MUN season with a newfound confidence and style.
5.) Review your last season
Think carefully and seriously about your last season. Go through every conference and make a list of things you did well and things you could have improved. Look closely at those where you won and try to figure out what was different in those conferences. Once you have a clear idea of where you have to do things differently, set up goals for the year. Avoid including awards in your goals; rather, focus on the things that are completely within your control to change for the better. If your position papers aren’t well informed, challenge yourself to read a book about the topic you are going to debate. If you never send any notes, make it your goal to send at least 10 notes every session throughout the year. If you are not the best are cooperating with others, set a goal to write all your resolutions with a co-sponsor from now on. A skill that all successful MUN delegates eventually obtain is the ability to accept feedback, consider flaws, and turn those critiques into tangible goals for the future: that is how you improve.