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A Comprehensive Guide to Model UN Etiquette

Much like any large community, Model UN has a culture, and thus, there is a pre-established set of unspoken rules which dictate the types of behavior that are acceptable, and those that are not. Much to the dismay of delegates new to the Model UN sphere, these rules are unfortunately unwritten and are typically only known to those who have attended multiple Model UN conferences. So, here are a few of the unspoken rules that all delegates should absolutely follow in order to earn the respect of fellow committee members and have a successful, fun experience at any Model UN conference:


1. Keep your workspace clear.

We’ve all encountered the delegates who somehow manage to end every committee session with a pile of loose notes abandoned beneath their seat, torn notebook paper scattered across surrounding chairs, lost writing utensils strewn across the floor, empty coffee cups next to their chair, and their bags slumped in the center of the aisle, blocking foot traffic. Given that Model UN committees typically are held in extremely close quarters, it is very rude to make a huge mess around you. Every delegate maintains the responsibility to stay out of the way of those around them; nobody gets the right to disrupt the working environment of their neighbors. Hence; keep your papers in a neat stack, store your bag beneath your chair, recycle old notes, and try to avoid bringing food or drink into the committee room. Your neighbors will love you for it. 


2. Introduce your real self (you, not your position).

While in committee, of course, you should always maintain professionalism by “staying in character” and representing your assigned country/position with consistently. However, when in social gatherings before, after, or just generally outside of committee sessions, don’t be that kid who can’t seem to separate themselves from their assignment. If you encounter a fellow delegate from your committee at the delegate dance or in the hotel lobby, then embrace the social aspect of Model UN and make some friends. Keep in mind that context is important here. 


3. Respect time limits on speeches.

Having your time elapse in the middle of a sentence is an unfortunate, but all-too-common experience for most Model UN delegates. It happens to the best of us, and it doesn’t have to be a big deal, so long as you are respectful of your chair’s limits on time. That being said: when the chair taps that gaval, wrap it up in the least amount of words possible, and take your seat.

It is painful to listen to a delegate rapidly attempt to finish their idea while the chair continuously gavels them down: “thank you delegate, thank you, your time has elapsed, take your seat, thank you.”

Do everyone a favor and conclude your statement before your chair has to shut you up in front of the whole committee. 


4. Keep the debate inside the committee room.

It doesn’t matter if you are representing Pakistan and you encounter India; your arch nemesis, your biggest enemy, the bane of your existence, the face of your opposition in committee must remain exactly that: in committee. Do not allow these kinds of tensions to leave the committee room, or your fellow delegates will avoid you at all costs. Model UN is a simulation, and as such, separating personal and professional is essential. Keep the social aspect of every conference entirely distinctive of your in-committee strategy. It’s just the way it works. 


5. Never (ever!) wave your placard at your chair.

Your chair will call on you if they so wish; aggressively shoving your placard in their face in an effort to catch their attention will accomplish nothing more than annoying your chair. This is a great way to diminish your chair’s perception of you and, thus, reduce your chances of winning an award. 


By following these simple guidelines, every delegate will have a positive social experience and an efficient committee environment.

Etiquette, ultimately, is a matter of fine details: but these small actions will end up having a massive impact on your overall perception in the eyes of the chair and fellow committee members.

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