Model UN is not a standardized activity; every conference has its own criteria for awards and it usually changes as the years go by. Success in the committee depends on many factors: the experience of other delegates, the style of your chair, the complexity of the issue at hand and outright luck. Here’s a few reasons why you should adapt your Model UN strategy as a result:
1. “I won an award last time, therefore I’ll win again this time”
The factors that contribute to award decisions are incredibly nuanced, and usually involving some degree of random choice. Most of the time, the award you win has at least something to do with your actual performance in committee: but not always. Even if you believe your award to be a fair and accurate response to your positive contributions to committee over the conference weekend, you must acknowledge as well that the decision which provided you with that award was highly, highly subjective. The strategy which resulted in your gavel at a conference last year likely had lots to do with the topic at hand, the other delegates who happened to be in your committee, the mood the chair was in on that day, the size of the committee room, and a whole bunch of other things which are specific to that one conference. Thus, it’s somewhat illogical to decide that an identical strategy, with no added changes or adaptation whatsoever, will inevitably result in the same award.
Don’t get lazy, don’t get too comfortable: adapt or fail. There’s simply no other way.
2. Every Chair is Different
If you are in a committee where the chair is enthralled by parliamentary procedure and tiny procedural details, then points of order can get you very far in terms of your chair’s perception of you as a delegate. That can make all the difference when it comes down to deciding awards. However, if your chair has a big ego and doesn’t like to be corrected, making repeated points of order could affect your chances negatively. Your chair’s slight annoyance at you for making that one point could, again, make all the difference when it comes down to awards. The example of procedural inquiry speaks to a larger idea that every chair is very different, and applying the same strategies without paying attention could result in hugely damaging consequences.
The most important thing to remember here is this: pay attention.
Carefully interpret the notes you receive back from your crisis director, and don’t resist: adapt. Watch and analyze the body language of your chair, and curate your speeches and motions accordingly. Always remember that the moody college students who run your committee are ultimately the only ones accountable for judging your performance: their opinion matters most.
3. Personality Matters
When in a hyper-competitive mindset, it can sometimes be easy to forget that every Model UN committee is comprised of a random collection of teenagers, usually from various different countries, each with radically different personalities, worldviews, and goals for the committee. No Model UN committee is ever quite alike; as such, your capacity to evaluate the energy of the committee room and pivot your strategy according to those around you is critical to your success as a delegate.
A strong approach to any conference is dedicating the first committee session to the assessment of the general experience level of the committee and deciding how to move forward, such that your strategy going forward into the weekend properly takes into account the context of your committee. If you are in a room where people aren’t very experienced, you will focus more on radiating inclusivity and help guide the room through debate in a way that encourages others to engage. On the other hand, if you are in a room full of head delegates with a few years of experience, you have to fight tooth and nail to stand out and you may have to come up with complex schemes to outsmart everyone. Making things complex to alienate some delegates might be necessary to stand out in this scenario.
4. The Model UN Sphere is Ever-Changing
Model UN is competitive. Delegates who come to conferences looking for blood aren’t willing to fall back into the same comfortable strategy time and time again and hope for the best: if they are truly top notch, then they continue fine tuning their strategy to the tiniest detail over the course of the season. Just like in sports, you can’t use the same plays every time and expect others to not adapt around you. Top tier coaches pay attention to the trends which develop during each Model UN season, typically in accordance with different regional conference circuits, and what these coaches notice becomes integrated into their conference preparation curriculum for the following year, or even for the next conference. Given that Model UN is an academic activity heavily based in politics, it is an activity which constantly and unendingly evolves and changes overtime: adaptability, then, is perhaps the only strategy which will remain successful forever, regardless of the decade.