In Model UN, we pay so much attention to the individualized details: how to research, speak, or even dress, in order to be most effective. What is noticed less, though, is the intersection of these things: the ways in which we pull all of these things together. In my experience, the most effective delegates are those who truly immerse themselves in information to an extent at which they don’t have to actively correct themselves from allowing their personal beliefs to influence statements in committee because they’ve reached a certain fluidity as a result of their extensive understanding of their country and it’s position on the topic at hand. To reach that level of confidence in one’s ability to persuade other members of the committee, one must approach conference preparation and the notion of persuasion from a holistic perspective. Let’s take a look at how we can break down the necessary steps to accomplish real confidence in Model UN.
Proper research should really be considered step zero, because nothing is possible without a solid base of objective knowledge and understanding of the topic. A strong, nuanced comprehension of the committee topic and the country’s position on it is the foundation on top of which debate, rhetoric, and lobbying skills can be built. Proper research, though, is more complicated and creative than most delegates assume. When most people approach their research for a Model UN conference, they are hyper-focused on investigating their country’s perspective on the issue being discussed and the other countries in the committee.
What must be remembered is that objective conversations regarding the reality of the issue at hand only accounts for the very beginning of committee: after that, delegates will move quickly onto debating solutions.
As such, a developed understanding of the topic is certainly useful in that it will inform innovative, well thought-out solution ideas, but objective information shouldn’t necessarily be placed on a higher level of priority than brainstorming those solution ideas. Taking time to research past solutions and produce ideas for new ones is critical to your ability to convince other delegates to follow you in committee.
Additionally, one should look at a broader range of issues than simply what is discussed in the background guide. Delegates should look not only at the perspective of their country on the topic at large, but also at the subtopics and tangential issues which more directly or intensely affect the country. Identifying the subtopics that matter most to one’s assigned country will make for more specific, deliberate solutions which better target the different facets of a complex topic.
The next step that one should undertake is to write, and to write a lot. Even if a position paper is not required, it is very helpful to write one regardless because it helps to organize policies and ideas about the topic while also providing an opportunity to practice expressing oneself from the perspective of the country. The narrative with which a country approaches a topic is just as important as the facts one uses to justify and explain it. I would also encourage people to consider writing formal documents summarizing their notes that will allow them to get more practice expressing themselves from the perspective of their country. If it is difficult to write a position paper, that can serve as an indication that more research is necessary. In an effort to be truly authentic, it can even be helpful to analyze the writing style of a country’s formal documents and the rhetorical devices employed in recent speeches delivered by country leadership in order to identify techniques and strategies that could be mimicked in committee. While I think that brainstorming in advance is definitely helpful, I would strongly discourage pre-writing any resolutions or speeches, due to numerous prohibitions of such behavior by many conferences and the risk that pre-written content will be out of touch with the direction that the committee chooses to go in.
The last step in heightening your ability to convince other delegates in committee is acquiring confidence: which means practice. One should work to practice delivering opening speeches and impromptu speeches on related–or random–topics in order to get one comfortable with a country’s perspective. Additionally, it can be helpful to do timed practice writing exercises for resolutions or practice caucuses with other members of one’s club. The most important thing to do in this step is to ensure that one is acting naturally. To do this, one should avoid using notes more than absolutely necessary and should focus more on delivering broad ideas than accurately quoting statistics.
Flexibility & Adaptability
Finally, at a conference, the most important skill is the ability to pull it all together. As I said in the beginning, achieving confidence and high level performance in Model UN is more than the sum of its parts. It is important at the conference to be flexible and responsive to changing situations. Committee will often swerve and dodge in fascinating ways: the best, and only, way to impress the chair and lead the committee is to recognize the patterns of committee and adapt accordingly.
But allow me to be quite frank: perfecting just one out of the four basic proponents to conference preparation and performance in committee will likely leave you with a Verbal Accommodation. Perhaps you manage to master committee adaptability and you write some good clauses: that might be an Honorable Mention, an Outstanding Delegate if you are lucky.
So, what’s the key to the Best Delegate gavel that you know you want? Well, the answer is quite simple: it is all in the intersectionality.
Being a great speaker will earn you points, sure, but combining that skillset with solid writing, a flexible, dynamic attitude, and brilliantly in-depth, applicable research, and you see the characterization of a Best Delegate. Furthermore, these areas of skill have more overlap than most may think: a good writer gets the best clause ideas from fantastic research. A strong speaker shakes up the flow of debate precisely because of their ability to identify the directionality of the committee and adapt accordingly. A solid working paper, being a product of great writing skills, can only be debated once introduced to the committee via speech and readings.
We cannot expect delegates to be perfect in their mastery of all five fundamentals of Model UN; however, maintaining at least a basic competency in each category will serve every delegate well. I’d encourage you to think of Model UN skills in terms of their overlap and their high level of mutual dependency, because it is in nuance and complexity that truly great delegates are born.