By Kaitlyn Saldanha
Conference weekends are undoubtedly the highlight of every Model UN team’s year: these are the moments when all the hard work of researching, practicing simulations, and drilling parliamentary procedure pays off. Four days of rigorous debate, discussion of academically dense geopolitical topics, social maneuvering in an attempt to gain dominance, competitive public speaking, late-night committee sessions, midnight crises, and constant engulfment in massive crowds of teenagers in suits is, put simply, exhausting; this is simply part of the game. As a team leader, it is your responsibility to guide your team away from the black hole that is academic fatigue, conference exhaustion, and overall burnout. Here are a few specific ideas for how team spirit can augment motivation and conference performance:
Team Meetings During Model UN Conferences
After evening committee sessions wrap up, it’s tempting to go straight back to your room and pass out from the exhaustion of competing and meticulously debating nuanced political topics for three or so hours straight; however, it’s in these moments of exhaustion, and often frustration, when team meetings are most critical and effective. Calling a team meeting in the lobby of the hotel, or in your chaperone’s room, after committee sessions is a fantastic way to debrief and destress after a long day of rigorous debate. Delegates can exchange funny stories from their various committees, share crazy crisis updates, or blow off steam about how annoying their chair is. These meetings also provide chaperones with an opportunity to make logistical announcements, such as curfews, and for the head delegate to give pep speeches for the next day of committee.
One-on-One Feedback Sessions
Discussing committee in a group setting is usually best suited for laughing over funny moments or complaining about inconveniences; it is not, however, a great way to provide tangible, specific strategic advice to the delegates who need it most. The best way to check in with first-time delegates and ensure that everyone is getting the feedback and help they need to succeed in committee is to provide an opportunity to meet one-on-one with teammates. This doesn’t have to be mandatory, or even strictly enforced: maybe you just catch one of your younger teammates in the hallway during a water break, and you ask them if they’re facing any confusion or issues in committee. Alternatively, you could give teammates your phone number so they can reach out for advice during lunch breaks or in between committee sessions. The bottom line is you want to make yourself accessible so that teammates who need help can get it.
During every conference, try and have at least one big team meal. Something as simple as eating together can be deeply influential in fostering a sense of team spirit and camaraderie. One of the most basic fundamentals of the human psyche is that people want to feel a part of something. While team t-shirts can heighten the cohesiveness of your team year round, it’s crucial that you take advantage of conference weekends to further this objective.
While Model UN clubs typically meet multiple times per week in the months leading up to a conference, people too often forget the most important meeting of all: the one that follows a conference. Always remember to call a team meeting the week after a conference: this is the absolute best way to bolster motivation and team spirit, regardless of the team’s performance. Congratulate those who won awards, and if awards aren’t abundant, then celebrate other successes of the team. Additionally, make note of the room for improvement. Define things that the team still needs to work on, and how those goals will be laced into the teaching curriculum in future team meetings. Conference wrap-up meetings mark a conclusive, defined end to the conference frenzy: by providing closure to delegates who put time and effort into the conference, you are declaring a successful weekend overall which will, in turn, bolster conference participation for your team in the future.