Among the most underestimated aspects of any Model UN committee is the Q&A session. In a Q&A, a few delegates from one particular working paper will come up in front of the whole committee for a defined amount of time and answer questions from the committee as a whole regarding specifics of their paper. Experienced delegates know that the competency of Q&A panel members can often make or break a working paper. Thus, it is important to enter a Q&A panel with a distinctive strategy in mind to guarantee peak performance.
Delegate the questions.
The most effective way to distinguish yourself as the leader of a bloc or resolution is to delegate questions during the Q&A. After a question has been posed, be the one to respond first and delegate the question to another member of the Q&A panel who wrote the clause in question or has more specialized knowledge of the subject in question. Of course, you should also answer some questions yourself; you need to demonstrate your research and expertise on the paper. That being said, if you can be the one to divide up questions between the different sponsors, it will be crystal clear to the whole room—chairs included—that you are the top delegate in that bloc.
Be gracious in Model UN Q&A Sessions.
Controlling the way the room perceives you is all about the tiny details. During Q&A sessions, delegates tend to behave pretty aggressively, because the moment presents an opportunity to point out the flaws and shortcomings of different papers. For this reason, this is typically a very cutthroat part of the committee session. Leverage that tension to demonstrate your good manners and respect for other delegates. When questions are posed, try some of these phrases:
- Great question!
- I’d love to clarify that.
- Thanks for pointing that out.
- That’s a legitimate concern.
- I understand your confusion, but…
Don’t interrupt: interject.
During most Q&A sessions, members of the panel will interrupt each other, speak over each other, trip over each other’s words, and engage in a whole spread of horrifying behavior all in the desperate pursuit of more speaking time. This type of behavior only weakens the draft resolution because it will confuse and distract other delegates in the room. Do not, do not, interrupt your fellow panel members. Not only is it quite rude, but it will gravely degrade your reputation in the eyes of the chair and committee.
The question remains, then, how do you get your voice heard when every other panel member wants to respond to every single question?
Try the strategy of using interjections: immediately after the questioner has finished speaking, I mean immediately after, interject by using a word like “so” or “right” to get your voice in there. Even though using filler words is typically something to be avoided at all costs, in this instance, they are valuable in that they can claim ownership over a question before other power delegates can do the same. Using an interjection during a Q&A is much like getting your foot in the door. From there, you can begin responding to the question without having to battle it out with other panel members. Again, questions should ideally be distributed fairly evenly between panel members, so this strategy should not be used more than 2-3 times during one Q&A session.
Use evidence from the working paper.
Q&A sessions are not intended for speaking generally about the merits of a working paper; rather, it is an opportunity for targeted inquiries and equally specific responses directly from the sponsors. With this purpose of Q&A sessions in mind, it is always a good idea to reference specific clauses in as many of your question responses as possible. If a delegate asks how your paper deals with a certain subtopic or issue, do not respond with a general explanation of how your paper is holistic. Instead, point to the specific clauses that entail that subtopic. The more you can cite specific clause numbers, the more effective your explanations will be.
Use as few words as possible.
Q&A sessions are typically only a few minutes long. If the committee is engaged, then there is usually a massive swath of territory to be covered in this incredibly short amount of time. As such, keep in mind this critical rule:
Short responses = more questions answered = less confusion = more votes in favor of your paper.
It can be tempting to add on to the responses of other panel members when you feel you could have responded to the question better; however, unless your addition contains information that is absolutely essential, avoid adding on to the responses of others. More often than not, “adding on” just translates to reiterating points they already made. This wastes everyone’s time and does so at the direct expense of your paper.
Q&A sessions are valuable tools that can not only bolster your working paper, but also your performance in committee. Standing up in front of the entire committee, even if only for a few minutes, is a rare opportunity in large committees: so use it. Make substantive points, keep it concise, be polite to your fellow committee members, and delegate questions to other panel members rather than interrupting them: by using these strategies, you can dominate Q&A sessions and leverage them in your favor.