Like any sport or activity, Model United Nations can quickly become exhausting if practiced excessively. This especially holds true if a team is preparing for a high-level multi-day conference, where regular training is key to success. In the last month or two before a conference, the average team would most likely drill simulations, ruthlessly study parliamentary procedure, and hold weekly research sessions, making sure that every delegate received hours of training before the start of a competition. While this seems like the best way to train a team for success, members can quickly become sick of the high pressure weekly meetings, especially on top of homework, tests, school work, college applications, and other extracurriculars. How can a team best prepare to avoid burnout before the big day?
It is important to leave time on the agenda for members to rest, recuperate, and socialize with each other while still being sure to avoid distraction from the main goal of preparing for a conference. Short breaks during weekly meetings can come in the form of simple speaking exercises or trivia games, each of which can help team members bond while still strengthening their skills as a delegate. For example, low-energy activities like naming countries and capitals or giving short impromptu speeches to small groups can help delegates gain basic knowledge about the world and prepare for a conference while also becoming closer with their fellow team members. Another option may be to spend some time in the weeks leading up to the conference discussing any issues or fears team members have with the competition. These kinds of conversations can be especially useful for newer members, many of whom may be unaccustomed to the intense training that precedes conferences and can quickly become burned out. If possible, planning team outings or get-togethers are other fun ways to help members relax and take their minds off of an upcoming conference.
How effective are regular simulations in preparing for a competition? While they are certainly helpful, drilling them every week can become excessive and tiring. According to All-American Model UN Director Frank Pobutkiewicz, drilling simulations may not be the best solution before a conference. “Do one simulation per month. If you’re going to practice simulations, do it properly.” Pobutkiewicz said in his podcast MUN Coach. “Once per month, set the expectation that the team will do a two hour or longer simulation…. [and] at the end of each simulation, have the chair give out mock awards and discuss why those awards were chosen.” According to Pobutkiewicz, in-depth realistic simulations are much more effective than a series of rushed weekly simulations that typically precedes an important conference. In this way, burnout can be avoided and the team can receive the highest quality training before the competition; thus, team members will be more motivated and energized when entering the first committee session, and performance (and awards, subsequently) will be bolstered as a result.