What is effective preparation?
Like any activity, there is a distinction between being prepared and flying on the seat of your pants. You never want to just wing it all the time and go into something unprepared. However, it’s also easy to prepare ineffectively or prepare too much and end up only tying yourself down.
Effective preparation is research and work leading up to the conference that is far more substantive than skimming the occasional article or half-watching a documentary on your assigned topic(s). Effective research and preparation includes, but is not limited to, taking notes, walking through how solutions can change over the course of the committee, and thinking about who you can work with to advance your committee ideas forward.
The following course will walk you through the steps necessary to succeed leading up to the conference and during the conference. This includes how to research effectively, what kind of research you should do about your topic and your position respectively, and how this effective preparation differs between crisis committees and general assemblies.
Step One: Read your Background Guide
This step seems incredibly obvious, but that’s because it is. The background guide is often overlooked and shoved aside as a word blurb written by your dais team to bore you. However, a background guide can be one of the most useful tools not only for familiarizing yourself with your committee topics, but also understanding what the dais is looking for in delegates.
Reading the background guide, or at the very least, skimming through it will allow you to get a clear sense of what the dais wants from the committee. They will frame the topic in such a way that you’ll know what facets they value most, and more importantly, how you can succeed as an individual in that committee.
When reading the Background Guide, make a note of which aspects of the topic are emphasized the most. It is likely that these sections will tell you what the dais wants the committee to focus on during the conference. Another useful section to pay attention to in order to deduce this is the “Questions to Consider” section. In that portion of the Guide, the dais is telling delegates explicitly what they expect them to work and focus on during committee. If your position is directly mentioned by name at any point in the Background Guide, make note of that and ensure that you read that section very carefully in order to ensure that your chair’s perspective on your position is well-understood.
Step Two: Gather your Arsenal of Resources
Once you have read your committee’s Background Guide, it is time to work on finding information that can support your position in particular. This process may look different depending on the type of committee you’re in.
It can be easy to see how preparing for a General Assembly committee would involve research outside of the background guide. It’s a common misconception though, that crisis committees don’t require research or prep work. Crisis committees may involve a particular governmental body that does exist in the real world, and/or a topic that actually occurred in the past or present. If this is the case, doing outside research is highly important to ensuring success in committee during the conference.
Many committees involve futuristic or fictional scenarios. These committees are typically crisis committees, where there is no possible way to research your position if it’s not a real person/country beyond the information provided in the background guide. If this is the case for you, skip this step.
Step Three: Think About What You Want to Do
No matter what committee you are in, minus ad-hoc, you can still prepare how you want to act and what you want to do in committee. Please do note, that pre-writing is not allowed in Model United Nations, and if often grounds for disqualification from awards. Pre-writing entails writing out crisis notes, directives, and resolutions before the beginning of conference. There are ways to effectively plan and prepare solutions before a conference without pre-writing.
If you are in a committee where you are representing a country or real-life political figure, make sure to read up on how that country or person has spoken about or acted on the topics for your committee. Pay attention not only to past solutions that have been put into effect, but also if they worked or not. This can provide you with foundation to base your solutions on, and you can easily seek out ways to improve in areas where solutions failed. Seeing how your country or person voted on other solutions to the topic can also be useful for informing how you should vote and show support or dissent while in committee.
This may seem obvious, but if your committee revolves around a particular piece of media or pop culture, pay attention to the source material! Even if you are not an aficionado of that particular source material, knowing as much as you can about it can only help you while in committee. Additionally, chairs and staffers likely really enjoy the topic they chose, so making small references to the source material throughout the course of a conference will help show your engagement with the source material.
Step 4: Develop a Plan
For most General Assembly committees, you will be required to write and submit a position paper on your country and topics. Use this as a way to plan what you would like your main talking points to be as well as how you plan on framing and writing your resolution paper once you get to committee.
For crisis, it is important to plan out an ideal arc for committee. Because crisis committees are so fluid and malleable, you must keep in mind that this plan has to be flexible and almost never will go through perfectly with no changes. There are many ways to plan out a crisis arc, so try to find the method that works best for you.
Some common ways to plan out a crisis arc are:
- Developing separate “missions” or “tasks” that all lead to an ultimate goal
- Writing out a timeline based on where in your arc you’d like to be by each committee session
- Organizing your arc into larger and more abstract ideas such as “finances” or “military”
So what about binders?
Research binders are what some delegates use to store documents, research, and information for use in committee. They are most useful when dealing with very technical or science-heavy committee topics, but they can also be helpful with other committees as well. Though binders can be a good tool for some delegates, others find them to be clunky, annoying, and not used very often. It is up to you to decide if you prefer carrying your information and research with you, or if you would fare better without it.
Go Prep Away!
Long story short, there are many ways that delegates choose to prepare for a Model United Nations conference, so see what works best for you, and stick to that! Just remember, that being prepared will almost always give you a better result than winging it.