Being a returning delegate can be both a blessing and a curse as you return to a fresh season of competition. No longer are you plagued with the anxiety of being unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure, nor the pressure of attending your first conference. No, as a returning delegate, you’ve settled into a distinctive sense of confidence that comes only with gaining experience in different types of committees. At this point, you’ve likely attended several conferences, and maybe you even have an award (or several) under your belt. You know all the debate techniques, leadership qualities, and different lobbying strategies that guarantee the success of your bloc while maintaining your position at the top. You may relish this feeling of experience, and have pride in telling your MUN “first-year” teammates that you, of course, are not as stressed as they currently are for an upcoming conference because you’ve been through it all before, and you’ve truly seen it all.
It feels pretty great, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but the reality of being a returning delegate in your Model UN club may not come with all the glory that you anticipate.
There are countless occasions where I have seen experienced senior delegates fail to place in awards at a conference, despite their constant aura of confidence and laid back attitude. These delegates tend to leave the awards ceremony at the end of the conference not knowing quite what hit them, especially if they are alarmed that a “newbie” managed to easily take command of the committee, and win Best Delegate as a result.
So, how does that happen? How do new delegates beat older, more experienced, more awarded delegates?
The answer is actually quite simple: returning delegates far too often fall into the trap of getting too comfortable, and they develop a lazy attitude as a result.
What we tend to lose as aging MUN delegates is the trait that once drove our younger selves to prepare for upwards of three months before conferences. There’s a certain raw drive to succeed that comes from being new to this activity which tends to be born out of anxiety: we experience so many unknowns as to what our first conference will bring, how intense it will be, how prepared other delegates will be, and how high the expectations of the chair are. We work hard because we don’t want to disappoint.
As returning delegates, though, that hunger fades in order to make room for pride and overconfidence. Win one award, and you may think you’ve got it in the bag.
Months of extensive research and binders stuffed to the brim with academic journals, news articles, and pages of handwritten notes become replaced by three a.m. research cram sessions the night before committee begins. The hustle that once pushed you to talk to as many people as possible during every unmoderated caucus, running desperately up and down the aisles of the committee room, are replaced by remaining in your seat and waiting for other delegates to come to you. The meticulous preparation and thought that once went into structuring speeches during moderated caucuses becomes fumbling speech deliveries with unclear purposes and ripe with filler words. It’s the little things that go first: passing notes during the speakers list, taking notes during draft resolution presentation, making a point to ask questions during the Q&A, and submitting amendments to resolutions written by other blocs, even though it’s the last committee session of the conference and you’re exhausted.
Pay attention to detail. Now, I’m not encouraging unhealthy amounts of anxiety, nor am avoiding the fact that over-researching or analyzing every tiny action you take in committee will certainly diminish your committee performance But if there is one tip I can offer to returning delegates, it’s to embrace the drive of your younger self. Think back to who you were as a frightened little freshman who was desperate to do a good job representing your assigned country. Remember what it’s like to feel like you need to compensate for being the youngest member of your committee.
You need to find that drive again. Whether it comes from striving for awards, being passionate about exploring global affairs, or simply proving something to yourself as an upperclassman, you need to find what it is that sparks a fire within you to perform in committee.
Reinvigorate your agency to succeed, and rather than plateauing as a returning member, you will continue to make progress as a delegate and reach new levels of accomplishment.