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Thinking on the Spot: Why Improvisation is Essential to Model UN Success

If I could only give one piece of advice to a new delegate, it would be to never write out your opening speech. Better yet, never write out any of your speeches. This tip probably contradicts what many delegates have been told, but abandoning the use of prepared speeches will surely make you a stronger candidate for awards at any conference you attend. This is not to say that you should go into committee unprepared– just unscripted. Written speeches constrain what you can do as a delegate in terms of developing your public speaking skills. More often than not, prepared speeches prevent you from getting the committee’s attention as well. Instead, your primary goal should be to learn the skill of improvisation in order to make the most of your limited speaking opportunities. Improvisation will help you effectively argue your position on a particular topic at any given time during the debate.

Making your opening speech without it being pre-written is particularly important, but why? You may be thinking that your opening speech is the only speech where you get to state your point of view at the outset, so there’s no need to tailor it to a particular aspect of the topic or respond to the delegate who spoke directly before you. However, the reality is that you likely won’t get a chance to use your well thought out, intricate opening speech. There’s a fair chance you won’t even get called on to do anything but make a quick introduction during the brief speaking time granted by the chair, especially if you’re in a large committee.

Another problem relying on an opening speech, or any written speech for that matter, is a more technical issue. The urge to look down and read the written speech you’re holding in your hand frequently wins out. This is particularly true if you feel nervous or anxious. Regardless of the quality of your speech, if you aren’t making eye contact with other delegates and taking full advantage of gestures and body language while speaking, your words will not have their complete desired impact.

Writing out speeches for moderated caucuses is unnecessary and potentially even disadvantageous for different reasons. You never know the direction a committee will follow before you enter the room. There are hundreds of different possibilities for moderated caucuses in which a committee can engage, and preparing speeches ahead of time for all conceivable topics isn’t feasible. You simply do not have the time to prepare for every eventuality. The good thing is, you don’t have to. This is where good preparation and the art of improvisation meet. If you’ve done your research and fully understand the topic up for debate, you have all you need to debate your opinion and provide the evidence in support of it. You don’t need to write anything out beforehand because coming up with something to say when given the chance will be fairly simple given that you are well researched.

Furthermore, the ability to improvise a coherent and compelling speech during a moderated caucus is not only practical, but it’s also necessary. Model UN conferences are all about multitasking, and adding an unnecessary step, like writing out speeches, can cost you valuable time. In the worst-case scenario, it can even cost you the whole conference. If you’re planning to run a resolution-passing bloc, you have a lot to accomplish and very little time to do so. You simultaneously must pay attention to the chair, raise your placard and speak often enough to gain traction, draft resolutions, and pass note after note at lightning speed to every delegate who says anything that falls in line with your position in order to garner enough support to form a bloc. You will not have time to write out speeches during committee. You will not be able to stay engaged and shift gears if you are distracted by editing an ever-changing script for yourself. At the end of the day, you cannot successfully form a bloc or take control of the committee if you’re unable to figure out what needs to be said at the moment you need to say it.

In conclusion, improvisation should be one of the “go-to’s” in your MUN repertoire; whereas, prepared speeches shouldn’t even be included on your list of MUN skills. Due to the dynamic nature of Model UN, written speeches are too time-consuming, distracting, and impractical. Delegates rarely get to use their speeches and those that do often end up squandering valuable speaking points. Relying on prepared speeches can also limit your ability to react to other delegates’ points of view, swift topic changes, or surprise crises. Instead of focusing on writing out speaking points, learn how to get more comfortable making on-the-spot speeches. Just say what you think. More importantly, keep speaking! As long as you’ve spent time preparing for the conference, you won’t need the crutch of a written speech. You’ll know what to say and when to say it. Through improvisation, you’ll be better able to grasp the committee’s attention, stay engaged during committee, and adjust your speaking points on the fly as needed. In other words, you’ll be in a better position in committee overall.


Related Article: The Art of the Perfect Opening Speech

Related Article: 5 Academic Skills Model UN Will Teach You

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