“A new week has started.” To many, that’s not a particularly intimidating phrase but, to an MUN council chair/secretariat, it can be. The new week entails planning and conducting a training session to a hall full of delegates, and that is quite the notorious challenge.
However, as a secretariat, I discovered that when done right, the delegates training sessions can be the most fun & rewarding experience imaginable. Nothing in the world can compare to the high of walking out of one knowing you did an amazing job, and that you just left your delegates with a day they will never forget.
This article series will let you in on a 12 secret checklist that can make your sessions as successful as possible. Follow them, and you will set your sessions apart every time.
This is part 2, covering secret #4: Academics.
Secret # 4. A.C.A.D.E.M.I.C.S !
The eternal dilemma: Academics in MUN sessions. As secretariats, the sheer volume and depth of research we undertake catapults us into a whole other knowledge level. It is completely natural to want to transfer as much of this knowledge as possible to our delegates. This is why the sessions were created in the first place! What we do miss sometimes, is how to do it in the way that they prefer to receive it. The fact is, it’s not about making the content easy so they will follow. It’s about making complex content understandable by being creative and getting them involved.
4A. Presentation Basics: Content:
Here is a list of tips to judge your presentations of each session’s academic content.
- Is it Rich? Is the content of the presentation deep & significant? Is the volume of information adequate and satisfying for the knowledge seeking delegate? Etc.
- Is it Debatable? Are you highlighting that it is essentially controversial? Will it encourage the delegates to think freely, analyze, form their own opinion and express it? Also, what is the lifespan of debatability? Example: A presentation on: The evolution of women’s rights, can be debatable, but if you do not make it very rich and branched, there is a fear it will not remain interesting when debated for long. The basic arguments will be covered within the first session, and there won’t be much left to discuss in the following sessions. How you distribute the content over the year will determine whether the debatability of the topics gets burned out or not.
- Can it be linked to their lives? Is the presentation on this part of the topic of current benefit to the delegate? Why would he continue to think of it at home? Why would he be interested to hear about it? Is it current, can it be compared to something current? Can theories be extracted from it that can make him ask questions about his current/ future circumstances: country’s political situation, economy, international relations, distribution of power, etc? Example: A presentation on WW1, WW2 can be very direct and bland. But, it can also be linked to our current lives if we turn the actions/ events of world leaders at the time into theories, and compare them to the leaders/ events of today. That is how you get the delegate to go home still thinking about the topic and wanting to research it further. Turn it into a question of: Can we expect a WW3 to ever occur? Or is it unrealistic? Why? What are the prerequisites? The warning signs? Etc.
- Is it progressing with a Logical Flow? Are the academics in the sessions flowing with a logical, clear conceptual framework? Are the delegates aware of it? For example, did you ask a question at the beginning of the year that your sessions are gradually analyzing/ answering? Like: How effective are peace keeping missions? Or: Are human rights in a state of rise or decline, etc. It is better that the delegate be aware of the flow. That will keep him interested/ hooked as the year progresses.
If those points are achieved, then all that is left now is the HOW of presenting/ delivering this academic content. That comes with the next two sub- points.
4B. Presentation How To: Excitement & Flare.
If you aren’t excited about it, how do you expect anyone else to be? The first tip for presenting your academics in the session is to have FLARE and do it with excitement that can be contagious.
Tips for presenting:
- Voice: keep it clear, and positive.
- Body language: make eye contact, don’t be afraid to move around.
- Smile, add anecdotes & make sure you are engaging while presenting.
- Use visual aids: Create the best presentations/ slides to compliment your content/ use handouts, posters, get your team members to act with you, etc.
- Be passionate about the topic you’re discussing, or choose topics you’re passionate about. At any rate, you have to love it if you want anyone else to.
- Always, always ask questions, make the delegates feel like they are running the flow of your presentation, not the other way around. That brings us to our next point.
4B. Presentation How To: Delegate Empowerment.
Let’s review one main fact. YOU as a secretariat are essentially a mentor, a coach. You are not giving sessions solely to feed them information & add to their knowledge, but to in order to make them develop as human beings. Empowerment of the delegates should be your constant mindset. Your session should foster their ability to analyze independently, and strengthen their confidence to voice their opinion.
The best way to apply this is to let your delegates feel like they are the ones driving the session, every time they contribute, speak up or analyze. This little trick can truly make miles of difference in their motivation, interest in participating, and absorption of the academics.
Here is a checklist of recommendations to help you give sessions that empower delegates:
- Know beforehand the debatable aspects of your presentation, but don’t pre-determine how the debate on them should conclude. Leave that to the delegates.
- Make your presentations a two way dialogue, rather than a lecture. Ask questions all throughout the presentation. Some to trigger thought, some to trigger a debate, and some simply to make them curious on how the presentation will proceed.
- Highlight the aspect of debatability in every issue, topic & question. Stress that there is no right or wrong, only what their analysis of facts concludes.
- Refrain from offering your personal opinion or point of view. It can be mistaken for what is “right”, no matter how hard you stress that it is only an opinion. As a secretariat, you should be neutral.
- Encourage all forms of participation. Constantly push them to voice their own opinions & conclusions. Stress upon how much you value their input, respect it and enjoy hearing it.
- Never discourage. Phrase your feedback for their input and participation carefully. Your words hold a lot of power. Never tell a delegate he is wrong, unless he has stated an incorrect fact. Other than that, he is not wrong, because in politics, everything is debatable.
- If a delegate comes to a flawed conclusion due to misunderstanding facts, re-explain the facts, and talk him through why his argument may need a little swaying. Know the difference between bluntly telling them what is right/ wrong vs. leading them to a more favorable conclusion through persuasion & discussion.
After deciding how you’ll present the academics, comes the predicament of how to turn it into a practical activity. For that, you’ll need Secret #5.