5 Skills Every Delegate Should Learn

by Ryan on September 14, 2010

I was a high school freshman when I attended my first Model United Nations conference at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in September 2000. It was fun, but overwhelming. Placards up, placards down, making motions, making speeches, caucus bloc, voting bloc. There was so much going on and I was running around trying to figure it all out. In the words of one advisor, it was like learning how to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. I was flailing around in every direction, quickly going nowhere.

Where You Learn to Sink or Swim

With coaching and experience, I slowly became a better delegate. I learned that my performance in committee depended on certain fundamental skills. I identified what skills I needed to work on and I practiced them during conferences and mock sessions. As my skills improved, I figured out how to win awards consistently. I also used these skills in other areas of my high school career, particularly public speaking competitions. And I continued to use these skills in college and the workplace.

Becoming a better delegate begins with learning 5 fundamental skills:

1. Research

Good research is the foundation of your committee performance. It makes you feel confident talking about complex issues. You sound like you know what you’re talking about, which helps you become a leader in committee.

Tip: Study your topic paper, review previous resolutions, and find trustworthy websites. Good research should result in potential solutions to your topics.

Related Link: Making It Up

2. Public Speaking

Making great speeches helps you get noticed by other delegates and the chair. If you frame the topic correctly, others will remember what you’ve said and refer back to it in their own speeches. Public speaking is also a critical skill that you will use outside of MUN, whether it’s explaining something to your class or making a presentation in front of your co-workers.

Tip: Frame the topic, explain your country’s policy, and propose potential solutions. Focus first on knowing what to say, then work on how to say it.

Related Link: Framing

3. Team Building

This skill is not as obvious as research or public speaking, but it is crucial to your success in committee. When you are in unmoderated caucus, meeting people and finding others you can work with, you are essentially building a team. Your team, also known as a caucus bloc or an alliance, needs to work together to write resolutions and get them passed. Being a leader on your team also helps you become a leader in committee and in the eyes of your chair.

Tip: During unmoderated caucus, most delegates try to build a team by talking about their own policies and solutions. However, it’s actually more important to ask others what they think and get their input. That is how you find people who share the same policies and solutions and who can be on the same team. So talk less, and listen more.

Related Link: How to Handle Power Delegates in Caucus

4. Writing

Writing resolutions is where real work gets done, and it’s also the most difficult part of committee. Drafting a well-written resolution does not mean just writing down your ideas. It means listening to the ideas of everyone in your caucus bloc and finding common ground.

Tip: The key to a well-written resolution is organizing your caucus bloc’s proposed solutions. If you have a good framework for your topic, start with the most important issue and write down the solutions that are most relevant to that issue.

Related Link: Framing Your Topic

5. Debating

Once draft resolutions are circulated, you need to defend your resolution against criticism and convince others to pass it. You need to point out the strengths in your resolution and find weaknesses in opposing resolutions.

Tip: Approach groups of delegates and ask for their thoughts about your resolution. Try to find out what would get them to vote for your resolution. This might mean proposing amendments, so long as they don’t contradict the original intent of your resolution or alienate anyone in your caucus bloc.

Related Link: How to Debate Resolutions

Learning these 5 skills helps you become a leader in committee and win awards. It also helps you identify what to work on during conferences and practice sessions. And most importantly, these are the core leadership skills that MUN teaches, which you will use throughout your academic and professional careers.

What skills should delegates learn? Join the discussion below!

Photo Credit: Jamie Freeman

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  • http://www.mvhsmun.org Dominic

    Ryan, in addition to all these and adding on to team building, I would add that learning how to read others and gage the chemistry or psychology of individuals and the group is critical to a delegate’s success. People watching and observation come in very handy before attempting to manage a committee or caucus group, etc. Nothing is ever accomplished alone, thus a delegate must find out who their allies and competition will be.

    • Ryan

      Agreed. Model United Nations is an exercise in emotional intelligence. Whether you’re making a speech or writing a resolution, you’re trying to read others, anticipating their reactions, and acting accordingly.

  • http://www.muncircuit.com Ross

    Another skill delegates must cultivate is their confidence. Research is essential to speech making but knowledge alone will not suffice. Delegates must display intelligence, authority, decisiveness, and persuasiveness whenever they speak.

    • Ryan

      Yes, confidence is very important. When I started doing MUN, my advisor would tell me I needed to be more aggressive and confident. It’s not something that happens overnight. For me, I had to get older and attend many more conferences before I developed that kind of confidence. At some point, I realized that I knew as much as anyone else in the committee room, and I had nothing to lose from doing the best that I could and giving it my all. That’s when I started to win Outstanding and Best Delegate awards consistently. Looking back, I think confidence is something that comes with time and experience.

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  • vivian

    YES, i’ve been wondering how to become a leader in the bloc for long.
    research and speech makes a leader stand out.

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  • http://the-quizzard.blogspot.com/ Nihar

    How important is assertiveness and aggression in a MUN?
    Say, you’ve got a country which isn’t connected to the agendae in the remotest way, which means, you MUST butt in.
    You could work from the sidelines and put forward questions regarding violations of Human Rights, etc to those delegates in the thick of things.

    Basically, how would you suggest a delegate goes about in an agenda where his country isn’t actively involved? Does the chair really appreciate a delegate who seems aggressive and accusing?

    • sheenz

      dude, diplomacy is key. Chairs usually like a nice person. You must be agressive, but likeable. No one likes a jerk! If your country isn’t connected to a topic, look for similar situations that your country has been involved in.

  • http://the-quizzard.blogspot.com/ Nihar

    Thanks.
    But the very fact that your country is uninvolved could be an advantage.
    The dilemna is this.

    Do you attack other delegates?
    Or, do you do what a UN is supposed to do; work to build a better world. Forget the past. Which outlook would you take?

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  • Notgonna Say

    Thank you so much! I am currently a student at SM and in the MUN program and this advice is helping me a lot! my problem is my confidence and I am working everyday to gain more!

  • Paris

    How is the best way to achieve an agenda when you represent a country that plays ‘devil’s advocate”? I will be representing Iran next month at AMUNC on nuclear weapons/ effectiveness of peacekeeping based topics. This is my second MUN but my first time as a country…last time I was an NGO and although I made some slip ups I was able to get my agenda into the resolution. However, this time I am Iran. When you are the so-called branded ‘bad guy’, what is a good strategy to still ensure your agenda is met even though it may not necessarily be so popular? Am open to all ideas.

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      The Western media may brand Iran as the “bad guy,” but in your research, you might find that other countries share several policies with Iran, including a) the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology, b) the right to self-defense, and c) Iran’s policy towards Israel. It all depends on how you frame your agenda / country policy — if you frame the discussion as “every country should be free to develop nuclear weapons,” then that position might not be so popular — but if you frame the discussion as “every country has the right to self-defense,” then you might find more delegates who agree with you.

  • Vince

    Okay, in a Council, where the agendae deal with Israel palestine, The Current N. African crisis, how would you use a country like Pakistan(we all know how controversial they are, and the spotlight will be on you) to your advantage? And isn’t it a phenomenal amount of stick to take?

  • Tashi

    How can delegates streamline their research ?
    The agendas concerning my committee require maximum activity as we are discussing the South and North Korean dispute.

    Delegate of Republic of Korea.

  • pajriiiin

    okeey, i will make debate about palestine israel. search resolution how make they are to be peace, and we are know in this situation palestine always oppressed, and many people have die effect from war of palestine israel. and what should i do? so that they are can stop it

  • Tamanna Pattnaik

    Ryan, when we will debate about the country then whether we will see and debate or we will debate without seeing

  • Kopal

    I’m attending my first MUN next month, and have been allotted Brazil in the UN Human Rights Council, whose agenda is Right to Privacy, with emphasis on NSA’s PRISM program. Any advice or assistance would be greatly appreciated. :)

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