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.
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:
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
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
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