Be the Opposition: the Secret Weapon for Becoming a Best Delegate

by Bill Kosmidis on December 6, 2014


Sometimes the best path to take in committee is your own path.  Be The Opposition

Sometimes the best path to take in committee is your own path. Be The Opposition

We have all had those moments in committee when you dreadfully realize that you have lost your 15 minutes of fame, haven’t been called on in an hour, lack a bloc, and now have no shot at an award, whether its day two of committee at a four-day conference or hour two at a one-day conference.  I often felt this as a novice delegate my freshman year when I would be stuck as a nation like Estonia in a 300 person General Assembly at conferences like MUNUC ( Model United Nations University of Chicago) with my inferior speaking, writing, and diplomatic skills in comparison to upperclassmen “power delegates” further destroying my confidence.  I assumed that my country position and inexperience were the determining factors in my capability to win an award, no less the Best Delegate gavel.  However, this false assumption was overturned when I began to analyze what caused the frequent shifts in committee focus, often watching “Best Delegate” winning students somehow master the art of keeping the spotlight on their delegation for entire committee sessions.

The key technique I believe every Best Delegate utilizes is what I have now dubbed as my MUN motto: Be the Opposition. The way this strategy works is that you must detach from the monotonous agreeing that often occurs in committee  and instead directly oppose the general consensus.  Instantly people will pay attention to you for taking a stance on a topic of discussion that the committee had previously believed to be in total unanimous agreement.  This strategy will cause a mixture of the following three effects, with each effect’s intensity changing depending on the atmosphere of your committee:

  1. Delegates will begin altering their opinions, realizing your points of opposition were correct, eventually causing them to rally to your cause and speak in support of you (strengthening your bloc and reputability in committee).
  2. Other delegates (especially the power delegates who may have had a hand in creating the unanimous agreement on a topic based on their policies) will vehemently speak against your brave rejection of the general consensus and attempt to try and take advantage of the situation to make you seem like you are working against the committee’s cooperative efforts or that your own ideas are worse and lack research and validity.
  3. Your Chair will vigoriously nod their head, thankful to hear you break the slow pace of committee by introducing a new and valid, yet previously ignored, viewpoint on the topic.

Now some may disagree, but I believe any attention, whether its good or bad, will only help you.   Yet its important to note that by “bad” attention I mean option #2 where delegates may attack your views, I do not condone the negative attention gained by delegates by derailing from parliamentary procedure, being rude, or attempting to annoy the committee as that attention will only harm your chances of winning awards and your personal reputaiton in the Model United Nations community. Nonetheless, in committee it is your goal to get delegates to mention your name in speeches, care about your views, and view you as a leader that they want to follow (this is greatly enhanced when option #1 above occurs).  One strong and passionate speech can truly change the committee’s entire perception of you as the three effects above occur, but when option #2 happens you must respond in speeches and continue to back up your minority viewpoint with research, logic, and counter-attacks by exposing the flaws in other delegates solutions. Spearheading this new movement of opposition can also really help your relationship with the dias when option #3 occurs because anyone who has staffed a conference knows that lulls in committee caused by the lack of opposing blocs can create an undesirable atmosphere of boredom in the room.  Therefore your dais will appreciate your introduction of a new perspective on the topic as it might revive the energy in the room as well as show your intelligence as a delegate to form a different opinion then the previous several speakers.

How A Novice Can Easily Utilize This Veteran Strategy

So you’re sitting in committee, realizing you should be raising your placard and talking as your advisor would want you to, but everyone has just been repeating the same idea in different words and agreeing with the previous speaker – not to mention you can’t think of anything to say.  Maybe you even zoned out during the past few speeches and have no clue what anyone is talking about – trust me, I’ve been there.  But don’t fret!  I have often heard these complaints from the freshman on my school’s team, but I believe there is a simple solution:

Just listen to the next speech, take notes on what they say, and raise your placard to speak next.  When you get chosen, which will occur 99% of the time as the Chair will be excited to see your placard in the air instead of the same few competitive delegates, go up and give a speech completely disagreeing with the previous speaker (as long as you are not breaking your country’s policy).  I believe that it is true that as humans we find it easier to think of reasons why an idea is bad rather than why it is good.  Therefore, thinking of reasons to oppose the previous speaker’s ideas or solutions can be easier than inventing your own idea to talk about in a speech.  Some examples of easy ways to find reasons to oppose a speech are by asking yourself the following questions while the speaker is talking: Did they explain how is this going to be funded?  Can this solution apply to all countries? Has this solution ever been proven to work?  Did they say who will implement this solution?  Is this solution morally or ethically correct?  Will this idea only promote peace and diplomacy in the international community?  If your answer is no for any of those questions, then you must use that question to exploit their idea and oppose it, bringing attention to your country after your speech because a passionate aggressive tone of voice captures the attention of even the most off-task members of committee, especially if you haven’t spoken many times during the conference.  If the delegate responds to you in the next speech answering your exploitative questions, then you aided the committee in fostering resolution specificity and will look good to the dais for forcing that bloc to get specific on the details of their solutions.  If the delegate can not answer these tough questions you have for them, then you look good for exposing the truth behind an idea that might sound good in a speech, but is actually not a strong solution.  Its a win-win situation.  Also if you are new to Model UN, these are easy to give speeches that will help you practice your public speaking and argumentation skills.

Specific Ways Veterans Can Use This Strategy

Bloc Creation: This strategy works well in situations where you find yourself without a bloc as other power delegates take over the main working paper/resolution groups.  You can effectively create your own bloc late in the conference by passionatly opposing the main core ideas of certain large blocs, causing many delegates to question their support for them.  This opposition technique works from the ground up as you pull away supporters from the large resolutions until the only delegates left are the sponsors whose main supporters fled to join your growing movement, further presuaded to join you due to the ability for them to become a sponsor on your paper after failing to be one of the leading authors in the large resolution blocs.

The Rate at Which You Are Chosen To Speak: With option #3, your chair will recognize your ability to awaken the committee which can often help you transorm from being the delegate who complains at never being called on to speak to the country everyone accuses of being favored by the chair for speaking multiple times per moderated caucus.  This occurs not only because the chair values the unique and unrepresented perspective you bring to debate, but also because you will become the voice of the opposition minorty, forcing the chair to have to select you to speak often as several delegates in a row might speak against your removal from the consensus, often singling your country out, demanding a response from your new bloc.

After utilizing this technique I transformed from a quiet delegate who spoke twice at each conference into a competive delegate that has won an award at every conference I have attended since the end of my freshman year, a huge change that I attribute to following this strategy.  Being the educated and unique opposition makes you a committee leader, even if your bloc is the minority, causing you to merit an award in your committee, eventually becoming a Best Delegate when you master this stretgy in combination with other MUN techniques.  I hope you all enjoyed learning about this strategy, its something I teach to my entire team as President at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois.  If you have a modification of this strategy, or any thoughts on it, please comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!

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