Becoming a MUN Shakespeare: How to Use Metaphors and Allegories in MUN

by Justinas on March 20, 2013

As I have stressed in my last article, MUN is SO much more than mere academic politics. A part of this phenomenon comes from the fact that real politics is also so much more than academic politics – for better or worse. It is not merely about crafting legislation in line with one’s political views that are found on the classical political spectrum. It is not merely following the perfectly rational calculations of what is best to the society. Successful politicians do all that, but they also encompass much more – they are remembered for their charisma, adored for their wit, and respected for their rhetoric.

Still, real politicians must work in a pretty stringent framework, for their actions as well as their statements bear real consequences on the governed. However, as MUN committee decisions do not have any real life implications on the global issues, and the delegates themselves are either high school or college students, the dynamics of the committee work are even looser, the rhetoric – sharper, the jokes – more frequent, etc.  Naturally then, what is considered to be a surprising exception in the world of politics (or the norm for the House of Commons, which itself is more of an exception in the world of politics) is far more usual in MUN. Our task then is put the metaphors, allegories, and analogies to use in order to enhance our public speaking skills, make the speeches memorable and gripping, and move steadfastly towards the gavel.

Before introducing complex metaphors or funny analogies to your committee speeches, you must consider two factors:

  1. The issue
  2. You as a speaker

On the first: always bear in mind where you speak, and what about. Although it should be more than obvious, we do, unfortunately, still see delegates attempting humor while discussing the Holocaust or the mutilated babies in Congo. We also witness over-dramatization of minor issues: delegates mourn several gray seals that have died because ‘of the intensified ocean pollution in the Atlantic’ and tell us stories about horrific infections caused by GMO that ‘have made up to 12 people suffer from mild rash’.

On the second (again, obvious, yet necessary): know what suits you best as a person. If your imp-like smile and easy-going behavior during the unmoderated caucus make the delegates question the validity of your heart-breaking reports about famine in Africa, try a different approach. If you are a natural comedian of sorts, let that show. The reverse applies if you are more of a straight-talking serious guy attempting humor and facing difficulties. Quite naturally, when you want to charm others as person, the only real way to do that is to be true to yourself.

Having dealt with these considerations, it is time to analyze how best to put analogies to use in MUN committees. Several tips I feel obliged to share are:

  1. Be creative
  2. Don’t be normal
  3. Apply your skills to the proposals, not the technicalities

The first advice may just be the most over-used phrase in the history of ‘how to enhance your public speaking skills’. However, too often do we hear metaphors such as “this resolution is like a miniskirt – short enough to keep you interested, yet long enough to cover the essentials” or the one beginning with “if you give a man a fish…” I do not want to say that they are bad – on the contrary, it is their insight that made them such common phrases. However, metaphors and analogies do not necessarily have to be good in terms of content – they must, however, always catch the attention of the listener. Good operative clauses is what a delegate should focus on in terms of what he will put to a resolution, while metaphoric language is there to make other delegates remember him/her and like him/her.

For that reason, the more creative you are, the less ‘normal’ you are (the second point), the better  – even if that sounds weird at first. Do not get me wrong – you MUST always make your analogies to-the-point and intelligent, yet you should never take the easiest path. The more unusual (yet still adequate) the allegory you use is, the better will it serve its purpose. Thus try to step out of the regular “this resolution is like…” framework – talk about how the committee resembles a book club: everybody in it hates being in it, yet all want their book to be selected to be read next (works if you want to encourage more consensus and move on from discussing technicalities to passing resolutions). Examples such as this are here only to show that there are tons of opportunities to create an allegory based on what you see in everyday life – and these allegories may just be the most effective. What is closest to the listener will affect him significantly more than what Churchill (no matter how great) has once said.

On the third, not-so-elegant-sounding piece of advice: to my mind, the biggest mistake some delegates make is that they spend all their best analogies of what contributes very little to advancing their clauses and proposals. What I mean by that is that instead of using metaphoric language to create imagery of what a delegate is proposing, he/she wastes them on, for example, telling us the technical drawbacks of the resolutions proposed by the opposing bloc (‘this resolution is like a donut – it has a huge hole in the middle’). Contrast this with “Democratization of the Sub-Saharan countries is like fostering a teenager. The more you pressure the teenager to be what you want him to be as a parent, the more likely will his negative reaction be. Democracy too must come to the Sub-Saharan countries organically and must not be forced upon by the West”. The second metaphor actually explains something about what you propose and presents a vivid image of a teenager boy.

As a delegate, you have a task of figuring out what works best for you and the committee – but enriching your performance with high-class, memorable, and original metaphors and allegories will only help. Just find the place, the time, and the approach that suits you best.

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