How to Be the Best Committee Chair Your Delegates Will Ever Have

by Conna Walsh on March 4, 2013

Let’s get one thing straight – I love being a delegate and everything that comes along with the amazing experience of representing a country. However, as much as I enjoy being a delegate, there’s one thing I might love even more – chairing. Running a committee is amazing, but it can also be pretty stressful. Whether you’re a veteran chair or new to running a committee, the tips below will help you to run a smooth and perfectly balanced committee with the right mix of work and play.

There a few tricks you can use to be the best Committee Chair you can be and provide the best experience for your delegates!

1.) Be Firm with your Delegates

When you are a committee chair, you are in a position of authority. No matter what happens in committee, you must maintain a sense of authority and ensure that your delegates respect you. Obviously, we’re not talking about turning your committee into a dictatorship, but it is extremely important that your delegates recognize that you are in charge.

So how does one maintain a sense of authority over a bunch of rowdy high school or college students? It’s not always easy, but there are several things you can do to make sure that your delegates respect you. One of the most important things is for you to be organized. Once a chair forgets to do roll call or forgets the order of the secondary speakers list, their credibility comes into question by the delegates. By staying organized, you will not only have a more successful committee, but your delegates will have respect for you.

Another way to make sure you maintain your sense of authority is to be knowledgeable. Being familiar with your topic of discussion, as well as parliamentary procedure, is extremely important. You should ensure that your preferences in running the committee align with typical parliamentary procedure, and make sure that your delegates follow it completely. Study your conference’s rules of procedure and familiarize yourself with more uncommon occurrences just in case.

The last way to make sure that your committee runs smoothly and that your delegates respect you is to maintain decorum at all times. If an advisor walks into your committee and the room is extremely loud, they will definitely notice. If delegates are interrupting one another, or you need to make an important announcement and delegates are talking, don’t hold back from tapping your gavel and requesting that decorum be maintained. If delegates are using their cell phones, are writing inappropriate notes, or are disrupting the committee in any way, keep them in line and maintain their respect for you and for the committee as a whole.

2.) Make Fairness a Key Priority

We’ve all been in that committee where you raise your placard high every single chance that you get, but the chair never calls on you. Having experienced this myself as a delegate, I know how frustrating it can be when you’re not able to promote your ideas in front of the committee just because the chair seems to be blind.

From a chair’s perspective, however, it’s not always apparent when the delegates feel that the distribution of speakers is unfair. This is why it is extremely important to keep track of who you call on throughout the entire committee, for a number of reasons. First, you want to make sure that all of your delegates are having a great and fulfilling committee experience. Second, you don’t want the delegates or advisors to think that you’re playing favorites, whether they think it’s based on the individual students or the schools that they attend. Third, it’s essential to allow all viewpoints pertaining to a topic to be discussed.

There are a few ways that you can avoid calling on the same delegates over and over again. Make sure that you call on delegates from different parts of the committee room, not just the delegates sitting right in front of you. Keep a running list of what countries have spoken already during the committee session. If some delegates are not raising their placards at all, encourage them to get up and speak at least once per committee session. Through these methods, you can ensure that you are being fair and that your delegates will all have positive committee experiences.

3.) Have Fun!

While Model UN is not all fun and games, it’s still extremely important to make sure that you and your delegates have fun in your committee. I’m not advocating that you spend the entire conference entertaining silly motions and engaging in frivolous debate, but be aware when your delegates seem like they are not enjoying themselves. There are many things you can do to make sure that your delegates have fun in committee, and that they will want to return to your conference the following year.

One way you can have fun and make your delegates feel more comfortable in committee is for you to get to know them. Make rounds at the beginning and end of committee sessions to see how they’re doing, ask them if they have any questions, and listen to what they have to say. If you have a small group of delegates, such as a crisis or specialized committee, have a committee lunch or dinner one day of the conference. By making yourself more accessible to the delegates, you will let them know that it’s okay to be relaxed and enjoy themselves in committee.

Another way to make sure your delegates are having fun is to use the resources that are provided by your conference in a way that is enjoyable for the delegates. For example, many conferences have flower sales, candy grams, and dares for sale that delegates can purchase and send to other people around the conference. When it seems like committee is a little stagnant or the delegates are getting tired, take breaks during committee to deliver the flowers, candy, or other items. I’ve always loved when my chairs don’t take themselves too seriously at these times and act out (appropriate) dares in front of the committee. Plus, your delegates’ moods will soar when they receive flowers or candy from friends or secret admirers.

All in all… 

The above tips are here for you to see what makes a great committee chair. Obviously, not all committees and conferences are identical, so make sure to choose a chairing style that best suits what kind of committee you’re chairing and also fits with the traditions of your conference. If you’re nervous about your first chairing experience, talk to your team members about their experiences and see what advice they can offer to you. Be confident, fair, and have fun. Above all else, make sure to stay true to yourself and to the values of your Model UN organization.

  • Ace Szmolyan

    Or you could just hire Brock Clancy to be your chair… His vision is years ahead of what the MUN circuit is doing today

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