Special thanks to Best Delegate Media Editor-in-Chief Katherine Bonner, WAMUNC Ad Hoc Crisis Director and GWUIAS Head Delegate David Berris, and WAMUNC Ad Hoc Chair Matthew Kasturas, as well as my advisors, fellow competitors, crisis staff, and dais members, for the development of this article.
To preface this article, I decided I wanted to write an Ad Hoc advise article when I found out I was selected to compete in the Ad Hoc committee at the Washington Area Model United Nations Conference (WAMUNC) hosted by The George Washington University. Coming from Glenbrook South High School in Chicago, Illinois, I had no idea what to expect at an East Coast conference, let alone how I would be able to be successful at an Ad Hoc committee.
My specific Ad Hoc committee was the Free German Youth, an after school state-sponsored program in East German that indoctrinated the youth to support socialism and the communist system of the Soviet Union. Every delegate in the room was a young German ranging from ages 14-24, but the point of the committee was the selection of my committee members to start a revolution and create a democracy in East Germany. We were handed out secret personal biographies and let loose. Some of us had the goal of forming the democracy, while others were secretly KGB informants working against the progress of the committee. It was an exciting conference that ended in a joint-crisis with one side fighting for democracy and the other half of the room working for the communist government to stomp out our rebellion.
My Ad Hoc committee was very unique and intense, and after four days of competitive debate I ended up receiving the Best Delegate award. The gavel I received from this conference is by far the award I value the most because of the high level of MUN experience and intelligence in the room as all of the delegates had to apply to the Ad Hoc committee in order to participate. Thus, now I’d like to pay it forward and give the best advice possible to help anyone else who might find themselves in Ad Hoc – both on the High School or College circuit in order to help them win Best Delegate as well! I’ll start with some general tips (compiled with the help of Best Delegate Editor-in-Chief Katherine Bonner) followed by specific “what not do to” advice at the end. Hope you enjoy, and good luck to you!
Fraternize With Committee Staff
Build rapport with your committee staff. One of the most effective strategies for standing out in crisis committees is engaging the dais and crisis staff. Prior to committee, introduce yourself to your Chair/Moderator/in-room staff (crisis staff will probably be busy coordinating everything at that point), and use that opportunity to let them see you as an individual, not just another random delegate. With crisis staff, wait until after committee sessions and engage them with questions and gratitude for their efforts. Take a minute during a water break to check in with your crisis director about how committee is going for them and what he/she thinks about your upcoming directive (sometimes explaining your plan to them can help accomplish things that aren’t getting pushed through otherwise). Also, introduce yourself to the entirety of crisis staff– they may not seem important since they’re not explicitly “in charge” of committee, but they answer most of the notes, have a say in committee awards, and are valuable resources for questions when your Crisis Director and Chair are too busy to speak with you directly!
Write LOTS of Notes
Just like you would in a General Assembly committee, start sending notes to other delegates the moment you get into the room, and form alliances and shared interests with as many people as possible. These bonds can be fluid depending on the topic at hand, but you want to gain the attention and respect of all delegates as soon as possible. Also, send notes to crisis early and frequently. At the beginning, you can ask questions about your position and powers, but as committee progresses, make sure your personal directives are detailed and have an explicit purpose (i.e. “Send 3 barges to the Charleston port to supply rations and weapons to the embattled battalions at Fort Sumter”). The more you explain yourself, the more likely crisis is going to have the impact you want. I’m also personally a fan of issuing lots of press releases and communiques– these may seem small, but if you brand yourself as a spokesman of the body and have good rapport with the general public and other leaders, you can use this to your advantage as committee progresses.
Also, I am a fan of writing notes to the crisis staff in the form of a story. Almost all the crisis notes I sent were 1-2 pages long, incredibly detailed, sometimes funny (referring to my biography as a rich spoiled playboy), yet all of the notes still ended with me explicitly stating what I was trying to do and why I was going about it a certain way. A tip my crisis director told me at the end of the conference to use in the future was to just write out “objective = _______” at the end of every crisis note to speed up the process of understanding the purpose of the action I was trying to take.
Make a Plan
The moment you have your position and topic, you should start formulating your own personal crisis tree (articles explaining crisis trees can be found here). Your tree that you want to create will be two-fold: one big branch will be your plan, and the other big branch will be the committee plan. Try to look at the big picture of your crisis (i.e. if you’re in a military junta you’ll probably end in war, if you’re in a cabinet you’ll probably have elections or a diplomatic crisis, etc.). You want to try and stay ahead of crisis as much as possible. See your status in society and economically and try to use that to your advantage. For example, my position as a rich boy made me opposed to the farming class, so I created a group of payed off delinquents that I named the People Platoon that I ordered to trash farming towns and beat up communist leaders, but graffiti “the farmers will rise again” across destroyed storefronts to blame the peasant class while secretly I was behind the attacks. Then in committee I would vehemently attack the farmers in the room and state that only the rich elite can be trusted to run a peaceful revolution which prompting the committee to pass my directives that favored utilizing urban centers for the revolt rather than supporting the starving farming class. Through this secret back channeling you can do through well developed crisis notes, you can shift committee opinions and push the room to support your cause.
Don’t Stop Talking
In the small and competitive nature of Ad Hoc, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to speak, even if it’s just to echo another delegate and build off of an existing point (i.e. “I like Darby’s idea about trade, but I think we should also make sure to include tariffs for countries in violation of international policy”). Take the chance to speak on every pro or con speech on a directive to establish yourself as someone who has an opinion on the documents introduced to committee, causing people to follow your opinion and take your thoughts into consideration when they vote. An amazing con speech can often destroy a directive’s chances of getting passed as you get the last word before voting occurs. Yet, do not be that person who obviously rose their placard just to say something, but their speech has no substance. Be logical, critical, and articulate when speaking and try to frame the way the rest of the committee should be viewing the directive or crisis that may have just occurred to follow your views or further your agenda.
Make sure that you have a public directive and public press release for each committee-wide crisis. My biggest advice for Ad Hoc is to NEVER STOP WRITING- you’ll see that lots of career Ad Hoc delegates don’t even stop writing as they raise their placards or listen to a crisis being presented to the room.Write fast and make sure your document is the most structured on the topic at hand, and you’ll end up being the primary author of a directive. That said, you have to market your document– even as you write it, give speeches (“I’m currently authoring a directive that discusses the immediate response to the Cuban bombing, including deployment of troops, communication with Cuban and Russian authorities, and assembling a Special Operations force for any future aggressions”) and communicate with other delegates. If you’ve effectively built rapport, you can generally end up merging documents with other delegates and, if you’re lucky and get cooperative delegates, can trade off who authors sections of directives/directives for specific upcoming crises. Its crucial that your responding to each and every crisis with both behind the scenes crisis notes and committee wide directives. If you are not being picked on to speak, then write a well worded press release with strong rhetoric and submit it for the chair to read aloud. Make your opinion important, because if you don’t treat it as such, then people won’t listen. Make sure the room knows how you feel towards the issues at hand, and lead merges amongst directives by making your directives the longest, incredibly specific, and very detailed.
Don’t be Discouraged and Never Give Up
The worst feeling in crisis is when your incredibly detailed and well thought out plan completely fails or is flat out denied by crisis. Then you send another note, and crisis denies it. Then another. But if you give up there, then you miss the chance that your fourth note may have been the one that crisis will love and pick up on as a crisis they want to bring to the committee. I left the first session of committee with all my crisis notes getting denied, but after encouragement from friends and my advisor, I came into committee day 2 with an entirely different plan for committee that had no resemblance to what I tried day 1 and it worked. Thus, one of the most important tips is that you should never see crisis denying your plans as a personal attack or as a sign that your not doing well in committee. Pick yourself back up, and jump down another crisis tree branch totally different from where you were
All in all, you want to find a way to remain relevant to the committee room and to the crisis room at all times- make yourself memorable in a positive way.
What not to do:
1) If you get a briefing before committee, don’t over research the topic they explain in the briefing.
Oftentimes crisis directors want to mess with delegates and the briefing they send out might be a total distraction from the truth of the committee. Mine happened to pertain to what the nature of my committee was as our briefing was a history of Germany following WWII, but you never know so don’t freak out over the briefing! Just familiarize yourself with the information and do a little bit of research if you feel its necessary, but don’t let the briefing faze you, the most important part of being ready for Ad Hoc is following the advise in the article in committee rather than out of committee work.
2) Don’t use or try to use powers you don’t have.
Often people will attempt to kill off someone ranked higher than them to take their position or to try and establish themselves as their own leader of a country, or try for independence, but often the reason your personal biography might state, for example, that your mother is a police chief, is so that you could use her as an asset instead of trying to take her place/position of power. Also, if crisis does not allow you to rise in power or try to get powers you don’t have, do not keep trying to get this power in different ways. Often they are saying no to your plans not because of the way your trying to do it, but because they don’t agree or like the end goal your trying to achieve. Instead, come up with a crisis that influences the committee AND gives you power (i.e. forming your own gang or supporting a coup d’etat in a neighboring country to place a friendly leader in power)
3) Don’t write one sentence long crisis notes that lack detail in explaining your plans.
Make sure your plan is detailed and planned out well. The more information your crisis notes have, the higher the chance that they will help move committee forward.
4) Don’t write crisis notes completely unrelated to committee.
Try to keep all the actions your trying to do prevalent to committee otherwise crisis will typically stop your advancements to keep you on the topic at hand. If your master crisis tree plan necessitates a plot line unrelated to committee make sure you utilize the tip I stated above about using “objective = _____” at the end of the crisis note so your staffers understand why your going in a different direction then committee.
5) Don’t keep trying to do the same action in different ways after crisis shoots you down. Go down a different path.
If your plan is struck down, the most likely explanation is that your actions are not lining up with the direction that crisis staffers would like committee to go in. Do not be discouraged! Use your creativity to draft up new ideas and give them a shot.
6) Don’t ignore a crisis note if the staffers respond with a question.
Crisis staffers are present to help you as much as possible. They want you to flesh out your plan with more detail and respond back to them answering their question or reforming your plan, so be sure to draft up a response if you receive an inquiry.
7) Don’t restrain yourself from writing any directive, despite your position.
There is nothing in a crisis room that states only the Minister of Defense can write committee wide directives about the military. Even the Minister of Agriculture can make war directives. No matter what your in committee position is, you can pass directives of any kind – this is important in winning Best Delegate as you want to have a directive out to respond to every crisis and topic. Don’t let delegates with the more powerful positions determine what’s to be done, every person in the room matters.
8) Lastly, don’t be afraid to disagree with everyone in the room. Be the opposition.
If your position is one that has different beliefs from other delegates in the committee room, don’t be afraid to stick to your policy and demonstrate your knowledge. Keep in mind that this is a realistic simulation, and disagreements are inevitable.