How to Build a Top Travel Team: 5 Strategies to Recruit Top Talent

by KFC on October 6, 2010

Show potential recruits that MUN is more than an activity

Recruiting top talent at your school is essential to building a top travel team. You want students with good academic backgrounds and confident personalities who like being in the spotlight. They are assertive, able to speak their mind, and not shy when meeting new people or speaking in public. These are the people you want to recruit for your program and mold into Best Delegates. Granted, someone who is shy can still develop into a strong public speaker (I’m an example of one), and leadership, assertiveness, teamwork, and other important MUN skills can be taught over time. But you can’t deny the advantage of natural charisma.

It’s not easy to recruit top talent. Many students realize that good grades and strong test scores are not enough to get into competitive colleges or careers; they need to stand out through their extracurricular activities and demonstrate leadership. Your Model UN program is competing with Speech & Debate, Mock Trial, Junior Statesmen of America, Future Business Leaders of America, Student Government, Academic Decathlon, and even related activities like Theater. Short of requiring students to join MUN (which some history classes do), how can your Model UN program ensure that it wins the competition amongst clubs for the best talent at your school?

Here are five strategies for recruiting top talent:

1. Create compelling pitches to join MUN. Pitches will differ at the high school and college levels. At the high school level, you want to emphasize how Model UN can help you get into college, the useful skills you learn that prepare you to succeed in life, and the camaraderie of participating in a competitive team activity, much like a sport. At the college level, you want to emphasize how Model UN can help you get a job or get into grad school, how much fun it is to meet students from other colleges, and how there are opportunities to lead and give back through staffing conferences or volunteering with UNA-USA’s Global Classrooms program. Use these pitches to recruit students at the activities fair, classroom presentations, and at the first general meeting.

2. Give the team a conference to be excited about. New members may not understand what a conference looks like, but they can understand how to get excited over competition, prestige, or the opportunity to travel. You always want to have at least one cornerstone conference that delivers this excitement.  A travel conference or a highly prestigious and competitive conference is an obvious choice. There are still many ways to hype up the conference lineup even if your school cannot afford to travel; you should focus on getting everyone to at least attend the one conference that your team absolutely needs to win. This could be the largest conference of the year, a conference that your school has traditionally performed well in (or needs to defend its Best Delegation award), or a conference with good local rivalries.

3. Recruit through teacher-submitted recommendations. People like to be recruited. In high school, get teachers throughout the school to submit a list of their top students (at all grades and both honors and non-honors students). Then, deliver to all these nominated students a letter of invitation to the first general meeting. Let these students know that they have been selected as the best of the best and the school’s MUN team really wants them. This can be done at the college level as well. Colleges can even recruit through their high school conference by reaching out to graduating seniors who will be attending that college.

4. Pursue a diverse pool of talent. MUN teaches skills that are useful for professions not even remotely related to international relations. MUNers might look like future lawyers, diplomats, and businesspeople, but many also become engineers and doctors. Everyone stands to gain from Model UN and anyone can succeed in it. In high school, that means recruiting honors as well as non-honors students. In college, that means recruiting talent from majors beyond international relations and political science. College teams should also pitch Model UN to foreign exchange students and talented individuals who did Speech & Debate, JSA, and other similar activities in high school but are seeking a different experience. Also, college conferences can spice up their crisis committees by recruiting filmmakers, linguists, ROTC/military cadets, and foreign students that can help make a crisis more real or exciting.

5. Make it more than just about the activity. You want to convey to potential team members that beyond joining just an activity, they will be joining a group of fun people and making new friends. Free food at first general meetings always works to get people to open up. Club officers should introduce themselves at the first meeting and also host a meet-and-greet to get to know as many prospective members as possible. In high school, this could be done immediately after the first general meeting or during the first training session. In college, the most effective way is to host a low-pressure meet-and-greet party.

What are some other strategies your team uses to recruit top talent? Share your ideas here!

Photo Credit: Catharine Myung, UNA-USA MUN 2007

  • Rory

    Numbers Four and Five have been fantastic for Penn State. We’ve made sure to hold at least one weekly activity (soccer league, parties, cuisine nights, coffee hours) to keep our group together and active.

    Another plus for the weekly activities is it provides the opportunity for students who cannot make regular weekly meetings the ability to still be included in the club during the rest of the week.

    Also, we have found that partnering with the international student council at PSU has allowed us to reach a large and diverse group of students interested in international relations.

    Above all — a very welcoming and open leadership team has been most important for us. We’ve been able to nearly tripple our club’s size this year from just holding more activities on campus and branching out to as many other organizations as we can.

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  • KFC

    @Rory — That’s a great idea to host weekly activities so that those who cannot make the regular meetings can still participate with the club. I really like your suggestions too, especially cuisine night!

    You also bring up a strategy that I hadn’t thought of — co-programming with other organizations. That’s a great way to get exposure to another group of students. Also, co-programming is efficient in that it divides up the organizing work while maximizing attendance.

    And I definitely agree that a welcoming and open leadership team is key. People join and stay not just because of the organization but because of the people (and future friends) that are in it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • its me subhashree subhasmita

    Talent, like potential, won’t pay the bills or your dues.“We need to be the best band of the night every time we play.” If you feel you have the talent – for the love of gravy – use it to help you get to where you want to be… but remember that talent alone will never, ever be enough in and of itself.

  • KFC

    I definitely agree that talent is not everything. Everyone needs polishing. Also, I mentioned in the post that I personally do not fall into that category and grew from a shy individual who used to shake in front of crowds into a confident delegate. People who don’t have ‘natural’ charisma can grow to become leaders.

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