How to Win Best Delegate, Part 4: Research the Conference

by Ryan on November 18, 2007

In my last post, I argued that you should do research. Now, here’s how to do it.

There are four areas of research: conference, committee, topic, and country / position. In this next series of posts, I will define these terms and suggest how to research them.

By conference, I mean the conference’s philosophy, the characteristics it values in delegates, and the kind of people who staff it, particularly your chair. I also mean the conference’s reputation; is it a laidback conference that doesn’t care much for parliamentary procedure, or is it a very strict one?

It may seem weird that I list this as a part of your research, and truthfully, it requires the least amount of your time. But if you want to win Best Delegate, shouldn’t you know what the conference and, consequently, your chair are looking for?

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t walk into a job interview without thinking about how your skills suit you for the position and what the company values. And just like an interviewer, your chair judges you not just on skill, but style.

As a personal example, I was the chair of the Security Council at a major conference last year. The delegate representing the United States in my committee was good but abrasive. His skills were solid; he was on policy, spoke well, and had a lot of good ideas. But he was too aggressive; he included himself on every resolution and alienated the other delegates.

At one point, I spoke with his advisor. Surprisingly, she said that he’s actually a very quiet student. But he was acting this way because that’s what his research showed him. The US is apparently aggressive in international negotiations. And at the time, John Bolton was the US Ambassador to the UN.

So my dais and I faced a dilemma: should we give him an award? I would normally not award abrasive delegates, but his actions were grounded in solid research; he was so on policy that he was roleplaying the actual ambassador.

To decide, we read the conference’s awards policy as printed in the conference guide. It clearly stated that the conference valued diplomacy above all. Only the most diplomatic delegates should receive awards.

So although this delegate had done his research so well he was even roleplaying the actual ambassador, he neglected to research one thing: the conference itself. Based on that, we did not give him an award.

There are two primary ways to go about researching the conference. The first is through impressions. Check out the conference website, topic paper, and conference guide. Is it professional or sloppy? Well-written? Arrogant?

In particular, look for an awards policy. Does the conference value idealism, i.e. diplomacy above all, or realism, i.e. being on policy no matter what? Is it strict on parliamentary procedure?

Admittedly, these are minor things, and again, you should not spend a lot of time analyzing them. But keeping them in mind will help you get an impression of the conference and what to expect in committee.

The second way is through reputation. Speak with the older members of your MUN team, your friends at the hosting school, or even people you know who are organizing the conference. Is the conference known for being tough or laidback? Is it a very prestigious conference, meaning it will be highly competitive, or is it a smaller conference? It its MUN team known for being aggressive or diplomatic? Its members will most likely be your chairs and they most likely value the styles that reflect their own. Every school has a reputation: know theirs and yours.

Finally, let me clarify that I am not telling you to change what kind of delegate you are simply based on what the conference wants. Just like in an interview, yes, you want to prove you have the skills and values the company is looking for, but if that means being fake or lying, then people will see right through you.

Same thing at an MUN conference. If the conference values aggression, and winning Best Delegate means backstabbing another delegate, then don’t do it. Winning is not worth changing who you are as a person.

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