Location, Location, Location: How To Find The Best Seat In Your Committee Room

by erik on November 28, 2014

KeyThroughout your Model U.N. career, you’ll hear again and again about public speaking, researching your topic, resolution writing, and more. However, there are many little things that can make a big impact on your experience at a conference. As part of our series on Advanced Model UN tips, we’ll run through some of these little things to help you maximize your potential as a delegate. We’ve all experienced the frustration of not getting called on enough in committee, and one of the root causes of this is the chair not being able to see you! By strategically placing yourself in the proper seat in your committee room, you can help remedy this problem and be a more active member of your committee. For the following charts, please use this Key as a general guide. Not all committees come in the same shapes and sizes, but the general ideas from these charts can be applied to almost any committee you’ll come across in your M.U.N. career. Note that a circle can represent 1 seat for single delegate committees, or 2 seats for double delegate committees.

Board Room Setup (Small Committees) CabinetThe main danger of the U-Shaped setup of Councils and Cabinets is the layout of the parallel tables along the sides. These tables mean that you can have anywhere from 5-10 delegates all in a row, all vying to put their placard in the same area of the Chair’s vision. This means that the seats at the front of the room have an enormous advantage in visibility, as well as the seats at the head of the table. Sitting at the head of the table also serves as extra advantage because you can make extra eye contact with your chair during your speeches. There is one caveat to this though- the seats directly next to the Dais run a considerable risk in that if you aren’t fully paying attention to every speech [or texting!], the Chair can see everything and it will shape their opinion of you. In crisis committees, the seats toward the middle also hold an extra advantage as you can circulate directives more easily, and keep an eye on your directives and crisis notes as they move throughout the room. Also consider where other delegates that you want to take joint action with are sitting; you may want to sit in a closer group so you can work together more efficiently.

Classroom Setup (Medium Sized Committees) ECOSOCPossibly the most common setup for your Model UN simulations will be a classroom setup. These committee arrangements are pretty straightforward, but can often be crowded, making it especially important to sit toward the front of the room. By sitting in the middle, you’re in the central field of vision for your Chair and also signal that you want to be engaged and in the fray of conversation. By sitting in the middle (but toward the front, so your placard isn’t obscured by several others), you also place yourself strategically for working with people from any part of the room during unmoderated caucuses. As stated earlier, it’s ill advised to sit front and center of the Dais, however being off to the side allows you to have the same proximity, while also being set aside from the center for when the Chair decides to diversify where he’s choosing to look for potential speakers. It’s especially critical in medium and large committees to not sit toward the back; not only does this make it hard to see your placard, but it can also signal to the Dais and other delegates that you aren’t as serious about participation in your committee.

Assembly Setup (Large Committees) AssemblyWhen entering into an assembly committee, one thing needs to be abundantly clear; you are not going to get the opportunity to make many speeches, so you need to make each one count. Sitting strategically may make the difference of one or two speeches throughout the conference, which can make a big difference in defending your bloc’s resolution or debating others’. One of the central features of assembly committees is that because of their size, they are split into multiple sections, with aisles in the middle. That means that while most of the committee only has so much space to hold their placard without waving it in the face of their neighbor, delegates sitting in the aisle can hold their placard out into the aisle, and more easily access the front of the room when called upon or during unmoderated caucuses. It’s also important to keep in mind that in many of these committees, the Dais is up on a stage, meaning that if the front row is up close to the stage, it may be hard to see some of the delegates sitting there. The same goes for delegates on the outside fringes of the room; they’re so far off to the side that it may be nearly impossible to see delegates sitting there. In this sized committee, keep in mind what the Chair will see, not you, and remember to sit close to the front of the room or in an aisle to maximize your chances of being called on.

Extra Tips While the set-up of the seats in committee is important, so is where all the delegates in your committee sit. While the above charts work for full committees, it’s important to take into account which seats are taken, and which seats are left open. If you sit in a space toward the front or middle of the room, but without other delegations to either side of you, you get to dominate that space in the Chair’s vision. In assemblies this is especially important; to try to be equal with who gets called on, Chairs normally devise some kind of system where they divide the room into parts and rotate through those sections. Often this means splitting the room in half based on the aisle down the middle of the room, and switching back and forth between each side. Now, imagine a situation where you see 50 delegates sitting in one half of the room, and only 24 in the other? By sitting on the side with only 24 delegates, you may be able to get called on almost twice as often as if you sat on the other side of the room. Ultimately, the main takeaway from all of this is one thing: pay attention. Don’t just sit in a seat randomly, instead try to think through where you can get the most opportunity to represent your country. If a seat isn’t working for you, try to switch it up for next session! In the world of Model U.N., put yourself in the best place for your knowledge, your abilities, and your ideas to make the greatest impact possible.

  • Sherman

    Great article, and definitely an important consideration for “Advanced” MUNers. Two quick additions from my own experience on both the HS and college circuits:

    *Be wary of the end seat at the crisis table. This position can work well if you are a power delegate who likes to be very assertive and attempt to take control of committee or act as the clear leader of the room. It is not, however, usually the best place to sit in order to build blocs or work together with other delegates. My main rule of thumb was never to sit at the end of the table if I had a clear competitor who wasn’t. Building consensus and popularity usually wins over sitting at the end and trying to command the table, assuming equal delegate experience and skills. Further, never ever sit at the end of a crisis table that is longer than 6 or 7 seats on a side. Being too far from the chair is never a good thing.

    *Where should you sit relative to your main competitors? It is generally a good rule of thumb to sit close to your bloc members. Where to sit in relation to your main competitors, however, is a tricker question. Generally in crisis committees I used to like sitting directly across the table from my main competitor/s. This way your seating puts you on an equal playing field and further highlights the opposing viewpoints/strategies/blocs in the room. Generally this meant sitting in the middle of one of the sides of the table, in the “blue dot” spot on the diagram above.

    Also remember, at the end of the day these are just some minor strategy nitpicks for “advanced” delegates who are looking to be highly competitive. As such all of this is absolutely subordinate to knowing your position, being a confident speaker/debater, and getting (and hopefully enjoying) as much Model UN experience as you can!

  • Emma

    What should I do if the seat is assigned for everyone in the first place?

Previous post:

Next post: