Dreams are such a curious thing: once they actually become true, we can hardly fathom that they have ceased to exist in an imaginary dimension.
I’ve dreamed of speaking at the United Nations since the age of 12. After each invigorating simulation of what the real international organization does, I found myself yearning for a day where my words would reach the hearts and minds of people at the UN itself- a day where this form of make-believe would become a part of the real world. Little did I know that eight years later I would achieve this lifelong goal.
It all started in November of 2014, when the Director of the Center for U.N and Global Governance Studies at Seton Hall University decided to incorporate the Youth Representative position. Thanks to the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy being a recognized NGO by the U.N Department of Public Information (DPI), our community was in the capacity to send two DPI/NGO Youth Representatives to the real United Nations. Through this role, the elected students attend meetings at the U.N headquarters in New York, where they represent the School of Diplomacy and their fellow students. After hearing about this wonderful initiative, I decided to apply and since the day I found out I had been selected, nothing was the same.
One fateful day at the beginning of February, I was contacted by one of the School of Diplomacy’s Deans about the possibility of presenting a panel at the U.N alongside other Youth Representatives. To my surprise and honor, the Dean had spoken with my boss from the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic (UNA-DR) about nominating me to be a speaker and representative on behalf of both institutions in this forum. There was no doubt that this was one of the quickest responses I had given to any request in my entire life.
On Thursday, February 26, my fellow panelists, moderator and myself welcomed an audience of more than 300 attendees to our panel “Partnerships for Success: NGOs, Youth and the UN” in the U.N’s Conference Room 3. Before I even knew it, our fantastic moderator Dr. Bill Hunter called my name and said it was my turn to begin. I quickly channeled all of my public speaking experience from all my years of Model UN, and the show began.
One of our key lessons here at Best Delegate is that being involved in Model UN will provide you with useful skills and knowledge to make you a remarkable professional the day of tomorrow. The question is, how can this public speaking experience and knowledge be applied to a panel presentation? This is how MUN helped me, and I hope that these examples help you as a delegate and in the pursuit of your dream career:
- Have a sheet with talking points printed out. Whatever you do, do not rely on any notes you scribbled at the last minute. Regardless of how experienced you may be, nervousness always kicks in, and it does not help to have to force yourself to look down for longer than needed in order to decipher your handwriting. Be sure you type down a few bullet points for each one of your slides for quick reference during your presentation.
- Thoroughly review your slides the day before and a few minutes prior to the beginning of the presentation. This idea ties back to the previous point: know your content! Be sure that you are well aware of what you will be speaking about in order to truly connect with your audience instead of looking at your notes or assessing your slides for an extended period of time. By all means, be sure that you never review anything during the panel; it is disrespectful to your fellow panelists if you are not actively listening to what they say.
- Engage your audience. As this was my first panel ever, I was really nervous as to whether or not people would enjoy my presentation. After years of sitting through speeches, I have witnessed few speeches where the speaker actually connects with his/her audience, and I was staunchly against being another one of these disjointed presenters. Right before I started speaking about my slides, I gave a quick introduction of who I was and brought up my involvement in Model UN. Then I raised my hand and asked how many MUNers were present in the room! Dozens of people in the room raised their hands and a few of them even whooped enthusiastically. Whatever you do, be sure to engage with the people in the room, and try and make your presentation a conversation with your audience.
- Relay personal stories that tie back to the presentation. This connects to point #3. Before I started explaining what each of the NGOs I worked for did, I relayed my story of how I became involved with them. In this regard, I was sure to bring up that my connection with UNA-DR began when I participated in my first-ever Model UN conference at age 12. Before presenting on the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy, I relayed how it was one of my dream schools and that it was an honor for me to be representing my university in this capacity.
However, the helpfulness of MUN did not stop there. After each one of us presented the mission and vision of our organizations, attendees were encouraged to ask questions: “how does your organization engage youth and the UN?” “How can I get involved with the UN even if I am not a Youth Representative?” “Where do you see yourself in this field in the next five years?” though these inquiries were all well-thought, one of them in particular struck me because it concerned a long running problem in the Dominican Republic- one that I was fully aware of through history classes and the news.
A young Haitian man, in representation of his NGO that championed social justice, asked me about the UNA-DR’s position on a recent incident in the Dominican Republic where a Haitian shoeshiner was violently murdered. The conference room suddenly went silent, as no one expected a question of such magnitude to be brought up, and the moderator looked at me with concern, asking if I wanted to answer. Though the question was indeed sensitive, this young man displayed tremendous courage by bringing this relevant subject up and he deserved an answer. This moment is when I truly thanked the heavens for all those years of Extraordinary Sessions of Questions and not once backing down from any of them; everyone is entitled to an answer, and a truthful one at that.
I answered by stating that although what happened was a tragedy, UNA-DR was not a political entity and, as a result, had no jurisdiction in this type of matter. I did, however, bring up that as civil society actors, it is our responsibility to foster initiatives that engage Dominican and Haitian youth, in order to prevent other tragedies like that one from happening. I mentioned how we have hosted MUN conferences in Haiti and facilitated forums where Dominican and Haitian youth can engage in proactive conversation. I also brought up that although our countries shared a common tragic history, we must not let the past dictate how we will live our present and our future. It is because we are aware of the magnitude of these hardships that we should learn from the mistakes of our forefathers and use those lessons to build a brighter and fairer society.
Once my presentation ended, the support others showed through their vigorous clapping and genuine smiles was almost too much to bear. Did I truly achieve it? This lifelong dream I had of empowering others and conveying my message straight to their hearts?
The enthusiastic and challenging questions, the words of praise and, ultimately, the fantastic individuals I met before and after the panel confirmed it: I had finally achieved my dream, and this was just the beginning of a beautiful journey that would last a lifetime.
Article submitted by Gabriela Taveras, Best Delegate Content Writer