Organising Conferences Abroad – The UkraineMUN Experience

by George Mullens on April 29, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to organise the inaugural edition of UkraineMUN in the beautiful city of Lviv as USG Chairing. As a British and Italian student, the experience proved to be a learning opportunity for all involved. Indeed, organising conferences abroad in a country which you might have never visited before the conference poses challenges but also rewards. UkraineMUN ended up being the largest conference in Ukraine in just its first edition.

This article will aim to go through many of the challenges that secretariats abroad face both before and during the conference.

Opening Ceremony at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

Opening Ceremony at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

Pre-conference

The organisation of the conference with secretariat members living in different locations in itself was a difficulty. For UkraineMUN, the secretariat and organising team were composed of students mainly from all over the UK. Many tasks and roles were based online, from advertising and registration to interviews for each chairing position.

For instance, in my role as USG Chairing, most of the elements were done online by having an online application and interviews through Skype. Similarly, the drafting of rules of procedure can easily be done through a skype call between the different members of the Secretariat.

Another challenge of organising a conference with a team which is entirely abroad is that many of the logistical aspects of the conference such as printing handbooks, lanyards and placards have to be thought of more in advance. It is also worth considering whether you should print everything for the conference in your home country, where you might have better contacts, or aboard prior to the conference. These aspects of a conference need to be considered as your secretariat might well have to travel to the country where your conference is being held far before the conference to ensure that the logistical aspects of the conference are in place.

Formal Social at the Opera House

Formal Social at the Opera House

Knowing the country

Another difficulty of organising a conference abroad is that many of your secretariat members might not have knowledge of the country. Indeed, in a country where many people do not speak English, communicating with university administration and local venues for the booking of socials can prove to be very difficult. Without local contacts, organising a conference to this scale is exceedingly difficult.

Similarly, in Ukraine we found a situation in which many of our delegates did not even have facebook, instead preferring VK.com. This rendered communication with them more difficult as it was primarily focused on email.

Even when it comes to explaining to sponsors, partners and delegates alike what Model United Nations is, you might face some difficulties in explaining why it is a great educational experience for all involved. For this you need to be certain that your chairing team is great at teaching and ensuring a fantastic time for all of your delegates.

Image result for lviv

Lviv Opera House

During the conference

While there were difficulties in organising UkraineMUN, once the conference started, many of the fears that all organisers have vanished as delegates and chairs had a great time at socials. As with any other conference, the duty of the secretariat is to make sure that all issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently whilst considering the other aspects of the conference: from preparing for the closing ceremony and making sure that you have the correct names of each delegate for participation certificates, to printing out all of the awards.

Secretariat and Organising Team of UkraineMUN 2017

Secretariat and Organising Team of UkraineMUN 2017

Conclusion

While organising a conference abroad can seem difficult, the benefits of bringing MUN to a country which does not have a large MUN presence far outweigh the challenges. I would highly recommend every experienced MUNer to try and bring MUN to a country which simply doesn’t know what it is.

Many of us who have been doing MUN for a while have benefitted from what it has given to us. By bringing MUN to students who have not participated in it, you definitely feel like you are making a difference. The satisfaction of delivering a high-quality conference with great socials, fantastic speakers and amazing chairs is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Not many students have the opportunity to participate in MUN conferences, therefore bringing MUN to students who haven’t even heard of what it is was an incredible experience.

Organising conferences abroad pose different challenges to organising a conference at your home university. The challenges we faced were significant but can always be dealt with effectively if you have a strong team around you. Ultimately, the success of any conference is determined by the quality of your secretariat. I am 100% certain that if it wasn’t for how good the secretariat and organising team of UkraineMUN was, then this conference wouldn’t have been the resounding success that it was. I would like to highly encourage all of you that are reading this article to try and organise a conference abroad. While it has difficulties, it is an extremely rewarding experience and is unlike anything I’ve done before.

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