Pushers and Leaders, Part 1: How to Handle Power Delegates in Caucus

by KFC on September 20, 2008

Standing around with other people during unmoderated caucus, do you ever notice those delegates who purposefully try to dominate the conversation? They talk as much as they can, shout down anyone else who tries to speak, and they become even more annoying when the chair walks nearby. These delegates think that talking a lot scores them points with the chair, earns them a leadership role amongst their fellow delegates, and ultimately will help them win an award.

A bad chair, who doesn’t actually know what’s going on in committee, and only sees one person talking, may think that this delegate is in control. But in reality, these power delegates just alienate everyone else and earn no respect from fellow delegates. They try so hard to win by dominating everyone else and write the resolution on their own, when most of the time, they just end up in a caucus bloc with other power delegates who are ironically thinking the same thing. They believe they’re leading the caucus and winning the committee, but they actually prevent any real work from getting done.

Here’s a quick tip for handling a power delegate that isolates them, lets other people speak, and makes you look good in the process. (Note that this applies moreso to the beginning of a conference when everyone is still trying to get to know one another, it still has general applications)

Let the power delegate speak for a little bit and let him make his point, listening politely like you would for any other person. As soon as he’s done with his point, he’ll most likely to attempt to keep rambling on and make additional incoherent points without listening to other people. This is his attempt to assert dominance. Power delegate: “The US believes we should send in troops. And then hold elections. And then start an education program. Education, education, education, blah blah blah…”

But before he can launch into a one-man show that wastes everyone else’s time, cut him off–by asking him a question. (Huh? Won’t this make talk more? Keep reading…) Direct it specifically at him; ask him to rephrase or clarify something he said. He might not expect this; he’s most likely used to just plowing ahead. But he’ll most likely take this as an opportunity to keep talking; you asked him a question, after all. You: “Excuse me, US, but what kind of education program did you have in mind?”

As soon as he’s done with his response, and before he can launch into a new, unrelated point, direct a new question at someone else in the caucus bloc. You can ask this other person if he agrees with the power delegate. Or, you can ask a rhetorical question to another delegate, in order to let this other delegate speak. You: “Ghana, didn’t you have a similar idea about an education program?”

Now you’re letting this other delegate speak. As long as this delegate is making his point, then the power delegate can’t just cut him off without obviously looking rude, or more obviously rude than he was before. Once this delegate finishes his point, and before the power delegate can jump in, direct another related question at another delegate. You: “India, I think you have this particular education program in your country, don’t you?”

Soon, you’ve asked everyone in the caucus bloc a question, and given everyone a chance to speak. Assuming there’s time left in the committee–and there might not be, which is the risk to this technique–now it’s your time to speak. And you can either use this time to give your country’s position, or, even better, use it to start writing the resolution. You: “Well, I think we all agree that education should be part of the resolution. I think everyone likes this part of India’s program, and this part of Ghana’s idea. Let’s write them down.” Booyah–now you’re the author of the resolution.

This tactic may seem counter-intuitive, but think of it this way. If you are the one asking and directing questions, chances are that the delegates speaking are talking directly to you. This makes you look like a leader. On top of that, you are allowing other people to speak and voice their ideas; you are connecting the people in the caucus bloc to one another. And because you are the driving force behind this connection, you really are the leader. And this, of course, is the signature characteristic of a true best delegate: leadership.

There’s a lot more nuance to this technique, like if everyone doesn’t agree on a particular issue, or if the topic is too broad to cover in a couple caucus sessions, or if everyone in the group is a power delegate (in which case you probably should just find another caucus bloc). And there are also certain risks involved. As already mentioned, this tactic takes time to execute. But more importantly, a bad chair only sees the talkers, not the listeners. So if you have a bad chair, then this technique may not make you immediately noticeable, although in the long run, if it helps you win friends and allies who will help and promote you because you are not a power delegate, i.e. a jerk, then it will help you.

And in a way, this technique is somewhat ironic. The power delegate thinks that he can control the caucus by talking. The best delegate, on other hand, actually control the caucus by listening. In most social situations, including MUN committees, people think that the person speaking is in control. And if you let him speak, he is. But the person speaking is entirely dependent on the people who are listening. Therefore, it is the delegate who chooses to whom people will listen–by directing questions and connecting people to one another–that truly controls the debate.

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  • madison

    This helps so much, you have no idea how many conferences ive been to where im annoyed at a power delegate (usually a power State as well, like the UK…) when i simply dont get the time of day because of being D.R Congo or Maldives. your strategy will help me so much!

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      Thank you! Good luck at your next conference!

  • KFC

    @Madison – I came from a small club program in high school and was rarely assigned influential countries. Nevertheless, using strategies like this and presenting myself confidently during my first speech helped me establish respect with fellow delegates. Don’t let the name on the placard determine who should be influential. Let yourself determine that.

    • Brian

      Incredibly true. Although my only two gavels have been from USA and India, three years ago we swept DMUNC with nothing but small nations. (I think we won security council with Ghana, or something of that nature) Although this strategy above works well as the USA, whose main role is to coalesce ideas.

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  • Nav

    An amazing written article! I am currently 14 and have been asked by my teacher to do security council! I am super scared because it is usually amazing sixth formers, all of whom will be better than myself. Any tips on security council ?

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      First, I hope you feel good that your teacher asked you to be in a more advanced committee — that’s very cool!

      One thing about Security Council (at least at the conferences I attended in the US and China — not sure if it’s done differently at the conference you will be attending) is it’s a race to draft the first/strongest resolution. In the GA, you need to meet others first, build alliances/caucus bloc, and then draft a resolution. This process becomes much faster in the SC because a) it’s a smaller committee and b) everyone should already know the other countries’ positions on the topics. Before you walk into committee, you should have a good idea of which countries share the same views as yours on the topic, which makes it possible to start drafting a resolution as soon as you go into the first unmoderated caucus. And you either want to be the one writing that draft or the “thought leader” of your group, i.e. you have ideas prepared, and you’re the most willing to incorporate other peoples’ ideas (so long as they don’t contradict your policy). And ideally, you’re able to assert yourself as a committee leader with your first speech, i.e. you present the best framework for approaching the topic.

      There’s a lot more to SC and MUN in general than the above but I hope this helps! And don’t let older, more experienced delegates intimidate you — they are not “better” than you — performance matters more than age. Show that you know what you’re doing and they will respect you, no matter how old/experienced you are.

      Good luck!

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  • R. Timberlake

    The other side of the coin is the chairs just ignorant or lazy and never truly looks at what caucus are doing

  • Cyrus

    This is awesome. I’m a junior at mission right now and i’ve been following this site since you came and spoke to my government class a while ago and this is the best strategy i’ve ever come across to dealing with power delegates.

  • Cyrus

    ya we bought the book but I never got the chance to download it. i’ll be sure to find it on my teachers computer next time i get the chance.

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  • Anonymous

    How do you deal with countries that don’t stick to their policy?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2505945 Kevin Felix Chan

      There are several schools of thought on this and I’ve seen advisors and Head Delegates teach their students different methods. They include:

      a) You can do the right thing and diplomatically correct the delegate on their policy, particularly if you need them as an ally or if they are hindering debate because they are off policy. You don’t have to point it out directly; rather you should question them to get them on why they have such a policy (ask multiple questions to expose flaws in their logic or research) or if you need a harder stance, you can bring up facts and previous actions that contradict what the off-policy country is doing in committee.

      b) You can take over their policy if you are their ally. For example, if you are Estonia and you were expecting Russia to have a certain policy but they’re clearly off policy, then you should just take over Russia’s policy. In the real world, these two countries would probably work together on the same solutions anyway. Demonstrate leadership by being on policy — and on policy for your natural bloc of allies — so that they can follow your lead.

      c) Ignore them as they may side-track your progress and push forth debate with those who are on policy and know they should be working with you.

      These are just some suggestions. I’m curious to see how other delegates handle this situation.

      • http://twitter.com/CzechTheScore CzechTheScore

        I did part A in a conference, yet the delegate continued to err. He later went on to win Best Delegate. I would like to thank the Dais for being a retard. During the awards assembly there was a audible gasp from the entire committee. Incredulous would be the word.

  • Anonymous

    he’s telling people how to defeat me! But really, this helped me shut down US’ attempt at shouting all the tiny countries down

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