This guest article was written by Lukas Corey, who served as the Under-Secretary-General of Regional Organizations for Pacific MUN this past November of 2016.
In April of 2014 just following VIKMUN (hosted by Western Washington University) my friend Karthik told me that he was going to start his own MUN conference. Ever so diplomatically, I told him “Good luck!” and silently awaited its failure.
Model United Nations was a fairly new thing in Washington State — clubs were few, small, and far between, only a couple conferences existed, and most people didn’t even know what M.U.N. stood for. I remained skeptical for months; there’s no way they can plan such a massive event with no experience or money, I kept telling myself.
I ended up staffing for the first ever Pacific Model United Nations Conference that November, and it was a massive success. At over 300 delegates, it was already the largest high school MUN in Washington state with a strong community of supportive staff, involved advisers, and dedicated delegates. Two years later, still with a relatively inexperienced secretariat, we’ve more than doubled to over 700 delegates. So how was PACMUN so prosperous despite lacking strong foundation in a well-established MUN community?
It came down to one thing, as many do in MUN: collaboration. A team of six dedicated secretariat members stared the impending workload in the face, divided it up, and crushed it. Finding a keynote speaker, setting up a website, delegate outreach, designing materials, booking a venue, and training staff—with a little perspective these all become surprisingly manageable tasks. Here are the six things you should do in order to have a successful first iteration of a Model UN conference:
Recruit a Keynote Speaker
Some conferences pay thousands for renowned activists and speakers who dazzle audiences with powerful and moving experiences. For the first year of an event you don’t need anything this stunning. It’s much easier than you might think to request that a state house or senate member come and speak at your event, and many are seasoned speakers with keen understandings of the importance of international perspective in politics looking for a little good publicity. Another easy possibility is asking national or international organizations with local chapters (such as ACLU, NAACP, Amnesty International, etc.) interested in reaching out to youth. In a pinch, even the cool civics teacher from your school or your club advisor can give an inspirational speech at opening. As your conference grows in coming years, it will keep becoming increasingly easy to reach out to potential keynotes!
Set Up a Website
You might assume that getting a domain, designing a site, and constantly updating it are a challenge only realistic for a tech wiz or a coding junkie. In reality there are a number of incredibly easy to use platforms providing web domains and servers, as well as templates that make design a piece of cake. Some, including SiteBuilder, WebsiteBuilder.com, SiteBlog, are actually free to use (but do charge for additional features). With a little bit of time, possibly a few bucks upfront, and some elbow grease, you can create a website as good as or even better than PacificMUN.com or many others all by yourself.
Reach Out to Delegates
But how do you actually get delegates to come? Good question! First of all, there are many easy ways to distinguish your conference from the crowd — a theme, great committee options, extra MUN merchandise like USBs or lanyards, low cost, and many others. However, reaching out to schools and letting them know about your event can still be tricky. The most effective option is advertising at another local conference with flyers or just conversations. Work up an email list and right after the conference, when everyone is still hyped up about MUN, send out a bunch of information about your event to advisers and head delegates, who will just be looking for their next event.
The logo is the most important design aspect of a conference—it goes on the pens, notepads, placards, banner, advertising materials, background guides, the website, the Facebook page and more. If it looks good, your MUN conference looks good. There are two options—the DIY and the Phone-a-friend. The DIY method is of course do it yourself! Most MUN logos are based on the UN logo, so download some free software (GIMP, Inkscape, Photoshop, Vectr, Svg Edit, etc), import the UN logo from online, and play around until you get something that you like. The Phone-a-friend method is if you want something really high end. Talk to the people in your school’s graphic design class or art class and see if someone is interested in helping out. More often than not, you can find someone both willing and qualified.
Find a Venue
Use your local high school or middle school! The rooms are the perfect size for a committee and they likely already have projectors set up that you can use. Most public schools will let you use their facilities for free as long as you tell them that you are running the event as part of your school’s MUN club. You may have to pay some janitorial fees, but these should be insignificant in comparison to your conference budget. Some schools may actually waive this fee if you agree to clean up thoroughly after the event. Quick warning: do not use an elementary school! They use smaller chairs which do not fit high school students (yes, I’ve seen this be an issue before).
Train Your Staff
Finding people with previous staffing experience can be difficult, even in an area of high MUN activity. You will likely have to train and prepare staff for your conference. However, this is a lot less arduous than maybe thought. Vancouver Model United Nations, one of the best high school Model UNs in North America with famously well-trained staff, only has one staff training meeting for each conference. Here’s what you need to teach – rules of procedure, how to comment on resolutions, what to say when chairing, and how to guide a committee. Thankfully, resources like Best Delegate have incredibly in depth and accessible resources for all of the aforementioned information. You need only study and relay this information to your staff in a good PowerPoint or Prezi.
Since helping staff the first PACMUN in 2014, I’ve helped create and grow two additional MUN events, King County Model United Nations and Educational Model United Nations, with great groups of talented teens. None of us came in with 16 conferences’ worth of experience or a wall full of awards. We did come in with the understanding that it was going to be hard, but we also knew that it would be both doable and worth it. I hope you all get the chance to stand on the stage at the opening ceremonies of your first conference saying “It is my honor to welcome you all to the first ever (______) Model United Nations,” because it feels like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.