If you know me or have read any of my previous articles on Best Delegate, you’ll know that I have a serious obsession with all things Model UN, from being a delegate to chairing a committee. However, after serving as the Director of Operations for the Cornell Model United Nations Conference (CMUNC) this past April, I’ve finally come to learn that the logistics aspect of Model UN conferences is my favorite part thus far in my six-year-long Model UN journey. After the four craziest days of my life came to a close, I realized that there are some indispensible skills that one needs in order to run a successful Model UN conference. Below are my top three choices for the skills you need to run a successful conference. Don’t worry if these traits don’t come naturally to you – even I am still learning and will continue to develop these skills for when I’m serving as Director General for CMUNC next year!
1. Planning ahead
A Model UN conference is an enormous undertaking, and it’s incredible that most conferences are planned and run by a Secretariat ranging from about ten to fifteen committed individuals. Whether your conference is being hosted in a hotel or on a college campus, it’s likely that you will be living a logistical nightmare for four days. However, many obstacles can be avoided with careful planning. While there are indeed many tasks that can’t be accomplished until the week of the conference or even
during the conference (for example, selling merchandise, printing awards, and providing refreshments for advisors), most of your conference to-do list can be completed months prior to the event. If your conference is held at a hotel, ensure that you keep hotel staff in the loop as you plan conference schedules and events. If you’re holding a conference on a college campus, make sure to get approval from the necessary administrators and building managers for use of school property. Order conference supplies like paper, folders, brochures, printer ink, and anything else you might need in advance. By accomplishing these types of tasks early, you will be able focus your efforts on overall conference success sooner rather than later.
2. Keeping your cool under pressure
This skill is an absolute must while running any large event. I experienced a tense situation during CMUNC 2013 that tested my abilities to keep cool under pressure. As Director of Operations for CMUNC, one of my main responsibilities was to direct delegates and advisors to their hotel-specific buses at the end of each day of the conference. On my first night of duty, I was approached by a few members of the Ithaca Police Department. They informed me that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, who was visiting Cornell to give a talk on development in Latin America, was attempting to catch a flight at the Ithaca airport, but his motorcade was being blocked by the conference buses. Cue an immediate panic attack. Terrified of instigating an international crisis (highly unlikely, but seemed so possible at the time), I quickly contacted our bus dispatcher to direct the rest of the fleet to a different location on the Cornell campus. With the driveway clear, the Panamanian motorcade glided by as I hyperventilated on the sidewalk. Needless to say, I completely failed the test of keeping myself cool under pressure, but I learned so much from this situation. Regardless of the obstacle or problem in your way, there is always a solution. Keeping yourself calm in a tense situation is difficult, but it will make your life so much easier, and it will help those around you to stay calm as well.
If you’ve ever been involved in running a conference, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it is the most insane time of your life. You’ll never see a member of the Secretariat or the staff sitting down, unless it’s the chief of staff glued to Gchats with committee chairs, or the director of technology methodically printing hundreds of documents. One thing that I noticed the most amongst the flurry of activity during conference weekend is that you must be able to adapt to a new role or task at any moment. Although my main job was to direct transportation, I performed many necessary tasks outside of my portfolio during the weekend in order to ensure that things ran smoothly. Any time someone asks you a favor or needs something to be taken care of, don’t hesitate to step up to the challenge of adapting to a new role.
All in all…
No one ever said that running a Model UN conference was easy, but it’s not impossible either. With the right skill set, you will be on your way towards running a smooth and successful conference. By planning ahead, keeping cool under pressure, and being able to adapt to new tasks or situations, you will set yourself up for a successful and fantastic weekend.