In Model UN, just as in life, you will meet the same type of person over and over again. Whether you walk into a committee in London or Lisbon, you will be met with familiar personalities wielding unfamiliar placards. Model UN, and indeed, diplomacy, is just as much about politicking as it is about people. All the strategy in the world will be rendered useless if you are not able to connect with and lead the people around you. Therefore, a key component of succeeding at MUN is recognizing the types of delegates to expect in your committee and knowing how to counter their strategies. With this goal in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common characters on the circuit and how to deal with them in a way that will optimize your chances of success in committee.
1. The Ringleader
Found more often in GAs than in crisis committees, the Ringleader is a fairly common breed. The peacocks of the MUN world, these are the delegates whom you immediately notice upon entering your committee room for the first time. Often garbed in devastatingly debonair attire, the likes of which you’re fairly certain you saw at one of Gatsby’s parties the night before, these delegates are not only smartly-dressed, but smart to boot. Most of these delegates will doubtlessly have at least a couple of gavels to their name, and can be very intimidating to have as a fellow delegate. The Ringleader will seize every opportunity to speak, and is not afraid to commandeer others’ ideas as their own, or to incorporate your ideas into their resolution without your explicit consent or knowledge, if they think it will help them succeed. Extremely confident, these delegates will seek to run the committee by securing the unconditional support of others. They will go to great lengths to make sure their resolution or position is the dominant one, and will work frequently outside the hours of committee in order to accomplish their goal. Working lunches or even breakfasts are familiar territory for the Ringleader, who is not afraid to ask others to work hard on their behalf in order to win. The Ringleader views MUN as a circus in which they are the main act, and will tirelessly endeavor to create and maintain the illusion of being the ringmaster.
But fear not, like peacocks, these delegates’ feathers can be easily ruffled. It is important to recognize that the Ringleader’s dog-eat-dog attitude may backfire or alienate a large portion of the committee. Openly criticizing the work of your fellow delegates without a constructive end or an alternate solution, as the Ringleader is wont to do, will gain you more enemies than friends. Instead, approach your rivals directly and see if you can work with them to come up with a solution that meets both of your goals or, failing that, form a group of supporters based on an alternate solution. Also recognize that the Ringleader, while they have no doubt put much effort into pre-committee preparation, may have cultivated only a general knowledge on the subject, relying more on their grandiloquence to get them by. Therefore, you should focus on building a base of specific knowledge on the given subject, (i.e. existing organizations and treaties) from which you can springboard your resolution or directives. Another smart move would be to come up with a title or slogan that aptly and catchily describes your resolution or position (witty or funny acronyms are a great way to accomplish this), so that your fellow delegates will be able to quickly identify your work, and your ideas can be easily disseminated throughout the committee. Lastly, you should focus on forming relationships—whether working relationships or friendships—with as many people as possible in your committee. Learn your fellow delegates’ names (their real names, not their countries or crisis names!), invite them to lunch or coffee to get to know them better (and not expressly to work), and socialize with them and their delegations after committee is done for the day. Doing so will maximize your popularity and influence within the committee, and naturally counteract the strategies of the Ringleader by showing others that you can simultaneously be friendly and approachable while also being a key player in committee.
2. The Bored Identity
The second most noticeable type of delegate in any committee is the Bored Identity, who, while also easy to pinpoint, is in many ways the antithesis of the Ringleader. These are the delegates who are largely uninterested or disengaged from the flow of committee. To give them the benefit of the doubt, it may be that the Bored Identity in your committee is simply a first-timer, and feels out of their depth with the whole MUN experience, in which case you should help them out where you can. But more often than not, the Bored Identity is a delegate who joined MUN solely because they heard about the awesome parties, who’s been on the circuit so long they’ve become jaded with the whole ordeal, or who is just along for the ride. The Bored Identity’s preferred habitat is the back of the room, where they can text and peruse the Internet without fear of being spotted, listlessly socialize with the delegates nearest to them, or easily duck out of the room during an unmod to fetch some Starbucks to keep them awake during the rest of the session. The Bored Identity usually shies away from speaking time or committee involvement (sometimes skipping sessions altogether), and for this reason, is also more often found in GAs or larger committees, where it is easier for them to avoid the limelight.
The Bored Identity does not pose a threat as an individual, but you should be wary of the Ringleader attempting to gather the votes or signatures of several of these delegates. For someone who has not been attuned to the goings-on of committee, the Ringleader can serve as an obvious and convenient guiding light during voting procedure. Thus, your task is to make sure you do not overlook the Bored Identity segment while lobbying for support for your resolution or directive. Keeping in mind that you should not accept clauses or additions to your work from those who have clearly been disconnected from the debate or do not display substantive knowledge on the subject at hand, you should still take a few minutes to introduce yourself and your ideas to these delegates, as well as listen to any feedback they may have. Their support may prove to be crucial to your success.
3. The Orator
While the Ringleader and the Bored Identity can be recognized by their actions (or lack thereof), the Orator can be identified by their words. The Orator is that delegate, in a crisis or a GA, who spends the vast majority of their time writing lengthy, flowery speeches that they then deliver to the committee with unyielding gusto and panache, whenever called upon. The Orator’s favorite thing to do is to give generic calls to action, challenging the committee to eliminate world hunger, foster world peace, and solve humanity’s issues. The Orator, while eloquent and full of flair, is often one step removed from committee, as they are more devoted to crafting their speeches than to following the flow of debate. Thus, the course of committee may not impact their speeches to the extent that other delegates’ speeches are influenced by the committee’s events. Sometimes the Orator will even come in with pre-written speeches and the goal of delivering each of these to the committee, regardless of whether or not it is particularly relevant at the time they are granted the floor.
Luckily, while the Orator’s speaking skills may be formidable, they are one of the easier types of delegates to deal with, as their agenda most likely will not cross paths with yours. The Orator can even be a valuable asset; if you are able to sway the Orator to your side, they may speak on your behalf or in support of your resolution or position, and in so doing, rally others to your cause. For this reason, it is worth sending a few notes to the Orator with your ideas and some general diplomatic overtures, but make sure you do not fall prey to having the Orator speak instead of you.
Read about the remaining two characters in “The Five People You Meet on the MUN Circuit, Part II—MUN Maestros.”
Have your own stories or experiences with these types of delegates, or have some more tips for success to share? Leave a comment below!