Model UN can be an inherently a competitive activity for many. You have your classic power delegates who strive to control the committee. But then you only have a number of awards granted. And then you have sections on the Common Application that you hope to fill with “Best Delegate” or “Outstanding Delegate.” Finally, you have the precious gavel that each Model UNer aspires to possess.
There is a certain beauty to the competitive aspect of Model UN. For one, it is the factor that motivates most delegates to join the activity. The human race is intrinsically a competitive one; we are drawn to competition and to areas in which we can succeed and prove ourselves. Our innate desire to conquer and dominate naturally causes us to gravitate towards activities in which we can do so, the competitive nature of Model UN. making it one of those. There is little that is more successful in motivating high school students than the possibility of being recognized as the most talented and capable of their peers.
There is little surprise, then, that the most successful delegates at conferences usually hail from a select amount of competitive teams. There are a handful of “big name” teams that all others fear, as it is known that the presence of these teams at conferences almost always means that they will take home the Best Delegation awards. What is it, though, that coincidentally causes so many members of a single team to all be so equally talented?
It is no coincidence. The success of these teams comes from a significant amount of arduous and efficient training. Training is a critical part of building a triumphant Model UN team, as it equips teammates with the unique skill set that is needed to dominate in the committee room.
My school’s Model UN team is noncompetitive. Perhaps this comes from my school’s general philosophy, which fosters a love for learning and collaboration, supposedly at odds with intense competition. After taking over the reigns as Head Captain and Secretary-General of my team this year, I have been working to transform its noncompetitive nature to one more suited to succeeding at the intense conferences we attend, such as HMUN (Harvard Model United Nations) and BUSUN (Brown University Simulation of the United Nations). In doing so, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks for building a competitive Model UN team most effectively.
Tips and Tricks for Building a Competitive Model UN Team
It’s impossible to effectively strengthen your team if your leadership itself isn’t strong. Choose your most successful delegates to be the leaders of your team. If they have succeeded in committees, they know what’s necessary to help others to do. Even more so, team members look up to delegates who have proven that they have what it takes to dominate and win. They value their advice and training more than they would someone else. Have your team member with the most awards take on the role of Secretary-General, and work your way down from there.
You can’t run a team without organization. First and foremost, distribute leadership roles effectively. On my team, we have a clear distribution of which leader is responsible for what. One is in charge of conference coordination; registering for conferences, collecting payment, distributing assignments, etc. Two of them are responsible for novice training and running clubs meeting. Another is primarily responsible for HeschMUN (our annual conference) coordination. Distributing roles clearly and specifically allows captains to know what their duties are and run the team most efficiently.
Training sessions, particularly ones for novices, are essential to building up the competitiveness of your team. As mentioned before, Model UN requires a skill set entirely different from what students will encounter on a daily basis in high school. Public speaking skills need to be strengthened, research skills need to be taught, important ways to collaborate need to be highlighted, and ways to dominate respectfully yet powerfully need to be introduced. Introduce regularly scheduled training sessions to your team in which you focus on different skills needed for the committee room. Limit each session to focusing on a specific skill in order to allow focus and attention to each one. A few ideas for training sessions:
- Public speaking activitiesIf a team member is not on another activity that involves heavy public speaking, such as the debate team, it is likely that they have never been taught how to authoritatively speak, present, and argue in front of a large group. Organize public speaking activities to introduce your teammates to this new type of speaking. There is no better place to practice than in front of their fellow peers. (One particularly popular among my team is called “Fish Bowl.” In the center of a classroom, arrange chairs and tables so that two students are sitting facing two other students. All other students should stand around them. Introduce a topic to debate. The debate begins among the four students in the center. If another student wants to pop into the debate, they can tap one of the four students “out” and take their seat in the center. And so on.)
- Position paper training. Position papers are an essential part of preparing for any Model UN conference. Devise a specific format that you want your delegates to use for their position papers and go through it with them step by step (along with providing them with a sample position paper). Review all position papers before they are submitted to conferences so that you can provide your delegates with edits and revisions for future conferences.
A buddy system is a great way to pair together experienced delegates with novice ones and allow them to share their experience and knowledge with new team members. If your team is large, it is likely that the captains do not have time to answer all of the questions of every delegate. By creating a buddy system, you grant every novice delegate the opportunity to ask their buddy any parliamentary, research, and general MUN questions that they may have. As Model UN can be a confusing activity, with the flow of committee being drastically different than anything else students have experienced, having an outlet to address questions can be both calming and helpful for growth.
Take your strongest delegates to your conference. If you want to cultivate a successful and competitive team, the only way to do so is to take the best of the best. Host tryouts before conferences to select which delegates are most qualified to attend. A suggested tryout format is having delegates write a 2-3 minute speech on a particular topic from the perspective of an assigned country, then following the speech with questions for the captains.
If you have any questions or would like more tips on strengthening your Model UN team, feel free to reach out to Abi at firstname.lastname@example.org.