The very first Model UN conference a person attends defines many aspects of their perception of the competition, depending on how the conference progresses. When you first walk into the committee room of your very first session, it can be fairly frightening or at the very least nerve-wracking. No matter how confident a person claims or seems to be, their first committee was the hardest. It’s the conference that determines if you can think on your feet, outwit your equals (and at times your superiors), act under pressure, make allies while also being ruthless enough to turn on them at a moments notice, and it can determine if you enjoy MUN, if you are cut out for MUN. The truth of the matter is that Model UN is not for everyone. I know many people that wanted to love it or would have been fantastic at it but just could not get into it. And that’s okay because there is something out there for everyone, even if it isn’t MUN.
The first time you walk into committee and everyone is dressed like that overly pretentious lawyer uncle you see on the holidays, the panic starts to set in. All of a sudden that killer outfit or perfectly pressed suit feels like the most ill fitting thing you own. It’s that spotlight effect you learn about in psychology, the feeling that everyone is staring at you and ridiculing you, and all of a sudden instead of feeling like Barney Stinson, you feel like the baby dressed in a suit in the weird memes spread sporadically throughout the internet.
The first speech you give, whether it was the speakers list or moderated caucus, is said on shaky legs and nervous ramblings. Every time your tongue stutters on a word you cringe just a little inside. You swear you’re the person in the room your team told you would be easy pickings, but your 30 seconds to 1 minute are up and you quickly take your seat. It’s done and over with now.
The first unmoderated caucus you participate in is a little like the teacup ride at Disney World, your head spins around and everyone is shouting and all you can think is make it stop. You trained for this moment, learned the procedures for this moment, but when the real thing occurred, you’re left to fend for yourself. The people around you listen for a moment but slowly drift away but it’s not a romance movie, you can’t just yell come back. So you sit and patiently wait for another person to wander by so you can quickly word vomit your resolution ideas to them and pray they agree.
The first resolution you write and present is the toughest essay you ever thought you’d compose. Sure it’s not as long as a dissertation and you’re pretty sure they won’t fault you for spelling sovereign wrong, but you didn’t memorize the clauses and are frantically flipping back and forth to determine which perambulatory and operative clauses fit within your message. All the while there are three different delegates proposing clauses to you that you can’t write fast enough or neat enough. When the paper is finally finished and it’s time to present, announcing your work to your peers with the help of your new ally friends feels so accomplished…until you find out there’s a Q &A session. There are no scripted answers or obvious questions. You think your resolution is perfect, so what could they possibly ask? Although you wrote most of the paper yourself, you find yourself repeating many uhms and buts until your co-sponsor takes pity and answers the question for you.
The first closing ceremony you attend you have the strangest feelings of fear, euphoria, and relief. Despite the fact that you made many mistakes, you realize that your colleagues did as well. Though winning would be wonderful, mostly you are relieved that it is over. Your team congratulates you on your first conference and you tell funny stories about weird things that occurred or how it all went to hell at the end with assassinations. The ceremony begins and one the winners from each committee are called up and receive their awards. Your chair approaches the podium and the names begin to be called. The Honorable Mention goes to…
Trust me. We’ve all been there and done that. While some delegates will tell you that their first conference was a total breeze, and to some it may have been, many will recount a very similar story to you as the one hypothesized above. It is important to recognize that the people who seem extremely confident in themselves and their stances are just as nervous as you are but simply hide it better. There are key tips and information I like to tell the newcomers to my team before their first conferences that I will now share with you.
- You look great don’t worry. You look the same as you did when you dressed in the morning. Though your nerves may make you feel as if you look strange, I promise you didn’t randomly wear your older brother’s suit or spill spaghetti sauce on your formal dress in the five minutes between opening ceremonies and arriving at your committee.
- Take a deep breathe before you speak and release your panic when you exhale. Keep in mind that your time doesn’t start until your first word is uttered so you have time to go all the way up to the podium and prepare yourself mentally. I’m not suggesting you take an hour but take a few seconds, then begin. It’s okay to pause when you lose your train of thought. Just take another breath. It’s your first time and nobody is expecting perfection. Even veterans stutter and forget.
- Unmoderated caucuses can be confusing and at times scary. This is especially true if there are more than fifty people in the room. Pushing, shoving, shouting, and brush offs are not unheard of. This is the best time to speak up and let people hear your voice. Powerful and personable are adjectives I highly recommend striving to attain.
- Resolution writing is specific. It’s difficult at first but once you accidentally memorize some clauses and figure out the format, it becomes much, much simpler. There’s nothing wrong with writing during moderated if need be. Just collect all the clauses and piece them together. But write quickly as some conferences place a limit on the number of papers submitted. Come with your own ideas because sponsoring is an important part of gaveling and leading a bloc. But that becomes more important as you learn more. Lead because dropping from sponsorship status is common.
- You won’t win every time. You will win some and lose some. That’s life. Be happy that you had a great conference, stimulating debates, and met new people or saw old friends. Yes the feeling of walking up to receive an award can be unparalleled, but the relief you feel at the end of the day after a very long committee or conference can be just as fulfilling.
Model United Nations is not supposed to be an activity that causes extreme anxiety or fear. It’s not as if we jump out of planes. Many people forget that it is supposed to be fun. They wouldn’t make Jedi Councils and House of Cards committees if it wasn’t. There was a reason you joined up whether it was an interest in debate or enjoyment of politics. You found interest in this for a reason. Just go with it. Everyone has an experience like this. Everyone had a very first Model UN conference. Don’t let it define you or your experience. The first one may not have gone the way you imagined, but it really does get better. You improve and your strategies improve. You gain new skills you never thought would be a benefit to joining the team. It’s a community and a lifestyle that one day you will love as much as I do. And just remember, everyone started somewhere. No one just woke up one morning and became great at this.