WHAT TO DO BEFORE
It’s one week to your first conference, but you have barely prepared and no one has briefed you on what to do. How could you possibly pull off being Djibouti in a week to discuss nuclear non-proliferation with over a hundred delegates? Fret not, as this guide will walk you through the key things you will need to survive your first
DO YOUR RESEARCH
The foundation of being a good delegate is in knowing the facts surrounding the topics at the
committee. They aim to accurately represent the stance of their country, while balancing the
national interests of other countries, rival or allied, to reach a reasonable consensus. Before the conference, be familiar with the details regarding the issue – and not just the statistics. To facilitate your research, you can create an organised MUN folder, where you can collect relevant articles to your solutions, highlighting relevant portions of information as you go. Although specific information is important, more relevant is understanding the roots of the problem and knowing how to improve already existing solutions to the problem at hand,
considering how countries with differing stakes in your issue will approach solutions differently. After all, MUN is a platform for problem solving, not trivia. As Master Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, “Know the enemy and know yourself, and you will win a hundred battles.” Familiarising yourself with the perspectives of your country and your opponent’s will help you get there much more easily.
Writing a strong position paper would get you there, as through the process of writing, you come to be familiar with your own countries’ interests, as well as their stance, from their past actions to their current involvement. This sets you up for good defense throughout the conference, but more importantly, allows you to gain greater insight into how to achieve consensus with the rest of the committee. In some conferences, your position paper will be shared with the rest of the committee. A strong position paper would position you well for
the conference, as you would have created a good first impression as a delegate who
CHECK YOUR FACTS AND KNOW YOUR ALLIES
When it comes to research, it is also important to take into account the reliability and inherent biases that lie in sources. For example, government websites may have other underlying objectives, such as political agendas that may affect the objectivity of their information provided or portrayed. These will be useful for crafting your position paper, which will need to accurately reflect your country’s stance, but during debate, cross-checking with your other sources is a useful tool for determining which facts are the most credible to use.
In addition, while researching, it will also be useful to find the countries that either hold similar views on the issues you are interested in, or are in the same regional groupings as your country. Understanding your allies and issues will not only aid you in forming blocs during the conference, but also generate solutions that are more likely to be adopted.
COME UP WITH RESOLUTION IDEAS
After finishing your research, formulate some of your own solutions to propose by the time of the conference, since you would want to be a part of crafting a resolution. Although you do not need to have completed a resolution prior to the conference, having thought of ideas or even clauses will ensure that you will be able to effectively contribute to not only lobbying, but also the debate itself. At the conference, be open to suggestions and leave room for negotiation.
COME WITH A CHARGED LAPTOP
Especially in THIMUN-styled conferences, the first day tends to be full of lobbying and resolution building. Most delegates will be using tools like Google Docs to collaborate, and naturally, this makes having a functional laptop on the day important to contribute your ideas. How else would you collaborate with other delegates? If you’ve prepared clauses in advance, this will help you even more as you can immediately copy and paste your clause into the resolution. Furthermore, laptops are also more useful than phones at undertaking additional fact-checks and research, and results can be immediately incorporated into your resolution drafts and folders to print for the next day.
WRITE AND PRINT YOUR OPENING SPEECH
Many conferences require all delegates to present an opening speech, and it will be the best
opportunity to assert your presence early in the conference. Unlike other speeches that you will be giving later, the opening speech will probably be the only speech that will be predetermined, not subject to variables, which means that you can fully utilise as much time as you want to prepare and fine-tune it. Hence, be sure to practice your speech until you are fully familiarised with the material. Practice in front of a mirror, checking for your body language. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, and speak at a steady, comfortable pace, making sure not to be too fast. If it helps, you can even simulate the situation itself – practice the walk up to the podium as you are called, making sure to stride confidently.
Your opening speech is the best opportunity to make a strong first impression. Hence, use this chance to outline your country’s stance and establish the attitude that you as a delegate will be taking (diplomatic? aggressive?) to the rest of your house. Finally, to be safe, print out your speech as some conferences disallow electronic devices during debate. For more details, see this page for more tips on crafting that perfect opening speech. In short: don’t panic! Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is always a challenge – but with due preparation and some courage, your first conference will surely be a fun experience, and hopefully the start to a fruitful journey with MUN. Good luck!