Arriving at a conference, whether it is the very first or fifth or even fifteenth one, is always a very special moment in the life of an MUNer. For a newbie in this weird but amazing world however, the experience of discovering the committee members, the chairs, the staff and a whole lot of other interesting people, finding a place in such a diverse but ephemeral community, and dealing with the pressure of the upcoming debates, might be overwhelming and sometimes scary. The key and eternal trick to learn to cope with this kind of situation is training : while reading the Study guide and writing your position papers prepares your participation at a conference in substance, trainings and coaching sessions will give you a solid basic knowledge of the rules of procedure which it will be easy to build on with experience, a speech routine, and a liking for new encounters and discussion, which will allow you to start this new adventure confidently.
The different types and methods of MUN training collected in this series are examples you can find in MUN societies around Europe, but they are certainly not the only means to pass on knowledge about conferences and prepare delegates.
First Type: The classical open training cycle
Source: Sorbonne Model United Nations (SONU)
The open-for-all training cycles are one of the main methods of the Paris 1 University MUN society, Sorbonne ONU. A training Cycle, divided into three sessions over three weeks, gives a chance to beginners and intermediates to go into the most important steps and elements of a conference in a more informal and very educational framework. This type of training is a space for discovery and learning, and opens the doors of the MUN world to all those who are interested, regardless of the study area, experience or difficulties in English. The considerable asset of this method is a scan of about all the elements and potential challenges we can meet in a traditional MUN : from preparation and the first speeches, through moderated and unmoderated caucuses and the drafting of position papers and resolutions, up to the voting procedure, most of the time, everything will be tackled throughout a cycle.
1. Research and position
In general, the topic of a cycle is chosen by the members of the training team, who usually prepare a Study Guide, assign position, and give future delegates instructions about the preparation of the training.
An important component of this kind of training is the preparation of a topic, just like in « real life », et often the writing of a position paper according to the assigned country, which is then read and corrected by the chairs and sent back to you before the first session. Don’t be afraid of a topic that doesn’t fit 100% into your area of interest! Doing research in an unknown field can not only reveal pleasant surprises, but also be a lot more formative than staying on an already explored ground.
We don’t realize how difficult and important it is to write a position paper before actually starting to do it, but more and more training groups find a way to teach beginner delegates the how-to and subtleties of this « piece of paper » which, if well written, can be of extraordinary power and facilitate your participation in the debates. Take advantage of it!
2. The first steps towards addiction
During a first session, the chairs explain basic rules of procedure and the key expressions used in an MUN conference. The explanation is generally more detailed at the beginning of an academic year, since there are far more beginners in the groups at that time. Later in the year, the procedure recaps shorten and simplify, and mostly serve to recall the main lines and rules that are considered to be already known, but questions are always welcome! The first session will thus be used to clear your minds and get your thoughts straight, but also to work on uncertainties and confusion that are sometimes the simple result of contradictory RoPs of two conferences.
You will often be asked to prepare a short introductory speech of a minute, in order to present your country’s position. This allows everyone to speak formally for a first time in front of everyone, and compels you to express your position in a clearly understandable way. Between and after the speeches, the chairs resume and correct the frequent mistakes (such as the use of the first person).
The first times you speak will also help you to find your own difficulties. If you go to pieces as soon as you get up for a speech, if you have trouble speaking freely although you mastered the topic and know what you would like to say, if English words don’t come easily, the training team will be there to give you specific advice in order to help you exceed your limits and make progress. It is important never to afraid of asking a question or asking for help! If you are embarrassed to do it in front of the whole committee, which by the way you definitely should not, the experts will certainly be available to answer right after the session!
3. Write, speak, defend!
During the second session, the instructions and corrections of the chairs become more and more explicit, since the committee gets into the very heart of the matter, and delegates speak more spontaneously, without preparation. In this phase you will also produce your first written document, a working paper, which is a preparatory and more informal form of a draft resolution. Even if this document does not have to respect any specific form, you will progressively realize it is not that easy to collect your ideas and to compromise, without distorting your country’s point, while respecting its very own interests.
This part of the training is particularly challenging, since, besides doing it for the first time, you need to get organized with your fellow delegates and produce a written document based on your discussions, in the lapse of a week. But isn’t it rather reassuring to take a test run and have your work corrected by people who are there to help you, before you drive into the ice-cold waters of a real MUN’s drafting rush?
The third session might be the most interesting and formative part of a training cycle, especially for beginners. This is where you start to feel that hard drafting-work actually pays off, and as your confidence rises and defending your point becomes your ultimate challenge, you realize that participating in the debates is actually real fun. Besides the basic rules of drafting, amending and voting, you will learn a lot about different negotiating styles and personalities, mostly by observing and understanding your fellow delegates. For the more experienced participants, this is the moment to develop your convincing skills and refine your knowledge about the subtleties of diplomatic language. Ideally, the session ends with the adoption of a resolution that will be sent out to every delegate, and usually spares time for questions.
Number of sessions : 3 or 4 (1 per week) per cycle
Rules of procedure : Traditional (North-American) RoP
Preparation required? : yes
Selection : no (accessible to anyone, upon registration)
Number of delegates : unlimited (most of the time around 30)
Fit for beginners : yes
For other types of MUN training in France and elsewhere, stay tuned! Hope to see you back here very soon !
Want to join SONU in Paris?
For more information, take a look at http://sorbonneonu.fr/equipe/poles/mun/ and http://sorbonneonu.fr/rejoignez-nous/ !