Important Conference Skills
Model United Nations and Model Congress offer participants the opportunity not only to be exposed to critical life skills, but also to further develop them in a constructive and supportive environment.
The typical high school student has not had the opportunity to self-direct a research project, to develop positions on issues, speak with authority at the front of a room of 100 people, build consensus around ideas, resolve potentially explosive conflicts, or negotiate. Model UN and Model Congress are unique in that they provide the opportunity to develop and enhance these skills in a comfortable, yet unscripted format.
Self-Directed Research and Developing Positions
Learning about your topic, state, country, or political party seems easy — basic research can tell you about these various factors, but perhaps the most complicated part is figuring out how to do research when you are representing a specific state or country. Instead of learning about Access to Education or Privatizing Social Security, you will be forced to focus that learning through a very specific lens. As you collect information, you will need to determine what data is important, and how you can take that information and construct a coherent, concise policy. The Model UN and Model Congress background guide, and the process of researching and writing a position paper are excellent opportunities to develop these important skills. Not only will you have the chance to learn from the experience itself, but your committee director will offer feedback and constructive criticism on your positions, giving you the chance to assess your work.
Speaking with Authority
One of the hardest aspects of a Model UN or Model Congress conference for inexperienced delegates is standing at the front of the room and speaking in front of a large group of people. Let’s face it, that can be nerve-wracking. At a Model UN or Model Congress conference, though, that almost becomes second nature. Whether you are stating your initial position on an issue, commenting on some creative solutions you have developed, or even advocating for or against a particular resolution, you’re standing at the front of the room and addressing a potentially large number of people. The nice thing about public speaking in this case, is that most likely you’re not going to know most of these people, so there’s no reason to be nervous! Moreover, everyone in the room is having the same hesitations you are, so there’s no need for concern. Whereas at the beginning of the conference you might have been anxious even to try, by the end, you’ll be jumping up to get your point across, and before you know it, you’ll thrive on speaking to groups, not fear it!
Building Consensus and Conflict Resolution
Effective Model UN and Model Congress participants are those that can coalesce support around issues, develop consensus for innovative solutions, and put out fires along the way. The Resolution and Bill phase of any Model UN or Model Congress conference is designed to help you to accomplish just that. Until that point, you will have been working with your fellow committee members for several hours to develop a variety of solutions to the topic at hand. But as you start moving to putting words on paper, that’s the time when consensus-building and conflict resolutions skills will really come into play. Your first few conferences might be difficult to take the leading role in this process — it’s important to observe your peers and learn some effective strategies, and before you know it, you’ll be the one standing in the middle of a crowd, convincing your fellow committee members to vote for or against a certain resolution or bill.
One of the most important skills that you will develop at a conference like this is negotiation. When drafting a resolution or bill, you start making decisions about what to include or what to omit. As you are working with your peers, you will have conversations about how you can support a particular idea, or how your colleague might not be able to support another. By practicing a little “give and take” or negotiating, you will likely be able to develop a bill or resolution that can garner the support of enough members of your committee for it to pass. Or if you’re not the one managing the process, you will learn the important skill of making sure that your voice is heard, and so that your ideas and objections are reflected in the final document.