The conferences you choose to participate in will shape the entire year for you and your Model UN team. That may sound a bit dramatic, but there is truth behind it. Choosing the right conference for your team in the most important decision you have to make as a society president, training officer teacher and team sponsor. Your choice will determine how you prepare, your country and committee assignments, competition level, budget, what you gain from the specific conference and your ability to win awards. Also, for new societies, how motivated successful and your students will be can depends on how successful your first conferences are.
The problem is that there are so many conferences to choose from. Every conference has something to offer your team, but there are so many factors to take into account when making your choice. In the end, you should choose the conference that best benefits your team compared to where it is at at a given time. With this article, we hope to make the choosing process a little bit easier. We broke down the criteria to take into account when choosing a conference, compiled some of the best tips for choosing the right conference and made a comprehensive list just for you.
How to Choose the Right MUN Conference
Reasons Teams Go to a Model UN Conference
1) For the Experience
When you begin your research to find the best conference, you will often come across the big-name conferences like Harvard MUN or NMUN in New York. These are the brand name conferences for a reason. Teams work hard to go to these conferences and these teams are the best in the game. The big conferences offer impressive speaker lineups and are great for photo ops for your school. However, these conferences are very large and new schools would get lost in the format. Committees tend to be large and very competitive. They are usually filled with experienced delegates who have done this for years. The big conference fees are also more than smaller, regional conferences.
To contend with the regular participants of these conferences takes time and usually requires your team to go to a few conferences a year. Unless your funding depends on the photo opps or brand name of the location new teams should consider smaller conferences first. There are many of those and they will help build your team’s reputation. They will give your students a chance to learn how to handle the stresses of a conference in a way that allows them to grow.
2) To Win Awards
ALmost every MUN conference will have awards. These will vary depending on the conference, but will likely revolve around committee participation, position paper writing, and resolutions. There will often be best delegate awards for each committee and awards for best research binders. The single best determiner of how well your team performed, as with any team, is its ability to win awards. For a new team, winning awards will help bring prestige to your school and help secure your funding for subsequent conferences. Parents and teachers will also be pleased to see their children be part of something like that, as awards can be mentioned in college applications. Most of all, your students will be excited at their accomplishments.
As a new team, focus on the smaller or less known conferences. The best teams will be going to the larger ones. They’ve already been through their training period. You are just starting yours. Master the smaller conferences, give your team the boost and one day you will be able to take on the big teams successfully.
The Build Relationships
You can also look for annual conferences that are small to medium sized. If your team is the only one from it’s country or region, regular attendance could give you a special relationship with the hosting society or host school team. As you network with the conference attendees and become a regular visitor, there will be opportunities for your students to become chairs of committees and sometimes even secretariat. Perhaps one of your students could one day be the secretariat of the whole conference. There are many leadership opportunities for your students in Model UN and a conference that you are friendly with is generally happy to push its friends forward.
This is a building process that requires at least two years to create. This link over time will bring more and more expertise to your students. This can also be a positive starting point for newer students, where they will go and meet their new members of the friend society in a safe environment. A relationship with a conference and a society can go a long way but, especially with a limited budget, will limit where else you can attend. Also, some conferences that are good for relationships are not good for winning awards. Each one should be judged on a case by case basis.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Model UN Conference
Level of Competition
Are you competing against seasoned teams?
Are you ready for a high level of competition?
Choose a conference relative to your team’s expertise.
Your Country and Committees
If you are a new team, especially if your delegation isn’t large, you will not likely be given big countries or committee assignments. This is not a bad thing. Smaller ones help students gain experience.
Try to master any country or committee. Do your best with what you are given.
Does this conference reassign countries if a school drops out? Will they upgrade you or offer you another country?
Does the conference offer you a guide to help on conference day?
Many conferences will give you a guide for each country you are assigned. This is a bonus. The guides will make sure you get to where you need to be.
(For teachers) What do they offer the teacher?
Are there any sessions or get togethers for team teachers and advisors?
Maybe they have trips for teachers during a portion of the conference.
Does the conferences offer any considerations for parents who want to attend?
You want to involve parents. Keep them happy!
Every conference should have a list of local accommodations close to the conference site.
Whether a hotel, hostel, Airbnb or other, make sure to book your rooms well before the conference for better rates.
Check the accommodations ratings. Make sure you are going somewhere decent.
Book accommodation that fits your budget and suits your needs
Book accommodation close to the conference and make sure you know how to get there.
Will you be using district activity busses or a charter?
Arrange early for best pricing.
Does the conference offer translators?
If so, try to book near there
If not, plan accordingly
(For teachers) If parents are joining or visiting, will they drive themselves or ride with the team?
Check conference policy on parental chaperones.
Parents can be a great help to you during the conference.
If the conference is in another country or dialect region, do you have someone who speaks the language?
Is the city, or region, English friendly?
Is it tourist friendly?
What will you do after conference hours?
Are there low-cost or free activities that would be appropriate for your students?
Is there swimming available? Do they have a lifeguard?
Sometimes there will be dances involved with the conference. Be sure to know about these and have students bring appropriate attire. These dances are good ways for students to unwind after a long conference.
Do you have a roaming plan for your cell phone?
At least one member of your team should be connected. If your phone plan doesn’t give a good deal buy a local sim.
(For teachers) Parents will want to stay in contact with students. Most of them will have their own phones, but make sure you are always available for parents.
Do you have cameras and backup batteries?
Your team and school (and parents) will want pictures.
Some photos can be used to send to the local paper.
Remember, you want attention for your school.
Assign someone the job of being the team photographer.
Can be a parent or student who does not want active role in committees.
Choosing the correct conference is tough and should be well thought out. Whether you have a new team, or a society with year under the belt, choose a conference that will allow your students to shine. A Model UN team is not a one-year adventure; it is a long-term endeavor with many who started in high school students continuing through grad school.
A new baseball team is not expected to win the World Series its first year. You won’t be expected to win every award your first year either. Do your best and encourage your students to do as well as they can and let experience, and the continued friendships and ambition, to provide the momentum to keep you moving forward.