How to run MUN Tryouts
From advertising your club to delegate selection
If you are reading this guide, then congratulations, you have joined or created a MUN club! As a new member of the organizing team, you have done all the paperwork, filled out all the forms, got all of your schedules and budget approved by your school or university, you have chosen time slots for sessions and you are finally ready to go. On the D-Day, you finally go to your allocated room, push the door, your heart beating fast as you prepare to enter a new age of Model United Nations.
As you enter the room, you quickly realize one crucial missing feature. One tiny detail you forgot to include during your countless weeks of hard work. You realize you’re the only one in that massive conference room.
Well okay, it might be an exaggeration. You will, most likely, be surrounded by other members of the Exec Committee and a few veterans if you’ve joined an existing club instead of founding your own. But you will certainly stare at the room with anguish, wondering how you will run a club if no one joins it?
Fear not. This guide will cover the basics of getting people interested in joining your Model United Nations club – not just your friends and family, but complete strangers, with the power of branding and advertisement – all the way through getting them to come to the tryout sessions and, most importantly, to get them to engage regularly with your weekly activities and conferences.
So how do you make people interested in your club, and how do you organize those tryouts?
The most efficient way to get people (especially students) interested in joining your club is the same used to convince them to purchase an expensive coffee. Creating a mutually beneficial relationship with the help of a killer advertising plan. So, what should be in your advertising toolbox?
Now, I can hear those who were sleeping through the introduction at the back of the class gasping “But I don’t know anything about branding? What even is this, what does this nonsense business graduate jargon even mean?”
Well, it is actually quite simple. The term “branding” generally refers to an entire arsenal of features that will help you stand out. Before you can start advertising, you will need to equip yourself with the following:
- Color scheme. Most MUN use gradients of blue and/or gold, but you can really use whatever you feel is prettier for your club. You will use this for fonts, logos, flyers, goodies, whatever you will want to equip your club with.
- Logo, many Model UN clubs choose something related to Model UN like a gavel, laurel wreaths. You don’t have to follow this rule, just make sure you choose something evocative and efficient, so people don’t have to think too hard about what your club does. You can design your MUN club logo using a free tool like Canva.
- Catchphrases and keywords, it is not necessary, still, a catchy and efficient motto will always be a plus to help you stand out at your local clubs’ fair. Come up with a list of keywords to use when presenting your club while asking yourself “what will it do for its recruits?” (public speaking skills, confidence, debating, international outlooks are some good keywords)
Efficient social media apparatus.
Promoting a MUN club is not so different than promoting any other type of organization or school club. You need to be present, visible and accessible so people know exactly what to expect.
In the era of social media, the same strategy needs to be applied online. You do not need to be present on every single platform, just make sure you utilise correctly the ones you will choose. Facebook and Twitter are the most recommended platforms for a semi-professional organisation like Model United Nations, but your strategy is yours to establish.
- If you choose aesthetics and visuals over content, use Instagram.
- If you are good at snappy comments, humour and concise communication, Twitter is the place to be.
- If you want to engage people with your content and get them to know about your events, then a Facebook page is the way to go.
You can pick and choose your social networks as you please, and establish your strategy following your gut. Remember that using a platform that you are already comfortable with on a personal level will be a lot easier for you to use. In the field of advertising, consistency is also key, so when establishing your strategy, remember that you will have to post fairly regularly and maintain an online presence – so you might as well pick a platform you already enjoy being on!
Get a booth at your local clubs’ fair
Some MUN clubs will be completely independent from school and universities, still the majority will be run in the context of an academic setting of some sort. In recent years, events like clubs’ fairs and freshers’ fairs have gained traction and popularity on campuses – at universities and high schools alike – and have become almost a rite of passage for new students. If you are lucky enough to operate in such a setting, it is crucial that you sign up for a booth at your local clubs’ fair.
Such events can seem very intimidating, especially when you consider that it is usually the beginning of the school year and you might have other things to worry about, how many other clubs are presenting their ideas and the fact that every single one of them will attempt to recruit more or less aggressively. However, to engage new members and get them to attend your tryout sessions, it is important that you go there and tell people directly what you do and how you can benefit them.
If your school allocates some funds to you, this might also be a good time to invest in some goodies – students, especially, love free things and this is a good way to get their attention – some food or beverages to keep their hands full when you’re explaining your brilliant ideas, or even flyers and posters to spice up your booth and make it look prettier (visuals are key!). Again, this step is not compulsory, and ultimately the attraction of your club will depend on how you present it to your future recruits, so do not worry if your club is too broke to afford any of what was discussed above. It is a plus, but not what matters most.
Build a Website
Again, this one is not compulsory, as some clubs cannot afford to maintain or design an efficient website, but if you have a couple of bucks or hours to spare, this will be a very professional looking tool for people to gather information on. The purpose of the website will be to centralise all of your activities, information, registration forms, and whatever you will advertise on your social media anyway. Since Facebook pages are not well optimised for people who are looking for a specific piece of information – even if you put it on your Facebook page, it is likely that it will somehow get lost under a pile of new content – a website will be your best friend when you want clarity and organisation.
What should you always include on your website?
Your contact information. Emails of the relevant staff members (or an [email protected] email if you have one), the address of your organisation (or at least where people can come and find you), a phone number if you have one to give, or even a “Contact us” form that people can fill for general inquiries. Getting in touch with you should be painless and brainless.
An embedded calendar. It is frustrating how many MUN clubs will just forget to include this on either their website or their Facebook page. You need to let people know when and where they can attend sessions, go to conferences, come to the socials, and so on. Especially if your MUN club changes rooms or time slots often, you need to include this information and make it as accessible as possible. You don’t run a spy club, make it easy for people to join you – besides, Google Calendars are free and so easy to embed on many website builders, so don’t skip it!
Some pictures of recent events. Again, this will most likely end up on your social media as well, but for people who will attend your conferences, it is always nice to have a place where they can easily find all the pictures scattered across social media. Before taking them, make sure you have the subjects’ permission!
Any documents and forms you will need your delegates to find. Some exec teams will produce a ton of different forms available for people to sign up for conferences, social events, or even surveys. While you will most likely post them on your social media to get people to fill them out, it is always useful to have them clearly and chronologically displayed on your website (or even by category, be creative about your organisation) so people can easily find them and fill them out. If you also produce a lot of documents (we’re looking at you, Training Officers/Teachers!), it is essential that you display them available to download on your website as well.
“So are you like a debate club?”
Now that you have all those tools ready and available to you, it is time to prepare a strategy for your advertising. Ultimately, this will be yours to establish, but some advice can still be of use. Most of the time, as mentioned previously, you will operate in an academic setting, which entails that you might compete for recruitment against think tanks, debate clubs, and other similarly interested groups.
How do you stand out from the crowd, online and otherwise? How do you avoid the dreaded question “So are you like a debate club?” when you meet your future recruits?
Prior to starting to advertise your Model UN club, meet up with other members of the organization team, some members from previous years or even teachers, and ask yourselves the simple question “What did Model UN bring to our lives that nothing else could?”. The best way to stand out from the ever-growing crowd of think tanks and debate clubs is to ask yourselves what makes you different, and what extra skills, confidence or academic value can you bring that they cannot? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to these questions, so it will be up to you to determine what makes you different from the other clubs, as each setting is completely unique. For establishing this list, make sure you check out other clubs’ Facebook pages, websites, and whatever information you have at hand, and list down what makes you different. Here are a couple of ideas you and your team can start reflecting upon:
- MUN is strictly international
- There is a variety of committees and a variety of challenges
- It mimics an actual institution with very real executive power and complex agendas
- It provides you with unique debating skills as it is a challenge to debate in a setting with strictly enforced protocol
- It teaches compromise and leadership alike
The Taster Session
So now that you have successfully advertised your Model United Nations club, it is time to invite people to your taster sessions (or tryouts) to get them to experience what a MUN session really feels like. It is important to keep in mind that most of your new recruits will be complete beginners in Model UN, and the protocol is not the easiest to grasp either. Making sure that your taster session is entertaining yet productive and finding the right balance between enticing people to come back, getting the delegates with good potential to stay and weeding out the slackers while establishing your club as a serious endeavor is not an easy task, but do not worry, here are a couple of tips on how to do just that.
Pick the topic and date long before you even start your advertising process.
The taster session (or tryout), as mentioned above, has the complex task of serving as a “sample” of what recruits are to expect throughout the upcoming year, but it is also a useful moment for you to notice those with great potential, and the ones you think are not built for Model UN. As such, a taster session will almost always be the most important day of the year for any Model UN club, so it needs to be carefully prepared in the very early days of your club’s existence so it can be a fully ready project by the time you start advertising. Preparing early will always pay off!
Select an incredible topic and keep it simple.
This is a tricky one. Most Model UN clubs are run by people who either already know what impact MUN can have and take it very seriously, by teachers who, by definition, will take it incredibly seriously, or by beginners who will know nothing of MUN and simply mimic the United Nations, which happens to – you guessed it – take itself quite seriously.
But seriousness will not be your best friend when recruiting students and getting them interested right off the bat; in fact, it can turn out to be an enemy. Most students already have an entire curriculum ahead of them, essays and deadlines galore, new friends to make, new teachers to meet… it is a stressful time for everybody involved, so you do not want to add to the growing list of their serious woes. You might want instead to present your club as a playtime for the mind, when they can unleash their inner political beast and let them impersonate someone else for a few hours. Basically, the winning strategy to get people interested in Model UN is to present it as some kind of political Dungeons and Dragons; with the chair as the game Master, and the delegates trying to survive in a hostile environment.
When selecting a topic, you should therefore keep in mind that MUN in itself is quite dull. There is a bunch of very complex rules to remember, speaking time is regulated very strictly, the format of debating is very arduous to grasp (formal and informal debates are unique to Model UN), the format of resolutions to be produced is complicated… basically, unless you find someone who is overly interested in the United Nations before even coming to Model UN, these factors will not play in your favor for taster sessions.
So when picking out a topic, remember that this is the first topic most people will ever debate in the context of Model UN. Although you are free to choose the topic as you please, it is recommended that you pick something fun, lighthearted and hyperbolic to get your new recruits both interested and stimulated. For instance, you can choose the topic of a zombie invasion that is growing more disastrous as the debate goes on, get inspired by Tolkien’s division of nations and territories and fight back against Sauron, argue about which of Marvel or DC produces the best superheroes or try to stop aliens from invading the Earth.
The point is, you can choose whichever topic you want, as long as it is engaging and fun; Make sure your new recruits grasp the concept of Model UN while having a good time.
Keep the rules of procedure simple. They do not have to know about the concept of a panel of authors from day 1. Keep the rules of procedure to a minimum, and explain as simply as you can. It does not have to be perfect, it just has to be enjoyable for them. Usually, the first few taster sessions will cover the basic differences between formal and informal debates, explain that delegates must express themselves using the third person but not be too uptight about it, and make sure that they understand that the chair is the one to give permission to speak. Motions and points can be explained simply at the beginning and clarified as you go along, the most important thing is that they all understand what is going on.
Keep the debate animated and the delegates engaged.
This section will cover the most efficient way to keep your delegates focused, engaged and invested in your taster session. There are several strategies to adopt, all of which depend on how well you know the people attending, how many delegates from previous years will decide to join you, and if teachers will be present.
- Pair beginner and advanced delegates together. If you have several people from previous years joining you, this is a perfect opportunity to assign them a beginner or two to “coach” them until they are confident enough to tackle the challenge on their own. You can even build teams if the number of beginners overweight significantly the number of experienced delegates present in the room.
- Go around the room so everyone can introduce themselves briefly. This will help you identify those who will stand up and speak confidently, those who will be neutral, and those who will be somehow shy or reluctant to speak. Make sure that the chair for this session adapts their behaviour to the crowd, assigns the polar opposites to energetic and confident delegates – who does not enjoy a good verbal jousting between the US and North Korea.
- Be adaptable to the general mood of the room. Rely on the strongest elements to keep the debate going when the room quiets down, and make sure the chair encourages everyone to try to speak. Have a benevolent, open and cheerful attitude.
- Never be too strict on ROP enforcement. As mentioned previously, boredom will be your enemy during taster sessions. Rules of Procedures are arduous and can really slow down even the most advanced debates if enforced too strictly. Be open to questions and guide your delegates on the right path, but leave rigid rule enforcement to Dolores Umbridge.
- If you feel the debate slowing down, throw more elements in the arena. Always enter a session with an arsenal of plot twists, ideas, threats and sprinkle the debate with extra challenges to keep the delegates entertained as long as needed.
Pick an accommodating date for your taster session
Again, informing yourself will always bring you an advantage when recruiting new people for your club. Figure out when other clubs are holding their taster sessions, and make sure yours comes after (if possible), so you give your grandiose opening session the possibility to eclipse the others in the mind of the new recruits – however, don’t schedule your taster session after 15 other sessions of the same kind, you do not want your recruits to feel tired when they arrive. More importantly, figure out if your school or university has a particular day during which the timetable of most students is lighter (for instance, Wednesday afternoon) while making sure you pick a day when students are already on campus, no one wants to take an afternoon off their well deserved weekend to attend a taster session on campus. Be strategic about the date you select!
e. Pick a medium sized room
This tip might seem a bit strange compared to the others, but it is equally important. When selecting which room to book when you hold your taster session, don’t think optimistically about how many people are going to attend. Always select a lower figure for your attendance predictions, so you are almost sure to not have a large, nearly empty conference room on your hands on the D-Day. Since the devil is in the details, remember that your goal is to impress. If your new recruits walk in and see a medium-sized room absolutely packed, and some people even have to sit on brought-in chairs, that will be psychologically more impactful than walking into a massive conference room with a lot of empty seats. In the first scenario, it will give your new recruits the impression that your club has engaged a lot more people (they are ready to sit on the stairs, there must be something to it!) and people are generally less shy in smaller rooms than they are in amphitheaters. Since most of your recruits will be first-timers, it is important for them to feel at ease; the fun topic of discussion, your natural charisma, and the feeling of ease provided by the smaller room are winning factors to help you nail your taster session.
Have food and drinks available.
Again, this is not compulsory if your club’s bank account closely resembles the Gobi desert. However, even if you just provide glasses of water in plastic cups, it is always a plus to have food and drinks available, so people can stay behind after the session and have a chat with you. Making yourself available, answering questions, inviting people personally to other sessions, hearing their feedback will make your new recruits feel appreciated and more inclined to join you again.
Plan an enjoyable social event afterward.
Running a successful club, especially in MUN, is not just teaching people new things and attending conferences. It is also about building a community and let people enjoy hanging out with each other in this context. Thus, planning an enjoyable social event after your taster session will always be a plus. It can be as simple as booking a large table at your local pub for the evening, but make sure you invite everyone present at the end of your taster session – people will always be more inclined to say yes if they are invited in person, especially by someone from the organisation team!
The good, the bad, and the delegate
Now that you have done all that you can to ensure that your new recruits have the time of their lives attending your taster session, it is time for you to make sure they are as useful for the club as the club is useful to them.
During the taster session, you will need to separate the recruits into at least three distinct categories (it can be more, it depends on how you want to work).
- The delegates with a lot of potential
- The good delegates
- The people not built for Model UN.
Depending on how you decide to run your club and what your aim is in the long run, you can decide to invite everybody to join, focus on the good and excellent ones, or even just on the excellent ones. However, keep in mind that as you dive deeper into the local – and, later, international – scene of Model UN through conferences, these delegates will represent you and your club. Choose them carefully if you decide to choose them at all.
Everyone can have a shot at MUN if they are equipped with the proper public speaking and confidence tools. There is no one who is inherently bad at Model UN. However, you will immediately notice during your taster session who is interested, who wants to be there, and who does not. It can either be because they were dragged there by more eager friends, or they intend to sit through the sessions to earn a few easy extra credits. You might want to think twice about approving these delegates’ applications to join your club or a conference, especially if they prove themselves to be troublemakers. You will already have a lot on your mind as you manage the club itself, you should attempt to make your own life easier.
The same logic can be applied for the delegations you will send to other conferences. Measure the progress of your delegates quite regularly, and send them to conferences where they can realise their potential : beginner conferences for beginners, intermediate conferences for intermediate delegates, and advanced conferences for the most confident veterans. During the first few months of your club being created, it is certain that you will already aim to shine among the greatest conferences around, but putting a beginner delegate in an advanced committee is an almost surefire way to get them to loathe the exercise, especially given that some advanced delegates can prove themselves to be quite witty. Greatness is always built with patience, so don’t rush yourself and your new recruits!