Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking at a Model UN Conference
Public speaking is an inseparable part of the Model Un experience. While some delegates are born without this fear, for most of us it is a skill to be learned and practices just like playing guitar. Below are a set of tips to help get through those first few speeches and become a Model United Nations public speaking pro!
Take all the research you have and organize it like you would for an essay or study project. Organizing your thoughts and materials helps you become more calm and relaxed. When you have clear and organized material in front of you, even before you start writing your speech, you will already feel a reduction in anxiety so you can better focus on your main goal, giving a great speech.
The first rule of Model UN speeches is that your speech is not an exercise in memorization. Memorizing text is is skill actors develop. Model UN delegates, in contrast, need to give a clear speech that everyone can hear, understand and respond to. Allies and opponents alike sometimes need to have specific arguments or examples, which you might forget or not say as well if you try to speak from memory. Writing it all down will take your mind off of memorization and let you completely focus on delivery.
Nothing brings clarity like structure. Write out your key points and make sure they connect to each other. In real time you don’t need to read the script word for word but it’s important to understand what leads to what to make sure you hit all the key points even if you don’t say exactly every word you wrote.
The best way to make sure we are understood is to not speak in long, complicated or convoluted ways. Make sure toa void run on sentences or big words which turn people off. Model UN is about being understood by as many of our peers as possible so make sure that you use languages that everyone can understand.
While your speech is now concise and structured, if you can fit it in, spice it up with a strategic soundbyte or two. These should be short and easy to understand but built to get a reaction and peak interest. You can use soundbites and power words but make sure they are added strategically at the end. Build the extras around the speech, not the speech around the extras.
Sometimes we find so much good material that it’s hard to choose which facts we want to keep. In this case find the ones that are strongest for your speeches and for what is slightly less relevant or powerful read the next point.
Model UN usually has room for one to three fully pre scripted speeches (Opening statement on the agenda setting one one per topic) after which the debate becomes more dynamic. Later speeches will be more of a conversation and sometimes easier than that first speech. If you find facts and figures you want to use, or think will be useful, save them on a separate page. By keeping them available you will have data, or smart sound bites, ready on the fly. Model UN is played for the long game and what you don’t use now you might need to use later.
You get to Carnegie Hall by practice and nailing the perfect Model UN speech is no different. Only when you read the speech out loud will you see if it rolls off the tongue or is your power words and phrases make sense.
“What if my UNDP hates my speech? What if they boo me off the floor?” Try to eliminate all fear of rejection. Model UN is a supportive community and understand that everyone has their first time. Also, listening to you, or each other, is the reason they are there. Do not be afraid, facing your fear is not only the only way to learn but also part of the game.
Once your speech flows naturally out of your mouth see how you look. Try to practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you were speaking to an audience.
Specifically, pay attention to:
Your facial expressions
Your body movements and gestures
If you seem relaxed and welcoming
When you know your content and have a calm demeanor, you will be much more welcoming to the other delegates.
Not everyone has a loud booming voice or Hollywood lawyer style charisma. We are most effective when are aware where we have a loud or soft voice or do better as a calm or dramatic speaker. Self awareness to the character we are is catering to the part of us we do best. When you are comfortable and pandering to your strengths you will be most authentic and others will want to listen more.
Some delegates naturally rush through their speech to get in as much as possible. In contrast, the right speech pause might be more powerful than the best material rushed through. As a bonus, pausing will not only increase your effectiveness but also give you time to semi relax, recompose yourself and breath.
“Some say the dramatic pauses is so powerful that they should be illegal.”
Types of Pauses:
The emphatic pause - Used to emphasize an important point
The dramatic pause - Give a point time to stick in listeners minds
The sense pause - Allows people to both absorb new information and catch up with you
The sentence-completion pause - Used by making a statement, or quote, which everyone knows and letting the other delegates complete it for you
Now that you’ve seen yourself in the mirror it might be time to get a second opinion. It can be a friend, from life or Model UN, or a mentor if you want a more experienced opinion. You don’t have to listen to everything they say but sometimes that second opinion can be the difference between good and excellent, both with style and content.
When you are up there, focus on delivering your material as best you can. Do not worry about the reactions of the other delegates. Focus on giving your speech as best you can and the attention of others will follow.
“The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.”
Even the famous Warren Buffett had a fear of public speaking at first. He got over the fear by teaching investing to senior citizens. This continued practice forced him to talk to people and become a more effective communicator. Now that you has your speech, bullet points and positive attitude, run through your speech, or speeches, again to make them flow naturally.
After you give your speech recognize your success. Some tend to focus only on the negative asking themselves and others “What did I do wrong?” and only want the negative. For many of us, this is the first time we are doing something that we are not trained to do. Public speaking is not natural for some and like with any new skill, positive feedback is sometimes the strongest motivation to keep going.
Be proud of yourself. Your strongest critic will always be you. After you are done, give yourself a pat on the back. After all, you overcame your fears and did everything you were working towards. Be proud of yourself.
Working with feedback, from others and ourselves, is half way to significantly improving the next speech you give. Write down what you did well and what you’d want to improve.
Use questions like the following:
How did I do?
What should I definitely do next time?
What should I avoid?
Did I seem rigid or or make any weird facial expressions?
How often did I use my notes?
Did anything distract me?
The key is to learn, take notes and see how you can improve on your presentation for next time.
While practice makes perfect and genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration the willingness to get up and speak is already half the battle! Most people are too scared to try and if you got this far the rest will come with persistence, a positive attitude and practice. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are the champions of Model UN so now that you have the tools, get out there and speak!