6 MUN Presentation Habits to UN-Learn
The main issue with teaching public speaking for Model United nations delegates is that you don’t only deal with fears and insecurities, but you also find a lot of baggage in the form of bad presentation habits that developed due to either the wrong kind of practice to no practice at all. These habits develop through years of watching terrible presentations in movies and on YouTube, which are then seen as examples. Many of us can recognize a terrible public presentation, and actually work on some of the positive points written above, but never had someone pinpoint to us what the bad habits are and how to break them. The following lessons apply to all presenters: delegates, training officers, coaches, teachers, secretariat and anyone who has a speech to deliver or is teaching others to do so.
1. Don’t try to be a great “public” speaker
The idea that we need to give a “presidential” speech every time, does more harm than good. We often forget that the Hollywood style “presidential” speech comes right before a final strike against invading aliens. We forget that the “attorney’s closing statement” comes after two hours of investigation and character development. When we give the same impassioned speech in front of strangers we are more likely to turn them off by sounding stuffy and out of touch.
Delegates and chairs alike want to listen to a speech that is relevant, but also relaxed, and comfortable. In the routine conversations, we all have many times a day we have no problem being comfortable as ourselves. Yet, when we get up to give a speech, the focus goes to the “public” at the expense of the “speaking.” An effective Model UN public speech needs to do the opposite, focus on the speaking and let go of the “public.” Think of it as a conversation between you and the other delegates, be yourself, talk directly to people, do not worry about what others think and just be yourself.
How to Un-Learn this Habit
Especially for your first speeches, when writing your speech, put in lines that sound more natural and less formal. Whether it’s a joke, bad pun, story or using casual phrases, such as “Fellow delegates, sometimes to make a difference we need to get off our butts and get our hands dirty”. While they may seem forced at times, these less formal lines will help us break the pattern of dry and “perfect” speeches, and show us it is ok, and sometimes even more effective, to speak ad relate like a person.
2. Excessive apologizing
When you make a mistake, the one who cares most is you. Even the most accomplished Model UN delegate will make a mistake during a speech here and there. Keep in mind that you will notice more than anyone else in the audience. The best thing you can do after making a mistake is to continue without pause. Don’t stop and — unless the mistake was gigantic —never apologize to the audience. Unless you handed out a pre-written copy of the speech, the audience will never know if you forgot a word, skipped a sentence or said the wrong name. “To err is human,” and will sometimes make your speech more relatable. Think about how you would not be judgemental of others if they made mistakes and give them the same courtesy. Model United Nations delegates don’t want to hear from a delegate who is “perfect;”. Often times, the “perfect” delegate will get antagonism in response. Everyone would rather relate to someone who is real and making sure to embrace your mistakes and move on is a good way to do it.
How to Un-Learn this Habit
Avoid Negative Framing
The key to un-learning how to get over making mistakes is to make sure to first avoid apologizing. The most common places for an apology with new speakers are before they start, with likes like “I am sorry this is going to suck” or “sorry this is going to be a mess. As we cannot preempt our mistakes, the first step is to make sure to at least not apologize for something which is normal and forgivable.
When we say “this is going be really bad” that is what the chair and other delegates will be primed to look for. You do not need to start with “This is going to be the most amazing speech since sliced bread” but avoiding negative framing goes a long way. Also, if your speech is going to be THAT BAD, they will notice. You don’t need to warn them. The key is to avoid negative framing when that isn’t the case.
Those looking for extreme practice can purposely put mistakes into the speech to read them through. However, the biggest first step is to catch yourself and never apologize whether at the beginning, middle or end.
Words from the masters:
There was once a speech where the speaker, instead of using the word “circumstance” used the word “circumcise”. While this could have been a death blow, the speaker paused a second and continued with “What your problem? Me no speak English!”. While the audience had a good laugh and it cost a few seconds, everyone listened more intently to the rest of the speech and were more ready to work with the said speaker. The reason for this is that the speaker owned it, smiled and just kept going.
3. Relying On Your “Strong Leg” To Get You Through
For the Model UNers who are less afraid of crowds, but more used to extemporaneous speaking, one of their main challenges is to actually write a speech down instead of speaking off the cuff. Their belief in their methods is usually further supported by the success they have using charisma, over argumentation, with new Model UNers who are impressed by fluent speech and don’t yet know how to measure content.
Jim Endicott says presentation is a three-legged stool, comprised of three parts:
- Content/message (of the speech)
- Gimmicks / audiovisual aids (slideshows, pictures, recordings, etc.)
For each of the three legs, Model UN delegates often have some of the following:
- Sometimes, delegates will put too much focus on content. They will speak quickly with excessive facts while ignoring their manner of delivery.
- Other times, delegates will spend time on gimmicks in their speech, or use of audiovisual aids that the entire speech, content and delivery, fall by the wayside for the canned like or gimmick to work.
- For a few charismatic delegates, delivery is the natural primary focus. Because they rely on their wits instead of on their message, they don’t develop their content and have their point (if they have any) harder to recall for this reason.
“Work on developing a strong presentation that stands equally on all three legs.” – Jim Endicott
All three legs must work together in order for a speech to successfully resonate with audiences. If a delegate relies too heavily on one of these legs, their speech will have less of a chance of persuading.
How to Un-Learn this Habit
Write out your entire speech with an emphasis on catering to your weaker points. You may be a Model UN speech delivery superstar, but relying solely on your dazzling style to get you through a speech will make other delegates see you as a disorganized unprepared mess. And you can be the most informed delegate in the world, who read five study guides worth of material in preparation for the conference, but if you give a speech as a list of facts the other delegates are going to fall asleep. The use of good audiovisuals is less for Model UN speeches and more for business powerpoint presentations but still extremely useful to be aware of and a powerful tool if used correctly.
4. Believing an Informative Speech Will Bore the Committee
Each Model UN simulation starts as a tabula rasa, with the type of world the discussion will take place in undecided. Each delegate speaks about the issues but often times what they say are assumptions unless the bring facts and examples in their speeches.
Sometimes, we see that the committee needs a serious wake up speech, which brings actual information, to help get the discussion back on track. However, some delegates are reluctant to not seem the bookworm or be the one to inform everyone else. They are also afraid that taking the time to inform others will take away from time spent on improving their case.
How to Un-Learn this Habit
The best way to improve an informative speech, and make it interesting, is to tell the other delegates why the information is important every few facts. Connecting the information to the discussion in the room is the way to inform the room and not lose your place in the discussion. After giving facts, use the SEXC method of argumentation to explain what everyone is supposed to do with the information you provided.
5. Avoid Excessive Subtlety
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.”― Winston S. Churchill
Don’t beat around the bush. Often times we allude to the punchline, which we leave for what we hope will be a dramatic close. Don’t give a 30-second introduction which gives off clash truisms. While our instinct tells us to save the best for last, in reality, unless we speak a new gospel, there are very few listeners who are still with us by the end of our speech.
How to Un-Learn this Habit
Do what a journalist does. Follow the CIA method not only in method but essence. Put what is most important first! Start with your main points, give examples and tell stories, and finish up with your main points again. Remember, repetition is key to being memorable and delegates can’t connect to your message if they don’t remember it. Start with what is important, develop it and closeout by saying it again.
6. Don’t Be Too Diplomatic
“Honestly, if everyone likes what you say something is wrong with your message.”― Ashley Ormon
Using language which is too diplomatic, and non-offensive, often leaves is anywhere from non-committal to extremely vague. While we are afraid to not offend, Model Un is also about heated debate and putting the truth, or a truth, out on the table. As Model UN is a game, concern for the feelings of others should not be at the top of a delegates priority list. It should be getting the message across, scoring points with your allies and clashing with other blocks which should drive your speeches.
Example: “We should consider talking about Malaysia’s proposal which had an interesting position about their environmental policy which might slightly impact the environment.”- This speech is in response to a Malaysian delegate, who said they would get rid of all failsafe and pollute as they saw fit to quickly develop their industrial sector.
When you write your speech, avoid vague language and put words that commit in places that you find an aversion to writing them. Write words like “good”, “bad”, “commend”, “condemn”, “cannot tolerate” and so on. After using words like this a few time you will find that it is not as difficult to speak in a less politically correct way while being much more effective.
After you are done.
Developing a Plan to Improve Your Next Speech
Tip from the masters:
When giving a public speech, the first time Model UNer focuses on their speech a listens to no one else, the intermediate Model UNer listens to all speeches and tailors theirs to others, the master MUNer looks at the room, sees what is missing and turns themselves into that.
To move from a budding delegate to a veteran Model UN speaker, you will need to put yourself out there. This will not happen without time, dedication and hard work. Practice makes perfect and researching what we did well, and poorly, will help you make our practice much more effective. If you can comfortably do so, record some of your speeches. If there is a video of your speech, watch it and make notes on how you can improve on it for next time. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you think you did?
- What did you do well?
- Are there areas you could have improved?
- How was your pace?
- Was your speech structured?
- Did you use pauses?
- Did you seem rigid?
- Make any weird facial expressions?
- Did you make any weird facial expressions?
- Did you use visual aids to your advantage?
- Did they help?
- Did you apologize at any point?
- Did you use “um” often?
- How was your rhythm?
As you go through the speeches, write everything down. Use those points to improve the next speech. If you feel you had issues with your content go back to work on the speechwriting.
If you’re working on how you physically present yourself watch yourself in the mirror. It helps a lot when you practice in front of the mirror as if you were speaking directly to someone. When doing this pay attention to:
- How relaxed you look
- Facial expressions
- Gestures· Body movements
- How interested you appear
- How welcoming you appear
If there are things to work on which glare back at you in the mirror work on fixing them in real-time. It often takes only one to two mirror session to understand and start improving how we present ourselves.
The same goes for reviewing voice recordings of ourselves. When you listen to a recording of a speech from beginning to end make yourself to take notes. Make sure to give yourself leeway when it’s feedback on extemporaneous speeches. Also, some delegates do not like listening to the sound of their voice on tape. To be able to work on yourself and, be comfortable with yourself, it is important you get used to your own voice and speaking style.
With all these review tools at hand, the last step is to take the improved speeches and practice them again. There are public speaking coaches who say the difference between zero and one pre-reading of a speech is 400% improvement from one simple read-through. There you can also find the following:
- Words that don’t flow naturally
- Phrases that detract from the main message
- Feel where we need a pause
- Feel where it’s too much fact
- Feel where there is too little fact
- See how we fit into the time limitation
Bring it all together, review, rewrite, practice and learn again. There are no magical solutions in Model UN. However, as opposed to memorizing formulas for a Simulation of Mechatronic Chemical systems class, Model UN is fun and the practice, while difficult at times, also brings tangible, and usable rewards.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. – Jack Benny
While some might think public speaking is something to effortlessly succeed it, the truth is that it is a lot of hard work. Whether it’s superimposing pauses, using phrases that seem unnatural, learning where to react and not react or sticking to the words on your page, public speaking will give you back when you put in in hours and effort. The key is to be patient with ourselves. We need to realize that most of us have no done this before and be patient. Learning to publicly speak well in an organized and energized manner is usually hard for everyone, whether the stylistic unorganized charismatic or the logical rigid fact dispenser.
Balanced and effective public speech often challenges the entire lives of the respective response and habit. For this reason, improving our effectiveness during public speech is more similar to learning guitar than it is to hear the tips and make them second nature in a minute. Nothing of value comes without hard work. However, the tips and tools learned from our article, your teachers or trainers and good old Model UN practice will give you skills that will not only help your MUN speeches but also every other place you will need to present long after you put down your last placard.