Building a Good Relationship with Your Chair

Many beginner delegates feel that chair relations end with not making you Chair mad. That is correct and important but there’s much more to it than that. While Model UN is about working with and persuading, your fellow Model UN delegates, in many ways there is no one in the room as important as the Chair (or Chairs if they are co-Chairing).

As a delegate, you are at the MUN conference to accomplish a few things. You want to help your committee come up with the best solutions that they can for the topics at hand. You also want to create and build relationships with other delegates. You want to advance your knowledge about international relations and gain negotiation skills. You certainly want to use this experience to help you get into college, university or a job. Along with all that, you also want to win awards, both for your school and for yourself. You are the one who will ultimately determine your success in committee and your chances for best delegate. However, the Chairs, who will be there for every step, will be the ones to decide who gets the diplomacy award..

So, how do you build a good relationship with the Chair of your committee? It is a delicate process that will take some awareness and sensitivity on your part. You don’t want to seem like you are sucking up to the Chair. They and others will see right through that. As a delegate, you don’t want to draw the wrong kind of attention and make the Chair mad. You also don’t want to seem indifferent. Remember, the Chairs are human, they respond as humans and they also make mistakes. Your job is to ensure they see how good of a delegate you are without you being overbearing or other obstacles to your performance getting in the way.

Why are good relations with the Chair important?

As mentioned above, the Chair is going to be there the entire time you are in committee. They are the ones who will spend countless hours ensuring that the delegate experience is a good one. They are invested in the process and the outcome of the committee session. Also, the are the ones instructed by the secretariat to select the diplomacy according to merit. You should expect them to be involved in every step.

Being on good ground with the Chairs of your committee will not only help you win awards, but it will also help you when it comes to getting your working papers turned into viable resolutions. Of course, not every Chair will be a merit based good conductor for your committee. There are Chairs who don’t put forth the effort that they should. Some chairs may not know the topic completely or may have received the role due to political placement and are not very good at chairs. Some chairs can seem downright rude. If a Chair doesn’t seem to be taking you seriously, or they do something that annoys you, don’t react to it. This is especially important if your chair seems to have thin skin. If you get mad at the Chair directly, expect they will get mad at you. This might also turn off other delegates. You should report this to the secretariat but in most cases the chair you have is the one you will be stuck with until the end of the conference. For that reason, even if the chair is under qualified, lacking in experience, a bad room reader or angry human being you need to learn how to build an, at least, manageable relationship with them.

How to build a good relationship with your Chair

Introduce yourself
In life and in Model UN, it is good practice to introduce yourself to people in charge. Introduce yourself to the Chair before the committee session starts. It doesn’t have to be a full briefing with your name and country you represent. It should definitely not seem like you are trying to get a head start. Simply saying hello and shaking their hand is a good start. That way the Chair can put a face to someone who is courteous.

On the Floor

Stay above the fray
If you run into any delegate becoming petty with one another, taking cheap shots or generally devolving into personal issues, stay above it.

Always stay diplomatic and follow the rules of procedure
The Chair will ensure that the rules are followed. That is part of their job. If the rules of procedure are disregarded by you, the Chair will notice and you can expect to be reprimanded. Some Chairs are rigid about the rules while others are more relaxed. It is a good idea to follow them regardless.
If you need to manipulate the rules of procedure, do so within the scope of what is acceptable. You should have had plenty of practice with points and motions during your class session. Put that to use. After one conference, you will have a much great grasp on points and motions and rules of procedure.

Don’t be a nuisance

Do not cross talk while others are speaking in a formal session. It is rude and very noticeable. This is what notes are for.
Do not raise your placard before a delegate is finished speaking or wave it around like a crazy person trying to get the Chair’s attention. Try to get a good seating position each day before the committee session begins so the Chair will see you.
Do not text, tweet, check Facebook, the news, or anything else on your phone. All of your notifications will be there when the committee session is over. Leave them for later. Remember, you may think you are being discreet when you glance at your phone, but everyone knows what you are doing.
Be the face of your block
In our article about power delegates, we mention that it can be a positive thing or a negative thing. You want to be a positive power delegate.
While being diplomatic, ensure that you are the one who presents your group’s ideas to other blocks and to the floor.
This will take work during both formal sessions and unmoderated caucuses.

After Session

Clean up after a session
When a long day of committee sessions is over, there will be a mess left behind. Stay and help clean. It won’t take more than a few minutes and it will go a long way towards standing out.

Interacting at Socials

Be polite but not overly interested
You have to balance your interest in speaking to the Chair. You never want to seem like you are sucking up on purpose.
Be polite, ask a few questions about their life. Make sure to disengage sooner rather than later. If you have good chemistry you can pursue a friendship after the conference.
If a Chair speaks to you, let them lead the discussion
In committee sessions or after hours, if a Chair wants to talk to you, let them lead the conversation. If they ask you about yourself after hours, answer them politely. Don’t volunteer too much information unsolicited.

With a Good Chair
​It is important to note that good chairs are also the ones who can see through flattery and are usually impossible to bride or fool. They respect straightforwardness. This does not mean you should not be careful to avoid annoying them but such chairs should be able to laugh at themselves and usually have a good eye for quality delegating and good performance.
Don’t be afraid to point or motion. A good chair will respect a point of order. A good chair will also accept criticism. Read your chair. If they are able to step outside their role to discuss the committee or life, you can do so as well.

With a Petty Chair
​Petty chairs usually hide behind rules of procedure. They will not give you holistic feedback but will give long speeches about how delegates should say “We” instead of “I”. With these chairs, it is especially important to let other delegates take the fire by testing the limits before you do. Sometimes this requires giving one of two speeches that are less stylistic than you are used to but it will be worth the wait.
Petty chairs do not necessarily lack senses of human. Judge on a case by case basis but many will have no problems with jokes in speeches or humor. However, if the petty chair does not like humor this could cost you speaking time and possibly even as award.
Never show the petty chair that you understand Model UN better. Even if you are right and the room agrees that they were tardy or unprofessional, the chair could be vindictive. It is better to quietly approach the secretariat or even have your team adviser or a friend speak to them on your behalf.

General
Get to know what your Chair likes and dislikes. Use your powers of observation and you will quickly figure out their ticks. As a general rule, don’t be a suck up. You should have the ability to regulate yourself and know when you are annoying. Don’t be. Be the kind of delegate the Chair will respect. Know your country and committee. Understand the issues being discussed. Operate within the rules of procedure. Be the best kind of delegate.

Conclusion

You will spend from weeks to months getting ready for a Model UN conference. You have researched and drilled through simulations. You want to represent your country and your institution as best you can. It is important to remember that the Chair of your committee is the key to much of your success. For this reason, regardless of whether you think the Chair is doing a good job or not, you need to build a good relationship with them. Without being overbearing, you need to present yourself in a positive manner and adapt to their sensitivities at all times. Also, chairs can be great people we really get along with. Something you will leave not only with an award but also with a friend.
A Model UN simulation is a living thing and everyone is part of it. To be among the best delegates, you do not only need to employ your diplomatic skills on your fellow delegate but also on the Chairs of the committees. Get your relationship with your chair right and you can look forward to a conference where you will be fairly evaluated on your performance. For the aspiring Model UN delegate, being assessed fairly and on merit is an outcome worth the effort.

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