This is not an article on how to prepare for crisis, nor how to act within one. This article will instead talk about a key moment in crisis that often goes to waste: the first 15 minutes or so between walking into your cabinet and directives opening.
Crisis committee success rests on information advantage, and you can use this time to gain valuable information on the personalities of those with who you will be spending a weekend that can allow you to calibrate your plans accordingly. This guide will talk about how to best utilize that beginning of a MUN crisis to your advantage.
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So, you have read the study guide (hopefully), got to know your character, and you have made your way to the committee room. You also probably made a first draft of some plans of what to do over the course of the crisis. This can include scouting out who your competitors in the cabinet are, and maybe even made a few prewritten directives regarding security and similar arrangements (a big no no for some crisis directors). Even if you haven’t, no worries. Some of the best crisis performances are chaotic and pragmatic. That depends on your style as a delegate. However, what is completely within your control is how you conduct yourself and interact with others before the committee starts. Sitting in silence and waiting is not helpful. Proactively is important and in the next sections this article will show you how.
Connect with your co-delegates
When you walk into the cabinet you will see a bunch of unfamiliar faces. Usually less than GA, but that just means that you cannot get away by only focusing on the “important delegates”. In crisis, your relationship with your co-delegates will be both more intense and more personal, so take this opportunity to get to know them as people. Within a few hours of the crisis starting, you will all call each other by your characters’ names, your discussions will be contained to the crisis itself, and your opinions and perceptions of each other will mostly reflect who you are as characters. Many delegates, especially experienced ones, will even intentionally mislead you with their friendliness to gain advantage. It will therefore be much harder to correctly assess your co-conspirators personalities later on.
Why is this important? Well, like we said before, crisis is both more intense and personal, and delegates personalities will matter much more than in GA, and even their character bios. This is your opportunity to see who is taking this more seriously and who is here just for the ride, who seems to be secretive about what they are doing and who wants to discuss plans out loud before the crisis even began, who is approachable and who likes to keep to themselves.
Most people doing MUN, and crisis especially, will be quite open. Striking a conversation with typical questions where people are from, which university they go to, or how long they do MUN always works. Conversation groups will form, and you should try and mingle with all of them. If an interesting discussion arises, regardless of the topic, stay in the conversation. Maybe it’s the historical context of the crisis and maybe it’s football. Whatever it is, don’t fret that you didn’t get to meet everyone as forming a few genuine bonds will matter more. This is your opportunity to build personal trust that can translate into a good working relationship later on.
But it can also be an indicator. A person not participating in discussion and scrolling behind a computer, be it additional research or memes, is probably going to influence the crisis more from the shadow by writing directives. There is an equal chance they are a newbie who is a bit lost or an experienced delegate keeping their cards close to themselves. If you have time, try to engage with these delegates as well and you may not just find a good ally, but a valuable friend, both in and out of cabinet. Also consider that many people might not feel immediately comfortable around strangers or may just have a language barrier. Approaching them might not bring you any benefits but can make their experience much more enjoyable. It is important that you always keep in mind that you are surrounded by people just like you and that crisis is just a simulation. Things might get heated, but always remember that you have all gathered here for the weekend to learn something, make friends, and have fun.
By making a good first impression you can also affect how others will view you to your advantage. Try to come off as trustworthy and approachable and at the very least you will be able to sway the less experienced delegates. Of course, do not put on an act you can’t keep up as crisis will drain enough energy that you will not be able to sustain anything other than minor deviations from your real personality throughout the weekend. Also, do not outright lie or deceive people about who you are as you will eventually be found out. This is about marginal information gains. Leave outright manipulation to the crisis proper.
In any case, the best is to imagine you’re at a mini social. By forming these early connections you are not only making the communication with other delegates later easier, but also gaining an insight in how they behave outside of crisis which you can use as a benchmark for your interactions during the crisis, such as when assessing the truthfulness of their stated intentions. At the same time be wary from passing definitive early judgements. Some people might just need more time to open up or might be naïve early on only to become master conmen later. These early interactions are an important starting point, but you will need to adapt over the course of the crisis.
Familiarise yourself with the chair
As part of the “getting to know you exercise” don’t forget about the chair who is also a character and will play a large factor in how your cabinet is run. A good conversation starter is to ask a simple question about some administrative issue regarding the crisis or the conference. If you don’t have anything you need clarification on (think hard, there is always something), ask about the socials or about the strictness of the backroom team. If you wish to be more direct, ask the chair if they like to let the delegates provide the agenda or to rule the cabinet with an iron fist.
But just as before, your goal is to gain an understanding of who your chair is as a person so try to steer the conversation a bit further from crisis. If they have been to the conference before, how are the socials and do they have a funny story from them, or what got them into chairing. If you can strike a non-MUN conversation with them, even better. Regardless of what you do, a little chat with the chair will help you to get to know them as a person and give you a better picture of what to expect over the weekend.
It is arguably even more important to have a good understanding of your chair’s personality than your delegates as some of your plans might hinge on having free rein to do things. If the chair likes to oversee everything, you will have to work around that which will require more planning. On the other hand, maybe they are more of a moderator chair and you notice that one off the delegates likes to be in the centre of attention and will very likely try to unite the cabinet behind themselves so your plans must have a contingency to keep them on your side. What about their tolerance for outrageous and “out of context” plans? Maybe they have a personal grudge against the chair from another crisis and will steer the cabinet with an intentionally combative stance? Speaking from experience, this last type always means an exciting crisis. In any case, these things will affect how you should conduct yourself during the crisis.
As said earlier, you can learn a lot about a person by how they behave in normal conversations. And as with the delegates, this should only guide your opinion. As you get to know your chair better over the course of the crisis you can adjust your approach accordingly. However, having an early idea can just be the marginal advantage that will grant you incremental benefits as the crisis progresses to grant you an edge over the others.
When you have got to know people and gathered some information, make yourself a physical or mental checklist of what to do when directives finally open, adjust your plans to your new findings, and make sure that you are ready to go and jump into the fray as soon as crisis starts. Oh, and make sure you have filled your water bottle to stay hydrated. In crisis, you might not even have time to do that.
The conclusion of all this is that the “dead time” before a committee starts is not dead at all. Those few minutes of banter, or strategic planning, could be a critical headstart is utilized correctly. Also, knowing what to expect from your peers, or your chair, could be the difference between life and death (in the crisis) because you now know better what to expect. As a general rule for MUN< the times you’re waiting in line for lunch, before a ceremony starts or in committee can go a long way to helping you achieve your goals. Use this time wisely, get the lay of the land and reap the rewards!