MUN Note Passing – Complete Guide
One of the most important, yet not often talked about, ways to be successful at a Model UN conference is to master the art of note passing. Note passing is a subtle, yet powerful, tool at a conference. If you think you can get through a conference without passing a single note to other delegates, then you might as well plan on having an unsuccessful conference.
Note passing provides a way for you to speak to other delegates during the formal debate, be in General Speakers list or moderated committee sessions. You may ask, “Isn’t that what unmoderated caucuses are for?” Absolutely, but some things need clarification, panning, or to be put into the works before you get to that point. MUN notes allow you to personally communicate with anyone from the first moment the conference starts. In itself, this is a tool of critical importance. If a country says something during their speech to the committee, that directly impacts your country or block, you will need to be able to quickly move into action.
Learning how to write and pass notes that are meaningful and impactful will go a long way towards success for your delegation. It will also improve your chances at winning best delegate. This article will cover the different important uses for notes at a MUN conference and how to write them.
Types of Notes
At a MUN conference, you will be sending notes mostly to other delegates. They are the ones who you spend most of your time with, and energy on, when negotiating, discussing policies, and formulating strategies. Occasionally, you will need to send notes to the Chair as well.
Notes To Other Delegates
Clarification – If, during the General Speakers list or a moderated committee session, something is said that needs clarification, don’t hesitate to send a note. If Venezuela mentions the need for oil pricing controls, and you want to know which price controls they would opt to send a note. Another example is if you aren’t sure if Venezuela is aware that other OPEC members addressed this topic earlier. Venezuela’s statement could signal a shift in OPEC policy, which would impact every other delegate in the room, or it could simply be that they misspoke. Any significant clarification, especially if it pertains to something major, should not wait until an unmoderated caucus to find out.
For your own knowledge and understanding – You aren’t going to be expected to know the policies of every country at the conference. While you should certainly know yours and the policy of the countries you commonly work with, there will be times when you need more information.
Do ideas match? – If you hear other delegates discussing ideas and proposals that sound similar to yours or your block’s, send a note asking for more details. This could be an opportunity to combine clauses, or draft resolutions, and create a stronger coalition. Be the first to get this in motion so you can take maximally benefit from the situation.
Let’s meet later – For questions and statements that will need a face-to-face session and are too long for a note, send a note asking to meet right when the committee session breaks.
What do you think about… (information and opinion) – When you are trying to shore up support for a position you are taking, or come up with a new idea, send a note to a few delegates asking what they think about it. Honestly, you may not care about their opinion, but by getting others involved, you help them feel that they matter. By giving them a say in the matter, you can more easily get their support when you need it.
Recognition for alliance building – By simply involving other delegates, you create an additional level of diplomatic interaction. You give solent delegates a voice. This is a great tactic to use if you notice any delegations that others are ignoring. It always happens. Take advantage of this and form a partnership. Likewise, if you sense a break in a rival block, send notes to both sides and feel them out for possible partnerships.
Mobilize your block – These notes need to get to many delegates quickly for a purpose like telling them all to vote against a certain motion or ask a supportive point of information when your block is presenting their resolution. The key is to make sure this group of allies is all on the same page so that everyone votes the way they need to, or whoever is chosen first will be able to ask the questions that need to be asked or offer the desired motion.
Strategic use – Like the above bullet point says, passing notes can be very strategic. The key to strategic note-passing is that is doesn’t only ask for information, or a potential alliance, but also comes with a plan to utilize the outcome of said note. For example, you can tell a block that you are looking to merge with that they have a limited window to decide before you join another block. You can also give misinformation, but this is usually advised against. The key for every strategic note is that it is supposed to result in an action, and not just gaining information.
In all these cases, the key to comfortable conversation is not to think of notes as cold, technical requests. Think of them as a sentence in a one-on-one conversation.
Notes to the Chair
Sending notes to the Chair of the committee will be different than sending notes to other delegates. The main reason notes are sent to the Chair is to add yourself to the speaker’s list. Generally, as soon as you are finished speaking, send a note up to be added back to the list. This may seem silly, but even if you don’t have anything to say yet, you will. In larger rooms, it will take a while for the speakers time to get back around to you. By then, you will have heard something you need to respond to.
You are not going to be having a conversation with the Chair through notes. Notes to the Chair should be one way and technical in nature. If not about procedure, it can also deal with clarifications on the proceedings through a “Point of parliamentary enquiry”. However, the public clarification, especially later in the committee session, may interrupt debate which the chair would be unhappy to entertain. Notes are a way to avoid this situation.
If you have a critical question for the Chair that is going to take a longer explanation that you can write on a note, save it for a face-to-face meeting during an unmoderated caucus or a break.
How to Write a Note
When you are writing a note, you want to remember a few things. A good Model UN note needs to be:
Try to get the reader’s attention with the first line. There will be so many notes flying around that you need to make sure yours achieves its goal, whether to convey a complex idea or stand out among many other notes.
- Friendly – Always start the note with a friendly greeting such as “Dear” or “To the honorable delegate of Ecuador.” Keep the content of the note friendly, not adversarial, even if you are on opposing blocks. Don’t add fire to any mix.
- Short – Why short? Because, if it’s not, they won’t read it. Also, keep it short for your sake. You will be writing so many notes that you need to learn to get your point across quickly and succinctly.
- Neat – Make sure your handwriting is legible. Most other Model UN delegates will not be hyroplihpics experts.
The speech you just gave was fantastic. I really agree with your ideas for an expanded trade policy in Southeast Asia. My clause focuses on protection of trade routes. I think our clauses compliment each other and we can work together to get this written into the resolution. Let’s discuss at the next unmod.
Note writing in teams
Use your Allies – When working with a group of allies, you can all work together on note passing. There is no need for you to be the only one sending notes to other delegations when you have a group of three or four close allies.
Divide and Conquer – If you are all working on the same draft resolution and are trying to rally support, then strategize together. If there are three of you and you need to communicate with 12 other countries, take four each. Split the duties.
Communication is a must – When managing a large block, knowing who is responsible for keeping which delegate on side is as important as knowing if you have a majority to pass the resolution. Sometimes it’s the same thing. Lists can be helpful to know who is in charge of communicating with whom. At the end of each day, it may be good to review the lists and make sure everyone is on the same page. During committee session it may be worth sending notes between the heads of the block make sure everything is going as plan.
Work with your neighbors – Unless the room has a strict silence policy you can probably whisper with your neighbors from time to time. You can also tap each other and see each others facial expressions. If possible, try to combine note passing efforts with your neighbors. This will let you work faster and communicate better. While not a must, it is a comfortable advantage if the delegate to your right, or behind you can cover half of the needed note passing and is available to advise with the turn of a head.
Additional Note Strategies
Prewrite notes – If you know ahead of time that you will be introducing some ideas and you know which countries you want on board, then spend some time before a committee session, or even the night before, prewriting notes to those delegations. This will save you some time during a committee session.
Know your writing speed – Only you know how fast you write. Knowing this can help you strategize.
Having a printed logo on paper – Some delegations will have their own logo, maybe their country seal or flag, on their note paper. If you go this route, make sure you print enough ahead of time so you don’t run out.
Flattery can work – When you start a note to another delegation, think of something nice to say to them. If they’ve just finished speaking, compliment them on a job well done (even if it wasn’t great). You can never go wrong with an appropriate amount of flattery.
Just like conversation, notes can be overheard – Okay, maybe not overheard, but certainly over read. Many notes we write are not going to be secret. For example, reminding Norway to vote in favor of a certain motion could generally be read without any significant detriment to either side. However, secret notes are written with the intention of staying secret. In these cases you will have two types of notes. Secret that no one should see and secret that could be discovered. Secret notes no one should see are simply important notes you hope the other side won’t know. However, knowing this ahead of time that your note may be seen, gives you the ability to get creative. For example, if you sense there could be a possible break in an opposing block, then send a note to one member asking about it or make an attempt to get them on your side. Two things could happen – you could actually gain their support or they could show the note to their someone on their block, making them realize that you are a serious player and making a move. Success in performing such win win moves is recognition of the highest levels of Model UN delegating.
Model UN is much more than speeches and resolutions. These are just the visible products of the much more subtle behind the scenes action. To have successful speeches and end up with great resolutions, there will be negotiation and strategy taking place at all times. Note passing is a one of those valuable strategies tool that should not be ignored. Also, note passing is not an exclusively solo activity. Sometimes effective communication, coordination and teamwork is mandatory to sure each note achieves its goal. Master the art of note passing and you can effectively control entire segments of the session and, possibly, the committee room.