One of the first that comes to mind when we think of Model United Nations is the speeches. Often, an image that comes to mind is of us as world leaders, standing in front of the stone podium with the UN logo in front of the General Assembly. However, just as often, is that realization that, while we are happy to swim with sharks, skydive and take a calculus exam, we may be very afraid of giving a speech in front of our peers. Others, who have less fear public speaking, still want to improve their craft and make their speech maximally effective. Whether it’s getting over anxiety to complete a sixty second speech, or working to make sure the audience gasps, or claps, exactly when you want them to, understanding public speaking is of key importance to maximize your Model UN speeches.
This article is not about content. To learn about what to put in a Model UN speech check out our article on How to Write the Killer Speech. This article is about how to speak and maximize the presentation side of public speaking. Whether you are in a GA Committee like DISEC, SOCHUM or SPECPOL with two hundred other delegates and only nine five speeches throughout three days or in a MUN Security Council or Crisis Cabinet with fifteen or ten people respectively, effective public speaking is very important to get across your message. The following article will focus on public speaking skills essential to a good Model UN public speaker as well as a list of the bad habits we need to unlearn to truly master public speech.
Practice Does Not Make Perfect
Good communication is never perfect, and no other delegates will expect an absolutely perfect speech. However, putting in the requisite time to write, practice and prepare will help you deliver a much better speech. You may not shake your nerves entirely, but you can learn to minimize them with your speech written and rehearsed along with a good understanding of the topic that your committee will be discussing.
Let Your Personality Come Through
Be yourself. Other delegates will turn off if you become a talking head. Being personable does not mean your speech is not impressive but remember that you are speaking to people like yourself and talking to always works better than talking it. You will establish much better credibility if your personality shines through, and you are more likely to gain your audience's trust when they see you as a real person.
Eliminate Your Fear of Rejection
Do not be afraid of the audience hating your speech or getting booed off stage. While the Model UN rules of decorum will protect you from interruption, remember that the most severe judge of your speech is always going to be you. If you can accept yourself so will others and if you find what your saying interest chances are the other delegates will as well.
“If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation your audience never will.” - Harvey Diamond
When you organize all of your thoughts and have your materials ready you automatically become much more relaxed and calm. Using Model UN speech formulas like the CIA method for what you will write about and the SEXC method for how to to present it you, will reduce the pressure of thinking of what to say and can help you focus on the important task at hand, giving a great speech.
Don’t Be Afraid to Read From the Page
“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.” - Michael H. Mescon
The goal of your Model United Nations speech is conveying the message, not memorization. As most Model UNers are not trained actors, when we leave our page, we often get more nervous and lose control of our pace and tone, which results in a more anxious delivery. Speaking from memory also usually forgets facts, important names and phrases that we came up with when writing the speech. If you practice enough, you will know the speech well enough to look at, and engage, the audience. With time and practice this will become easier but you will only get there if for your first speeches you have your page at the ready.
Focus On the Speech, Not the Audience
“They aren't listening to you like you aren’t listening to them.” - Richard Anderson
Make sure that your speech, policies, facts and view of global events are presented the way you planned and practiced. Don’t worry about the audiences reaction and do not overthink it. There will usually be delegates on their phones, yawning or not paying attention. You will also have other delegates who will be working on their draft resolutions or passing notes while you speak. Do not take any of it personally and focus on presenting well to those who are listening. When you focus on giving the best speech you can that has a better chance of reaching more ears than you losing focus on a delegate who isn’t paying attention to any speeches and just wants to get to the social.
Use Humor, Stories, and Emotionally Charged Language
While this should not come at the expense of the hard matter, facts and statistical information in your speech, injecting a funny anecdote, or emotionally charged word like “painful”, “remarkable, “disastrous” or “freedom” will certainly help grab your audience’s attention. As humans, we generally like a personal touch and language geard to interest and entertain us can provide that. Points that involved humor, some other unique presentation gimmick or are wrapped up in a good story are more memorable, too!
Return to Your Core Message
Remember that all of the public speaking techniques in this article exist to help you persuade other delegates of the validity of your policy. As such, your audience can only grasp your message of you make sure that everything you do is focused on delivering your message. Stories, humor, or other “sidebars” should always connect to the main message. Anything that doesn’t, as entertaining as it may be, should be edited out.
Don’t Fear Redrafting
Most Model UNers go through a point when we feel very connected to the words we wrote on a page and would rather stick a pencil into our ear than tear it up and start again. A good speaker may stick to what they know. A great speakers, however, will write multiple drafts to best convey their message. Your speech writing will get better with time but for starters remember that at least a second of third draft will be better than the first.
Be Easy to Understand
When you speak try to get into a rhythm this will be understood by your fellow delegates. To do this, use simple words, keep your sentences clear, concise and to the point and make sure to repeat key points. A short pause between different points can add to the ease of understanding while also bringing and anticipation to what comes next.
Plan for time constraints
Maybe you have 2 minutes. Maybe you have 45 second. Either way, customize your presentation to fit the time of each speech on the General Speaker's List or Moderated Caucus. Also, make sure to hit all of your main points before the middle of your speech. You rest of the time can be spent elaborating but it is of key importance to have your ideas out there before other delegates start to zone out or in the range where the chairs might cut you off.
“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.”
One of the biggest public speaking mistakes a Model UN delegate makes is when they try to cram a 76 second speech into 60 seconds. While you may have said it all you were likely hard to understand and missed important points. It is much better to take your extra information and make your one speech into two speeches instead of rushing. Your goal is to be understood by other delegates and speaking slowly and clearly, even if you finish at 0:54 with six seconds left, if the right way to do it.
Make the Nervous Energy Work for You
Learn to channel that nervous energy into positive energy. Remember that being nervous is also a form of adrenaline. This same energy can be used in a positive manner to channel emotion when you need it in real time. Don’t try to stop yourself from doing what you do, slow down, feel it and use it to serve you.
Be Aware of Your Breathing
When you speak too quickly it interferes with your breathing patterns so when a delegate speaks too fast they breathe less. When you feel short of breath you will more easily panic and be more susceptible to fear. When you practice intentionally slowing down when you speak you will find yourself more calm and relaxed.When you focus on how you breath, you will relax and your voice will have more resonance. Breathing calmly has helped many MUN delegates get over their fear during their first speech. Also, while it definitely helps with public speaking, breath-work in general will help reduce stress and improve effectiveness in many other areas of life.
Omit Nervous Gestures.
“No movement is better than bad movement.” - Richard Anderson
Even when giving a fact filled Model UN speech, nonverbal communication still carries a respectable amount of the message. Good use of eye contact and body language does not call attention to itself, but rather enhances the speaker’s message without distraction. Forced gestures do the opposite and nervous movement detracts from your message. If you find yourself nervously moving, try to find an alternative. You will find that movement can be a positive tool but only after you get over nervous movement.
Don’t be afraid to pause
“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.” - Martin Fraquhar Tupper
Many Model UN speeches are rushed to try and get in all the words before the time ends. What we forget is that we are trying to persuade our peers and there is no benefit to finishing a speech no one understands. This is why they pause can be a very important technique. Along with time to collect thoughts, it also gives space for dramatic effect which can be enhanced in the silences you create as you move between your points.
Audiovisuals Should Be Used Sparingly
The problem with visual gimmicks such as pictures, props and diagrams, or audio gimmicks, such as dramatic voice changes or playing a video off of YouTube, is that is often loses focus from your main message and will be the only thing the audiences remember from your speech. Sometimes, there is a place for these but they should be used to enhance your point, not detract from it. When using a gimmick, make sure you have time after it is presented to make sure you get the desired effect.
Don’t Let Passion Rule You
Impromptu speaking is part of Model UN. During a Moderated Caucus, we sometimes hear a statement and need to respond seconds later. These speeches can sometimes be impassioned and sometimes very point specific. I such cases, remember to slow down. As you give yourself time to think your points will be better presented and received by the audience.
Call Other Delegations By Name
Given the amount of speeches we listen to during a Model Un conference, it is no surprise that delegates lose focus. A way to insure that others perk up and listen to your speech is to use their countries names. Mentioning their name, whether by quoting them, saying something is in their interest or some other method, will get them and their allies to listen because you used their name. Use this tool wisely and your speeches will get a lot more attention.
Start Strong and Close Stronger
The opening of your speech should be strong. It can be a soundbyte, a statistic, a story or a direct jump into your call to action. What is important is that it hooks the audience and gets their attention.
This is different from the public speaking tip that everyone needs remember your first and last words. What is important is that they remember you main ideas so, if you do use a soundbyte or other stylistic ending, make sure it compliments your message, not detract from it. This is why it is best to finish off your speech with a summary and a strong statement that you audience will be sure to remember.