Speeches are an integral part of your performance and experience at a Model United Nations conference. They express your policy and introduce your presence to the body. This article explains why we give speeches in Model UN, how to prepare a Model UN speech and how to use diplomatic language.
For a funny look at how to prepare, read our BuzzFeed list here.
a. What is a Speech in Model United Nations?
As discussed in the section on Rules of Procedure, the discussion of your committee topic happens in two ways, formal debate and caucusing. Formal debate is conducted according to clear rules that govern who is able to speak and when. The chair of the committee will ask which countries would like to speak and add them to a “speakers list”, which is usually prominently displayed on a blackboard, flipchart or projector. The chair will invite a representative the country at the top of the list to come to the front of the room, or to a microphone, and deliver a speech outlining their policy on the committee topic. The speech is time-limited – depending on the size of your committee, speeches may be 30 to 90 seconds long. The chair of your committee will probably have a gavel, that s/he will tap when you have 10 or 15 seconds left and bang when your time is up. You must stop speaking once your allotted time has elapsed.
b. Purpose of Speeches
The main purpose of a speech in a Model UN committee is to introduce and talk about your policy (using your 3PP), signaling to other delegations where you stand on the committee topic. In a large committee, you may only get one chance to speak before the entire group, so it is important that your speech delivers a concise, compelling and memorable case for your country’s position. In smaller committees you may get more than one chance to speak, which allows you to comment on the progress of the discussion, the ideas that your country agrees with and the direction you think the committee should go. Making multiple good speeches establishes you as a significant player within the committee, so make sure to raise your placard whenever your chair asks if their is anyone who wishes to be added to the speakers list. When you are finished speaking, immediately send a note up the chair asking to be added to the speakers list again. Within reason, you benefit from being in front of the entire committee as much as possible.
Please note that the speech should try to move the discussion forward in a productive manner. Therefore, try to be as clear as possible about where your country would like the discussion to move, while also being diplomatic. Your speech is not an opportunity to try out your comedic material, start a fight or call out another state. At all times, you must conduct yourself with diplomatic decorum.
c. How to Write Your Speech
Students often feel unsure about how to write their speeches. The good news is that by following a structure carefully, and drawing on your position paper, you can write a compelling speech without much difficulty. A good speech — in its most basic form — grabs the audience’s attention, delivers your main point or “ask” and conveys why this is important. This can be represented as a simple “beginning, middle and end” structure:
Beginning of Your Speech
- Grab the audience’s attention, perhaps with a quote from your Head of State or a surprising statistic that dramatizes the main problem or question your committee is considering (perhaps drawn from your position paper).
- Explain in a sentence how this quote or statistic relates to the global community’s concern for your committee topic.
Middle of Your Speech
- In one or two sentences, provide context and background (using statistics and other evidence) on the problem, showing how responses so far have not adequately dealt with it and why the committee needs to act.
- Introduce your country’s policy recommendations, using a 3PP. This is the most important piece of your speech.
End of Your Speech
- Reinforce why the urgency and importance of the problem
- Briefly restate your policy and hope for a common solution
- Close with a compelling quote from your country’s president or foreign minister (or a UN official) relating to the topic
Note that you can shorten or lengthen your speech around this structure depending on the time available for speeches in your committee. However, you should never cut the policy recommendation (3PP), since this is the primary purpose of your speech — you want other states to know where your delegation stands and what you are calling on the committee to do.
You should spend some time before the conference preparing your first speech, but once the committee begins you will probably need to writing speeches “on the fly.” These more improvised speeches should address the specific issues that are emerging out of the committees discussions. Again, they should focus on your state’s policy positions on the topics of discussion. To prepare these more extemporaneous speeches rely on the above structure and information from your position paper research.
One of the Pace University New York City head delegates has prepared a useful “cheat sheet” to print out and take to your committee session to help you write speeches quickly. Click here to download it.
d. How to Practice Your Speech
Almost everyone has nerves when it comes to public speaking, but you can manage these by preparing well, memorizing the information in your position paper (perhaps use flash cards) and practicing. Run through your first speech with a timer, perhaps in front of your delegation partner or a head delegate. Ask them to give you gentle and constructive feedback. Practice giving extemporaneous speeches by having your delegation partner come up with a topic and speaking about it for a minute. Support each other and share useful quotes, information and statistics within the class, particularly among those who will be representing the same country as you. Remember that the head delegates, senior delegates and the faculty advisor are also available to meet with you and help if you feel unsure or uncomfortable with public speaking.
e. How to Present Your Speech
The following is a list of things to keep in mind when presenting your speech:
Posture and Gestures
- Stand confidently
- Move around only for dramatic effect
- Feel free to make hand gestures, but avoid pointing with or wagging your finger
- Avoid slouching or fidgeting. If fidgeting helps to manage your anxiety, perhaps hold a pencil behind your back, or move your toes inside your shoes, to keep it out of sight.
- Don’t touch or flip your hair
- Don’t cover your mouth with your hands
- When you begin, make eye contact with your chair and the committee
- Look up from your notes, don’t simply read them
- If necessary, find a spot to look at in the back of the room
- If you look bored, people will tune you out
- You should take your topic seriously and show that through your demeanor and expressions
- Use note cards if needed, but avoid a piece of paper, which might rattle if your hands are shaking
- Use your notes to enhance your speech, not as a crutch
- Do not read your notes word for word
- Speak clearly, as your audience needs to understand what you are saying
- Maintain diplomatic decorum
- Practice difficult words (Country names, president names, program titles, words with many syllables)
- Speak slowly; don’t try to cram a large amount of information into one speech, as you need to get your point across in 30-90 seconds.
- Practice your volume. Everyone needs to hear you, but don’t yell. You can vary your volume for dramatic effect
- Use variety, pitch, and rate wisely! Don’t start too fast or speed up at the end. When saying a quote or your 3PP, SLOW DOWN!
- Don’t be intimidated by the ten-second tap by the chair
- Be clear on what you are trying to communicate.
- Your goal is to PERSUADE, not to just state your policy or 3PP
- Think carefully about who you are speaking to — who do you need to persuade? You usually don’t need to persuade everyone — focus on those who are undecided, the “maybe” votes
- Think about why your speech matters — this is your moment to speak, don’t waste it. How will the committee be affected by your speech? You will hear hundreds of speeches, make yours stand out.
- Have confidence in your topic and policy
- Make sure you always have sources to back up your information
- Leaving an impression says you are trustworthy, unique, competent and open to negotiation.
Katie James, Elena Marmo, Michael Zona and Matthew Bolton for Pace University, 2013. Version 3.0 BETA. For information, permissions or corrections, contact Dr. Matthew Bolton, firstname.lastname@example.org