Public Speaking & Speeches
Public speaking is a critical part of Model UN and a useful life skill to develop. Other than document writing, it will be the most time consuming part of your weekend in committee. Speechmaking is a powerful persuasive tool, but it is also something that is entirely new to a lot of delegates. Here is a guide on how to understand speeches, the different elements of speechmaking, and some tips as well common pitfalls of public speaking. This guide is applicable to general speech making skills and will be especially useful for delegates in traditional (GA-style) committees. While many of the skills are transferable, please also see the delegate training materials for crisis and smaller size committees for more information.
The Purpose of a Speech
All speeches will happen in the front room of any committee during a moderated caucus. Regardless of what type of committee it is, the goal of every speech is to convey a clear and original message to the dais and the other delegates. The actual content of each speech will differ, but a good speech will have one or more of the following:
- Introduction of parts of a directive (for crisis committees) or a working paper or resolution (for traditional committees),
- Mention what you’re doing in the backroom/resources you have gotten that can be an asset (for crisis committees only),
- Agree or disagree with a point that another delegate mentioned in a previous speech (while also adding something new from your country or character’s perspective),
- Offer a new idea to the topic that is being discussed,
- Or a combination of one or more of the above points.
The most important part of any speech is to offer something new. Coming up and giving a speech that does not offer or say anything new, or is simply agreeing with what a previous delegate said without offering any new ideas, is not a memorable speech. For a more detailed outline of a speech, see the “Structure of a Speech” module.
When to Give a Speech
There is no certain time that any delegate must give a speech. In fact, regardless of what type or size the committee is, it is essentially impossible to give a speech during every moderated caucus. With this in mind, delegates should be raising their placards when they know they can give a good speech. While it is not necessary to have the entire speech planned out by the time delegates raise (or don’t raise) their placards, they should know if they have enough, unique ideas that can be discussed about the topic within the allotted speaking time. For example, if a certain delegate did the majority of their research and preparation on the topics that specifically affect their country or character, then that delegates should not raise their placard to give a speech about something that doesn’t specifically affect their country or character as they have significantly less research and preparation about that topic.
How to Prepare
Timing is one of the most important aspects of any speech. While the previous section mentioned going over the speaking time, going significantly under the time limit is just as bad. Before raising your placard to speak, make sure you know that you can adequately fill the entire speaking time, without going over. For instance, if it’s a moderated caucus with 45 second speaking time, but you think that you only have 30 seconds total that you can speak about without rambling or over summarizing, then think of another idea or point that you can include in your speech or don’t raise your placard. Similarly, don’t go overtime. If it’s a 45 second speaking time and you think the entirety of what you want to say would barely fit into a 60 second speech, either cut down a few points you wanted to talk about or don’t raise your placard to speak.
- 5s intro
- 20s content
- 5s conclusion
- 10s intro
- 30s content
- 5s conclusion
- 10s intro
- 45s content
- 5s conclusion
You’ll notice that the majority of speech time should be spent on content rather than anything else and that the introductory and concluding statements are no longer than 10s and 5s respectively. By limiting the time spent on introducing and concluding your ideas, you are cutting down the potential for rambling and stating generic platitudes, saving the bulk of it for the most valuable part: ideas.
The Structure of a Speech
The easiest way to ensure that delegates give good speeches is focusing on the structure of the speech. This will help with two of the most important attributes of any speech: content and timing.
Content & Timing
A common mistake made by delegates, especially in traditional style committees, is that they spend too much time in their speech prefacing the issue rather than talking about solutions. There is no need to summarize the entire background guide in a speech; the chair already knows what the issue at hand is because they wrote the background guide and everyone in the committee (hopefully) read the background guide as well. Therefore, it is a waste of speech time to summarize the topic or bring up specific statistics or even facts that are particular to your assigned country. In fact, the more specific delegates get about the content that they are producing in the unmoderated caucuses, rather than summarizing the research they did before conference, the better. Model UN is an exercise in problem solving, not in the ability to recite facts about the GDP of Switzerland or the amount of Doctors Without Borders projects in Sudan. Think about it this way: do ambassadors and world leaders travel to the Hague or the United Nations NYC Headquarters to give speeches about information that could have been found on a Wikipedia page or do they call together meetings of heads of state to solve the world’s problems on the basis of those common facts that they all know and understand? The United Nations and a Model UN Committee both become more productive when those participating in them have done their research, but have moved on to the issue of creating solutions and debating their feasibility.
For the rest of your speech, your introductions and conclusions should include some sort of identifier for yourself and your ideas in the committee. For example, your country name, your bloc name, or the acronym of a particular solution mechanism mentioned in your working paper. This helps the dais and the rest of the committee identify which working papers and solutions you support. It just has to be a simple namedrop, nothing complicated, but many delegates tend to forget this useful identifier.
Essentially, all of this means that delegates should aim to get as specific as possible in their speeches and devote up the majority of their speaking time to clauses that they or their bloc has written. To be clear, this does not mean briefly summarizing each of the 20 or so clauses in the working paper, but rather spending an entire speech on explaining 1-2 clauses contained the entire working paper. Another way to understand this is by thinking about your working paper as a book. Your speeches should aim to be more like chapters rather than the table of contents. If you realize that one of your clauses is not substantive enough to deliver at least an entire 30 or 45 second speech about, that is an indicator that it needs more work. (See delegate training research document for more on how to work on solutions).
The timing and content of each speech are interconnected. Again, since summarizing specific facts that are already in the background guide is a waste of speech time, the majority of your speech should be spent on discussing the actual plan, or content. This can be done in various ways, depending on the stage the committee is in. For instance, around half way through conference when delegates have their working papers (or directives for crisis committees), the plan that a certain delegate will include in their speech is a summarization or quick points of their working paper or directive so other delegates know what that working paper or directive has planned and so they know what they would be signing and supporting (if they decide to be a signatory on your working paper or directive). In earlier stages on committee, the content of the speech will be possible solutions, especially those that aren’t mentioned in the background guide.
Being aware of timing is also important to ensure that you are able to say everything you want to say. After the given speaking time is over, either the chair or the moderator will gavel you down as your time is over. This means that usually after finishing your sentence, your speech will have to be over. If you don’t think about the timing of your speech, and spend too much time summarizing what is already in the background guide, then you won’t be able to say or explain your ideas, working paper, resolution, or directive. Instead, the majority of what you would have said would be what is already in the background guide. Below is an example of what the structure of a speech should look like for three different speaking times.