Jack Williams, the current President of the Global Negotiation Conference (GNC)!
My name is Jack Williams and I am the current President of the Global Negotiation Conference (GNC). The GNC aims to promote the practical learning of negotiation skills by bringing together experts in negotiation and diplomacy to impart their knowledge before the participants take part in a grueling full day multiparty simulation.
MUNPlanet: The inaugural GNC was held in 2014. What have you learned since then? Has anything changed?
Initially the whole conference was focused on the topic of the multiparty simulation however we’ve now changed this so that the opening two days focus on aspects of negotiation more generally. We’ve also added more workshops so that participants get more time practicing skills themselves.
MUNPlanet: GNC was born out of the International Negotiation lecture at the University of Bern by former students. What is it that made the students so inspired? What were their main aims?
All of those involved in organising the GNC attended the International Negotiations course and loved the mix between theory and practice. The course was also open to students of all disciplines, which made for a great atmosphere and was a real change to most classes. We felt that there was an opportunity to organise a conference along the same lines.
We’re keen to explore different ways to develop the GNC but are also conscious that we don’t want to overstretch or lose the intimacy that develops between the participants. We’ve made the decision to move away from Bern and host the GNC at other universities across the world to hopefully give more students the chance to attend. We are also looking at filming some of the presentations so that we can share insights with those unable to attend.
Somebody who is open-minded, enthusiastic and who is happy to be challenged.
We negotiate everyday when we interact with our friends, family and colleagues but when we think of negotiation we think of a very technical process with serious looking people shaking hands. Often we slip back into the same habits when negotiating so we aim to help participants reflect upon how they approach issues and what they could do differently. The main event is the multiparty simulation on the last day but throughout the program there will be role-play exercises and debriefings.
MUNPlanet: The conference aims at promoting negotiation skills among students. How crucial would you say it is for young people to possess strong negotiation skills?
I think it’s crucial for everyone to possess negotiation skills. It is a skill that can easily be taken for granted. Whether in your professional and personal life we will all face difficult negotiations. The hard part often isn’t knowing what you should do but putting it into practice as so often we have an emotional reaction that affects our responses.
MUNPlanet: This year’s topic is Negotiating an International Agreement on Private Military Contractors. How do you decide which topics to pick? What was the inspiration behind this one?
Each year we select a new topic for the multiparty simulation. We try to choose a relevant topic where there are on-going negotiations so that participants aren’t just following a roadmap. Also, as the case takes a lot of time to write, we select a topic that interests us. One of my colleagues Frauke Renz is completing her doctoral dissertation on the topic of PMCs so she was keen to use her knowledge when writing the case.
MUNPlanet: Every good conference isn’t just about the learning experience, and we know that GNC always has a full social program. What should the participants expect this time around?
It certainly is! We’re very proud of putting together a great social program that is a little different. Alongside the traditional reception and conference dinner we’ll have our annual PowerPoint Karaoke and Pizza evening (there’s no singing involved) as well as some team bonding events which we’re keeping a surprise!
MUNPlanet: How can the role of technology and new communities such as MUNPlanet affect the future of student conferences?
Technology is continually opening up new ways for people to connect whether that is through learning about new opportunities or imparting knowledge. MUNPlanet is a great platform as it does both of these. I think it is still important to meet people and be in the same room as them but technology can certainly help to make that happen.
MUNPlanet: We all love to laugh. Tell us a funny anecdote that happened at GNC.
Last year one of our participants accidentally went to another conference that was happening at the same time. He realised quite quickly but a polite guy he sat through an hour and a half until the next coffee break – he found us eventually though!