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As USG-Chairing (twice over) I've been able to discern many things when it comes to chairs. For those who have ever presided over a committee in the capacity of a Director, Chair, Rapporteur, etc., the process of applying for the position is all too familiar. However, often times the person (or team of people) at the other end of the application process gets overlooked.
Firstly, it is necessary to provide some context for the role. The Under Secretary General for chairing (USG Chairing) is responsible for the selection, organization, and coordination or all Chairing personele for a conference. In most conferences (bar American ones), the Chairs of all committees are selected from different universities or institutions for a variety of reasons. They are bringers of delegations, they ensure that some level of fairness are maintained in the allocation of awards, and they provide a diversity of knowledge on specific topics and Chairing styles. And when it comes to delegate experience, a Chair can either make or break a conference, especially for first time delegates. As such, it is fundamental that your Chairs are all of top-quality.
The first step to the selection process begins with the advertisement of the applications. Depending on how prominent your conference is, you want to cast your net a specific amount. A bigger, more famous conference need not be overly vocal about applications, for fear of over-subscriptions. Conversely, A smaller, newer conference generally has to advertize far and wide to ensure competition for the few spaces available.
Most applications consist of a questionnaire of some sort. When building yours, it is important to construct it in a way that encourages applications, and simultaneously discourages applications which may not be whole-hearted. This next bit is contentious, but especially if your conference has a tight budget, clearly state your conference's abilities to provide for your chairs (whether you will exempt them from conference fees, social-pack fees, accommodation and travel, etc.). I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have wasted time interviewing excellent candidates who then had to cancel because they could not afford the flight tickets over.
Secondly, clearly state the timeline of the application process (when it will close, when the next steps will be, etc.).
In terms of the questions, aside from the standard: "name, university/ MUN association, course," make sure you include fields about past experience, chairing style, etc. It is good to ask for topic ideas, but not essential. However, allow the candidate the possibility to identify 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for prefered committees.
The length of the questionnaire should be calculated to suit the amount of inflow your conference needs. If you are desperate for applicants, keep it short, and vice versa.
The next stage is perhaps the most essential: the interview. Conferences which do not have an interview for chairs are destined to accidentally select horrible chairs. I keep them short; 10 minutes approximately with 5 questions, a brief introduction of the candidate, and time at the end for questions on their part. When interviewing, keep score of their responses. My candidates are scored out of 65: 10 points for each question, another 10 points for overall personality, and 5 bonus points. These last ones are obtained by:
-being on time for the interview
-being professional in their responses
-asking constructive questions
In terms of the questions, you must discern 5 things: Their knowledge of the rules of procedure, their chairing style/ how lenient or stern they will be with delegates, their ability to deal with difficult committee situations/ unruly delegates, their ability to write an accessible/ comprehensive study guide, and their ability to deliver speeches. This last one is essential for closing ceremonies, and it goes without saying that an eloquent Chair will have an easier time presiding over a committee. My questions are often two-fold, for example:
Q: "On the first day of the conference, how would you open committee session?"
Here, not only do I expect the applicants to detail the specific procedure of taking role call, opening the floor to a motion to set the agenda, entertaining speakers for/ against, etc., I expect them to discuss what they will do beforehand. This usually includes introducing themselves to the committee, having a brief Q&A on the rules of procedure, and clarifying any points on the agenda topics that may not be entirely clear to the delegates. It is this element of approachability that I feel is essential in a Chair, and hence I reward applicants who prove to be so.
Fundamental is the relationship between the Chair and the Secretariat. If a Chair acts in a manner far too stern for a conference, they can bypass the Secretariat's decisions. To ensure this doesn't happen, I like to ask the following:
Q: "If a delegate is being unruly, what procedure do you follow to deal with the situation?"
A good response is usually a diplomatic one: firstly send them a note telling them to maintain quorum. If it continues, you can call them out during debate, or speak to them during a break/ unmod. If the applicant responds with something along the lines of: "I'd kick them out of committee", (which is something that only the Secretariat should have the competency to do) then it is clear that there will be difficulties between the Chair and Secretariat.
Finally, ensure applicants know exactly what their responsibilities will be should they be selected. Different conference require different things from Chairs, so this is essential, especially for first time Chairs. Do they know they'll have to write a Study Guide? Do they know they'll have to read 50 or so position papers and provide feedback? For this, I ask the loaded question:
Q:"What does being a Chair entail, for you personally?"
Aside from the superfluous responses about being unbiased, approachable, etc., I expect a clear identification of roles/ duties. Furthermore, I use this question to evaluate their ability to deliver speeches (discussed above), which I feel is important.
Head chairs are then selected as the highest scoring ones, and their assistants are arranged accordingly. In pairing them, ensure that their personalities won't clash. Having spoken to them yourself, this should be easy to gauge. What it troubling is then sending out the rejections. I provide the scores and feedback for these emails, though I like to omit that I have a "personality" score, simply to not offend anyone. For the successful applicants, I offer the possibility to request their scores/ feedback, but it's up to you whether you want to work that hard. What is crucial for the unsuccessful ones is that you offer them the choice to be put on a "waiting list," as inevitably there will be dropouts and spaces to fill, right up until the day before the conference.
After you've done that, you go through the standard process of asking for topics, giving them info on study guides, etc. Then during the conference itself there are about a million other things to do, but that will have to wait for next time.