Preparation, Purpose and Structure
Everything you say should be premeditated and discussed with other delegations as much as possible before you take the floor.
If another delegate says something to which you feel you must respond, you do not have to put your nameplate up immediately. Take your time to prepare that response, consulting, if it is useful, with other delegations before asking for the floor. Every delegation has a right of reply but remember that if you choose to exercise this right you must wait until the end of the Speakers’ list to respond.
The need for careful premeditation also means that you should, wherever possible, write down the exact words you intend to use or at least the headings and key phrases. You may also decide, if warranted, to give a copy to selected delegations so as to increase the chances that they will understand you well.
Every intervention will either advance or retard the general debate, push it in one direction or divert it into another and in other ways determine the outcome of the conference. You therefore need to carefully consider what you will achieve by speaking at any given moment. A decision not to speak is often the most effective way of advancing your objectives.
If you do speak, you need to be clear as to the purpose and likely effect of your intervention. You should ask yourself:
- What am I trying to achieve by making this statement?
- What am I trying to avoid?
- Can my words be misunderstood, give offence, or be misrepresented so as to harm my objectives?
The transition between debate and negotiation is seamless. Debate is discussion; negotiation is a joint effort to develop a text that can be agreed and that incorporates your objectives as far as possible.
Debate therefore can:
- have the same objectives as negotiation
- prepare the way for negotiation or
- shade into negotiation.
- can take place in formal or informal settings
- is subject to the same rules as apply to debate and
- the target audience is the same as in debate.
The distinction between the two is therefore only a matter of form — but, as such, is important.
Interventions are easier to understand and more persuasive if they are structured. Structure in an intervention means attention to such factors as how the beginning, middle and end of what you say relate to each other; how your ideas or arguments are developed; the sequencing of points; the balance between different points and other such factors.
A time-tested way of developing an argument is to:
- proceed step by step
- introduce new ideas one at a time
- start from familiar and widely accepted ideas
- relate new ideas to that benchmark (i.e. show that they are consistent with it or a necessary departure)
- frame proposals as contributions to a common goal
- refer to principles only when these are universally accepted
- be as specific and limited as possible and
- close off unwanted extensions of your proposal.