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Participant 101

Attending your first simulation?  Want to hear tips & tricks recommended by the Simulations Directorate? We've got you covered.

The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency burst into the National Security Council without knocking.  “Mr. President,” he gasped, attempting to catch his breath after jogging to the room.  “Mr. President, it looks like China has begun the invasion of North Korea.”


The room was silent, and then everyone began to talk at once.  The Secretary of Defense was offering military contingency plans, snapping orders at the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’; the Secretary of State was speaking to an aide rapidly, ordering her to set up bilateral meetings with China, South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom; the National Security Advisor was grilling the Director of the CIA, asking how we know, what types of intelligence we had, and how confident we were.


The President considered for a moment, steepling his fingers under his chin, before turning to the Council.  “I want PACOM placed on highest readiness; meetings with the belligerents; and constant satellite monitoring over the region.  Get me eyes and signals intercepts so we can plan our next move.”


Aides hurried out of the room, and there was a timid knock.  The room fell silent again, a tense excitement and fear filling the air.  The Director of the CIA opened the door, and one of his staff entered.


“Mr. Director, Mr. President, Sir,” the aide began nervously.  “We have confirmation on the contents of the shipping vessel we were tracking and a suspected destination.”


Everyone looked at her expectantly, so she took a deep breath.  “Satellite images taken 68 hours ago confirm suspected nuclear material being loaded onto the vessel at port.  Based on their current heading and the weather, we suspect their intended destination is Chabahar, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”


The President rubbed his eyes.  “Okay, folks.  Get Legal Counsel in here.  It looks like we’re going to war.”

Shattered Resolve: A Simulation of Conflict and Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula | Fall 2013

Simulations are fun - that's how we design them.  Every simulation, we place our Participants in roles across the U.S. government - from Secretary of State to a CIA Intelligence Analyst, from an Assistant Secretary of Defense to an Ambassador. Our Participants then embody these roles throughout the simulation, to manage and (hopefully!) mitigate an evolving crisis scenario.

No prior knowledge, experience, or research is required to participate in our simulations!  In fact, simulations are a great way to learn.  We pride ourselves on how much our Participants learn at our events - 97% of survey respondents over 8 simulations say they have learned "a moderate amount" to "a lot" by participating in our events.

There are a couple of simple rules we ask all of our Participants to follow:


    • Be present and attentive throughout the day; bring your A-game and come prepared to problem solve

    • Think outside the box and try to be proactive - anticipate potential problems and needs

    • Challenge yourself to look at the bigger picture (strategic) rather than getting bogged down in the details (operational/tactical)

    • Be flexible and willing to work on multiple projects; simulations are a team effort


    • Sometimes things will happen in the simulation that are unrealistic or that gloss over bureaucratic intricacies​

    • These events are features, not bugs - our design team has made the conscious decision to include them

    • Your job is to address whatever scenario we give you, to the best of your ability; we always build scenarios that have multiple possible solutions

    • While we strive for realism, but sometimes the simulation or scenario necessitates a specific event - trust that we are giving you all the information you need for your role


    • Every role in the simulation brings a unique and important perspective to the ​simulation

    • When you receive your assignment, consider what ideas your office and department bring to the simulation

    • Remain true to your role; if you're in the State Department, you can't conduct black ops military operations - but you can travel abroad to meet with countries, and negotiate international treaties

    • As the scenario evolves, consider how your role fits into the larger picture, and what you can do to help

It is also worth noting that we take anonymity and non-attribution very seriously.  Simulations are an opportunity for you to represent an individual whose ideas and beliefs may not match your own or that of your company - and that's okay.  All of our simulations are run under Chatham House Rules, that is, what is said in a simulation, stays in a simulation.  We work hard to create an environment where everyone can contribute equally, and without having to worry about something they say coming back to bite them later.  Plus, it's good practice for your careers in government - many upper-level meetings and exercises abide by the same principles.

Top 5 Best Participant Practices


    • No one knows everything​, and that's okay; if you get stuck, ask for a briefing from an expert

    • We are always happy to give you help - we want you to succeed


    • The President does not do every job in government - there are people for that​

    • Our simulations are the same; we want you to work with your room and your government to succeed (not alone)


    • The more specific your requests are, the more help you will get​ - and the more you will like the result

    • Any information you leave out, you're allowing Control to make up (and won't necessarily benefit you)


    • Don't sit around and react to the situation - think proactively​

    • When you receive briefings, consider the long term ramifications, and how you can mitigate the impact


    • Don't assume that another office has the same information that you do​

    • The more you coordinate across offices, the more cohesive and successful your strategy will be

Participants in the National Security Council consider options for military engagement and humanitarian relief in Iraq.

Contested Crescent: A Simulation of Political Tension and Regional Influence in Iraq | Fall 2014