An event designed to ‘challenge’ crisis negotiation teams in a multi-team event for up to 10 crisis negotiation teams.  The event is competitive, based on guidelines provided to teams and peer judges prior to the event. All teams experience the scenario simultaneously.

Teams are judged in ten areas:

  1. Active Listening Skills
  2. Overall Communication with the Subject
  3. Team Communication
  4. Intelligence and Information Management
  5. Risk Assessments
  6. Structured Brainstorming
  7. Managing Demands and Deadlines
  8. Team Roles
  9. Intelligence Boards/Documentation
  10. Intra-team Communication

There are four components to the event:

  1. Teams:  Team are comprised of 4-8 members depending on the demographics of a region.  Areas of the country with smaller teams or who are configured as multi-jurisdictional are more likely to hold events with a fewer number of competitors per team whereas areas with larger teams have up to eight competitors per team. Individuals who would like to compete, but who do not belong to a team, may join an ad hoc team. Equipment and supplies are provided to ad hoc teams.
  2. Facilitators:  Facilitators are largely provided by CSM, including a Chief Facilitator, Chief Judge, Role Player Coordinator and Tactical Coordinator. Often, these primary roles are supplemented by the host agency.  The number of supplemental personnel is dependent upon the number of competing teams.  Supplemental personnel serve in roles as intelligence coordinators, tactical liaisons, logistics coordinators or role player coordinators.
  3. Role Player Coordinator/Role Players: The role player coordinator is responsible for briefing the role players and monitoring their performance during the scenario.  Each scenario has a very detailed role player guide to ensure role players are meeting training objectives and remaining consistent across all competing teams. Role Players are provided by the host agency, based on the demographics of the scenario.  The host agency will have a minimum of a 90-day notice to recruit role players to support the scenario. The role players are a very large aspect of what makes the scenario realistic and constructive.
  4. Chief Judge/Judges: The Chief Judge is provided by CSM or is on rare occasions provided by the host agency after careful vetting. The Chief Judge is required to have extensive challenge judging experience, crisis negotiation experience, credibility with the competitors and a willingness to consistently administer the judge’s guidelines across all teams. The judges are selected from the competing teams or provided by the host agency and are comprised of area-wide crisis negotiators or retired negotiators. Host agencies are encouraged to recruit judges with crisis negotiation experience and who will have credibility with the competitors. Most challenges are set up with a requirement for each competing team to provide a judge for the judge’s pool.  Exceptions are made for teams of four or less. For exceptionally large events, a logistics coordinator is assigned to manage logistics such as team supplies, the delivery of lunches, assistance with setting up equipment, etc.


Challenge Format

1-Day Event – Challenge only

1-Day Event – Attached to a conference on either the day before or the day after the conference

2-Day Event – 1-Day Seminar and 1-Day Challenge

2 ½-Day Event – 1 ½ -Day Seminar and 1-Day Challenge

The decision for the type of challenge format is normally dependent upon many factors including:

  1. How far will participants be travelling? Will overnight stays be required for the majority of participants?
  2. How many teams will be competing?
  3. What are the preferences of competing teams? Do teams prefer to combine training events in order to maximize their training budget?
  4. What is the availability of facilities? Can both a seminar and the challenge be held at the same location?
  5. What is affordable? Can teams afford a 2-day (or more) event?



Each year, CSM staff select a topic area or a set of training objectives which reflect current trends or areas of interest within the field of crisis negotiation.  The scenario is written at the beginning of the calendar year and is used at competitive events for the remainder of the calendar year. Each scenario is carefully written to create the most responsible and realistic training event possible. Details of the scenario are ‘close hold’ in order to maintain the integrity of the scenario. 

The challenge scenario has three major elements:

  1. Scenario:  Approximately 60-110 pieces of notional information including call-out details, criminal history checks, license plate checks, interviews of witnesses, floorplans, and records checks.  Each piece of information is organized for distribution throughout the scenario to teams. Information supports all aspects of the team function from the team leader to the scribe.
  2. Role Player Guide:  The Role Player Guide is a detailed script for role players to follow during the scenario.  Beyond the details of the scenario are role player guidelines to assist the role player in maintaining an appropriate mindset and keeping pace with the distribution of notional information.
  3. Tactical Coordination: Tactical coordination includes information to support the tactical elements of the scenario including:  details of initial containment, delivery plans, hostage release plans, tactical updates, and reception plans.



The cost is dependent upon the format and the location of the event.  Most 1-day events cost $60.00 – $80.00 per person and most 2-day events cost between $85.00 – $100.00 per person.

What is included in the cost?  Professionally produced flyer in a pdf format, online registration, 3-4 facilitators (including all travel and lodging), trophies for 1st ,2nd, and 3rd place teams and all printed material.  In some cases, CSM also provides equipment and supplies for competing teams. 

The host agency does not need to incur any upfront costs and does not need to handle money during the registration or execution process.

If there are costs for the facility, those costs will be factored into the costs per participant.

Many host agencies work with local businesses to donate meals during the challenge (we do not stop the scenario for lunch).

Some host agencies make arrangements for refreshments and raffle prizes.  CSM does not participate in the solicitation of donations or raffle prizes.

If the budget allows, there are occasions where there are enough funds in the budget to allow for ‘give-aways’ for the participants.



Facility space must accommodate up to ten teams and role players.  The most suitable locations have included:  Large churches, public schools which are out of session, sport stadiums (press boxes or luxury suites), or vacant jails or prisons.



In order to allow for sufficient advertising and planning, we need no less than 90-days of notice prior to the event date.

Cancellations due to low enrollment will be made 30-days prior to the event.  In the ten years of conducting these events, we have never had to cancel due to low enrollment. The minimum number of paid registrants is 44.

CSM will coordinate all facilitator travel and lodging, make arrangements for printing and shipping and handle all registration and refunds when necessary. 

The host agency is responsible for arranging for facility space, role players, refreshments, and supplemental facilitators.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Why do you limit the number of participants on a team to 6 or 8? 
A:  Too many members on a team are difficult to evaluate fairly. Smaller teams feel as if they do not stand a chance against larger teams. Space is easier to plan when teams are limited to 8 people. Limiting the number of competitors helps in ensuring a sufficient number of judges are available.

Q: Why do you limit the number of teams to ten?
A:  It is critical that each member on each team have a meaningful training experience.  When there are too many people and too many teams – the training effect begins to diminish for participants; intel runs slower, there is less attention to role players, details begin to fall through the cracks and teams get frustrated.  We would rather have fewer people who get an excellent training experience than have a larger number of people who get a mediocre training experience.

Q:  Does the event need to be judged? 
A: Yes. Otherwise it is just a scenario day – we can plan and facilitate those as well.

Q: What is the benefit of having a competitive event?
A:  Teams work harder when the stakes are higher – the harder work is revealed in better team cohesion, attention to detail and improved methods.