Discussion-based exercises are normally used as a starting point in the building-block approach of escalating exercise complexity. Discussion-based exercises include seminars, workshops, tabletop exercises (TTXs), and games. These types of exercises typically highlight existing plans, policies, interagency/inter-jurisdictional agreements, and procedures. Discussion-based exercises are valuable tools for familiarizing agencies and personnel with current or expected capabilities of an entity. Discussion based exercises typically focus on strategic, policy-oriented issues. Facilitators and/or presenters usually lead the discussion, keeping participants on track toward meeting exercise objectives.


Discussion-Based Exercises

Provides a forum for discussing or developing plans, agreements, training, and procedures.



Informal discussion-based exercise,used to teach or orientate participants.

Formal discussion-based exercise, used to build or achieve a product.

Involves senior staff, elected or appointed officials in an informal group discussion.

Stimulation of operations using rules, data and procedures


  • Orient participants with new or existing plans, policies, or procedures.
  • Research/assess interagency capabilities.
  • Develop new ideas, processes, or procedures.
  • Develop a written product as a group.
  • Obtain consensus.
  • Collect or share information.
  • Discuss existing plans, policies,and/or procedures in the context of a hypothetical scenario.
  • Identify strengths and shortfalls.
  • Enhance understanding of new concepts.
  •  Explore the processes and consequences of decision-making.
  • Conduct "what if" analyses of existing plans.
  • Test existing and potential strategies


  • Casual atmosphere.
  • Minimal time constraints.
  • Active participant discussion.
  • Often uses break-out sessions to explore parts of issue with smaller groups.
  • In-depth discussion.
  • Slow-paced problem solving.
  •  Does not involve the use of actual resouces.
  • Includes simulations of increasing complexity.