How the Oval Office Improved a Conference Training Program

Past experience working on global summits and presidential inaugurations helped Hargrove create a realistic congressional office setting for AIPAC.

By Beth Kormanik April 23, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

Attendees at AIPAC could practice their lobbying skills in a mock congressional office that was a scaled replica of the Oval Office.

Photo: Fotobriceno/Hargrove

Part of the experience at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference is training attendees to lobby members of Congress. At this year's event, held March 1 to 4 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, attendees practiced in a much more realistic setting: a mock congressional office that was a scaled replica of the Oval Office.

Called the Lobbying Lounge, the space included high-end design details such as an executive desk, leather chairs, and an in-laid printed carpet featuring an image of the U.S. Capitol. A separate area held a reception desk and chairs. Previously, lobbying training took place in convention center meeting rooms.

“We wanted to provide our delegates an opportunity to meet with AIPAC staff and experience a role-play of a meeting with their members of Congress,” said AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann. “By creating the setting and ambiance of a real congressional office, we were able to effectively train and prepare delegates for their meetings.”

Hargrove, general contractor on the conference for more than a decade, created the space and drew upon its extensive history with the federal government on events including presidential inaugurations and global summits.

“We know graphically how to present that kind of environment,” said Hargrove's Chris Fulghum. “We know what those spaces tend to look like. That's the beauty of having people here who work on that stuff all the time.”

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