How to present at an unconference


TransportationCamp DC is coming back as a hybrid event on January 7, 2023. This “unconference” is a place where attendees get to set the agenda and lead the conversation. Here are the top 4 pieces of advice for people interested in proposing a session.

Campers propose sessions at TransportationCamp DC

At TransportationCamp, every attendee has the opportunity to propose and lead a session on a topic that matters most to them. But how should you decide, and what makes for an engaging session? Read advice from our team and past session leaders below.

In-person attendees propose sessions the morning of the event. Virtual attendees will propose sessions in December. Have a ton of ideas that you can’t wait to share, or are you just eager to hear what other people come up with? We’ll share session previews from our sponsors before the event to give you a sense of where the conversation can go. Register today so you don’t miss a thing.

1. Start brainstorming now

A lot’s changed since our last Camp, including the challenges our transportation system needs to overcome. Transit agencies continue to recover from pandemic shifts. Federal dollars can boost transportation equity, but there’s even more money available to make equity issues worse. States are tasked with building out their EV infrastructure, and a proposed federal rule would require states to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions created by transportation. Plus, there are new opportunities available to explore the role technology can play in improving our system.

Want to talk about these national trends, but not sure where to start? Last year Anna Zivarts, Director of the Disability Mobility Initiative, co-led a session called “A Quarter of Us Can’t Drive: How BIPOC & Disabled Nondrivers Will Change Transportation.” Her advice: “It’s always good to ground your discussions in stories from people who are most impacted by the work.”

2. Bring in more viewpoints

“The best panels evidence diverse thought—find people with a different perspective and invite them,” said Steven Polunsky, Senior Energy Policy Specialist in Clean Transportation at the Washington State Department of Commerce, and a session leader for “Electric Vehicles Pros and Cons” at last year’s TransportationCamp. 

The early morning at TransportationCamp can feel like pandemonium as Campers share their session ideas and forge connections with others who could help lead the session. Whether you’re joining us in person or online, bring in more perspectives and strengthen your idea by pulling in another Camper to get the conversation rolling. Give folks a head’s up in advance and ask them to join you at TransportationCamp.

Social media can be a useful tool to share ideas and build connections. Join our LinkedIn event and tweet out your plans with #TransportationCampDC.

3. Make it fun!

TransportationCamp is known for out-of-the-box thinking and creative sessions. We’ve seen shark tank-style sessions, mock trials, and even a shared mobility caucus. Sessions often come with memorable names, like “WTF Does That Mean?” (on using plain language in transportation advocacy) and “Cage Fight!” (a debate over whether electrification or modeshift had a better chance of addressing climate change).

Campers participate in a shared mobility caucus.

“TransportationCamp is a great opportunity for the young and young-at-heart to come together, throw ideas on the wall, and see what sticks,” said Benito Pérez, T4A Director of Policy and a former session leader. “In our schools, firms, and other professional areas, we might find ourselves in an echo chamber. TransportationCamp gives us the opportunity to jump out of the box, hear from new perspectives, and maybe walk away with changed minds—or at least new respect and awareness of different points of view.”

Past session leaders also urge future leaders to boost the conversation by being open and considerate to the multitude of perspectives in the room. “Be open to different viewpoints. The key word here is ‘and’ not ‘but,’” said Polunsky. “Remember that some people don’t process groups well. Be gentle when redirection is needed.”

4. Jump in

You don’t have to be an expert to host a session. In fact, some of our best sessions have come from people who have a question to ask. A former TransportationCamp DC organizer, Jenna Fortunati, put it best when she described the power these sessions can hold.

Here’s an example of why TransportationCamp is so special to me: [at TransportationCamp DC 2019], my mom hosted a session. She’s a city council member in my hometown, and was worried (rightly so) that a street widening project in our neighborhood would increase vehicle speeds. She needed advice from Campers on street designs she could propose that would keep speeds low.

And the Campers delivered: a group of about 10 urban planners, engineers, and students brainstormed that the best solution to my mom’s problem was a small roundabout. And that’s exactly what my hometown decided to build when my mom brought the idea back home.

TransportationCamp is the place to air out your concerns, explore new ideas, and share your point of view.

“Don’t be afraid to post a session—you may not be the most expert in the topic but your unique perspective may be the most valuable to potential attendees. Your strength is your experience,” added Polunsky. “Lead with that.”

Excited to attend TransportationCamp? Space is limited, so register today to secure your spot. We’ll see you there!

Register for for your chance to present at TransportationCamp DC

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