Attending the Rail~Volution conference can sometimes feel overwhelming for new attendees. There’s a lot of do and take in, and there’s a lot of people to interact with from all across the country and world. As past “newbies,” the New Rail~Volutionaries have put together some tips for new attendees to try to get most out of their experience. The experience is unique for everyone, so make it your own and consider these tips as suggestions, not rules.
Prioritize in advance.
It is helpful to have a sense of what you want to see before you get to the conference. It’s also helpful to have a sense of who you might want to meet. Rail~Volution provides a comprehensive program and a list of expected attendees. Check it out and do some research before you get to the conference. That being said, definitely go to the PK Slam!
Be flexible once you get there.
While it is nice to have a plan going into the conference, there are always going to be things you hear about or see that’ll jump out once you get there. Don’t be afraid to abandon your plan and explore something new. If there’s a session on that amazing transit station area that you passed by on the way to the conference, go to it. It might be your best chance to learn something interesting about that project.
Find one-on-one time to discuss and stay connected.
Everyone at Rail~Volution is busy because the conference is jam packed with exciting experiences and learning opportunities. That being said, the conference is about sharing experience and making important connections. If you see a good presentation or an interesting project, try to set up a time to meet and talk as opposed to stopping someone after their session. Buying someone a coffee or beer during your time at the conference is even better. Follow up with each person you meet after the conference. Staying in touch is a crucial part of networking.
Take notes and share your new gained knowledge.
The Rail~Volution presentations are posted after the conference and they are really helpful! However, if you keep track of great presentations that you saw, you can contact the speaker and follow-up after the conference. Another great thing you can do is paying it forward by sharing your new resources with your fellow co-workers, colleagues, and friends. It’s a good way to build on the conference and spread the Rail~Volution love.
Attend a mobile workshop or two.
Mobile workshops are the unique opportunity to learn about a project first hand while you explore the context directly. They are truly one of the highlights of Rail~Volution and a great opportunity to explore the region where the conference is held. If you can’t attend a mobile workshop, it’s helpful to ask those who went on mobile workshops what the highlights were, and maybe even ask for a copy of the materials or a contact. Even if mobile workshops are full during registration, they sometimes have a waiting list the day of the workshop. If you can’t get to a mobile workshop, try one of the self Guided tours during your downtime!
Don’t forget to relax.
The conference can be overwhelming and you may feel the need to try to see as much as you can. However, it’s also important to take care of yourself and pace yourself. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, whether during the conference or at night, to rejuvenate and refocus on learning.
Explore the region you are in.
Rail~Volution is about creating livable communities and the regions aren’t picked at random. Each conference is held in a community that offers some pretty amazing things to see and do. Exploring the region, whether it’s on a mobile tour or on your own time, is a great way to start making a list of things you want to see the next time you visit ;). Self guided tours are available to explore things like public art and station areas.
Take transit. Or bike. And definitely walk.
Listen, we are all probably passionate about transit and livable and sustainable communities, but there is something about getting on a bus or train, biking, or walking in a different region that always elicits new ideas for Rail~Volution attendees. It allows you to experience a place in a more intimate way and see the nuances that make every region’s approach to the Rail~Volution unique.
Take advantage of the social events.
Make time to attend the conference’s social events to schmooze and connect with people in a more relaxed setting. These events sometimes bring more opportunities to share knowledge and meet people than the conference sessions. It’s important to try to talk to strangers and make connections. This can be awkward and uncomfortable at times, but people at the conference are expecting strangers to talk to them.
You can dance if you want to.
Finally, find a member of the New Rail~Volutionaries Leadership team and ask about our Tuesday dance night, after the PK Slam. You can dance, if you want to.
We are all in this together.
We all have a common goal – do good for our communities, help them evolve sustainably, equitable, and plan for the future. Rail~Volution is one of those few conferences out there that really brings folks from a variety of backgrounds and career levels. You could mingle with a politician, and executive director, seasoned technical leader, and a student in one sitting. There isn’t a hierarchy or sense of class here.