A conference done right

I attended the Transportation Equity Summit in Sacramento today. Unfortunately work obligations will prevent me from attending the advocacy day tomorrow. I’d like to comment on the conference.

Though short, the conference was GREAT. In the lunch-time plenary session, three good speakers laid out some basics, but plenty of time was reserved for questions from the moderator and the audience. This was followed by a half hour networking session (with coffee and cookies), then three breakout sessions, then another networking break with tea and cookies, and two final breakout sessions. In the two breakouts I attended, at least one-third of the time was devoted to questions from the participants. In the evening there was a social function at the hostel, with a brief but very interesting presentation, three short awards, and much more networking over beer and wine.

This is the way a conference should be done. Too many conferences in Sacramento over the last few years, on transportation and livability topics, seemed to intentionally exclude participation. The speakers filled up all the available time, there was no planned time for networking, and the overall feeling was that the experts were telling the rest of us what we needed to know (the sage on the stage), though ironically there was far greater expertise in the audience than on the stage. It is my hope that we never need suffer another one of those authoritarian conferences in Sacramento, and that the Transportation Equity Summit sets a bar that all others must now reach. If you have the opportunity to participate in future transportation related conferences in Sacramento (or anywhere), I hope that you will ask very tough questions about the program format before you sign up, and if the conference is clearly not going as advertised, stand up and object strenuously, and in fact make sure the conference doesn’t proceed until it is fixed. Obviously I have strong feelings about this. I’ve been burned by the lies of conference organizers, and will not ever trust many of them again.

Thank you to Transform and California Bicycle Coalition, their leaders, and Katie for a great conference, done professionally, and inclusively, and with humanity.

One thought on “A conference done right

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