Sometimes there is so much going on at a Congress for the New Urbanism that you just don’t know where to go. Some of you – like me – are introverted thinkers and can get overwhelmed by it all. And some of you – like me – don’t want to be even more socially awkward than an engineer naturally is (even though you all don’t have the same excuse that I do).
Here are a few rules that I’ve picked up over the years that may help you get the most out of CNU 22.
1. It is up to you to make your Congress meaningful. There are few burdens to doing this, but there isn’t a lot of handholding either. Seize the day.
2. Most people that attend the Congress are intelligent, inquisitive and open-minded. If you are shy or unsure of yourself, it’s okay to just listen. This is what I spend most of my time doing. Eavesdropping is not just socially acceptable, it is welcomed.
3. Everyone at CNU is approachable. If there is someone there you want to talk to or hang out with, just approach them. If they are busy they will let you know, but they are more than likely to add you to the conversation.
4. Spirited debate is to the Congress attendee what love notes are to teenagers; it’s how we show we care. You should view every passionate argument and counter argument you run into as steel sharpening steel. Embrace it and join in if you wish. New Urbanists need to be the most well-versed and versatile of advocates and this is how we get into game shape.
5. Sessions are great, but the action is always in the hallways or, even better, in the hotels, bars and restaurants. If you are used to the American Planning Association conference or other similar gatherings, the long breaks between things will seem awkward. Just understand: that is when most memorable things happen. The breaks are intentionally long to accommodate just that phenomenon.
6. Make sure you hear Andres Duany speak at least once. You’re welcome in advance.
7. If you want to talk about something that isn’t part of the program, chances are someone else does too. That is where Open Source comes in. Go to the Open Source station, write down your topic and select a time. When you show up you will have a self-selected group of people who are interested in the same thing ready to tackle the issue. It is magical
8. Never have lunch alone. Seriously, there is always someone to dine with and a lot of great stuff happens when you do. Practice this line: “You getting something to eat? Mind if I tag along?” I’ve been bold enough to fight my natural inclination and used this a few times. It has opened a lot of doors for me. The Congress needs you to do this because, if you’re here, you care. If you care, we need lots of doors opened for you because we need you out there doing great things.
9. For those who aren’t sure what is going on, sometimes it can seem like there is a “cool kids” table. This year that is the Hotel Lafayette. This isn’t junior high. There is no exclusive club and you are most welcome to be part of all the action. Come on over and join the fun.
10. A big role of NextGen is simply to be a greeting committee. If you want to get involved in the social side of what is happening at the Congress – and you do – just stay in touch with NextGen. And just to be clear: there is no age restriction for NextGen. As we often say, if you feel NextGen, you are NextGen.
As for Strong Towns, we have set up a public Google calendar (Calendar ID: firstname.lastname@example.org). Right now it has all the events that we are attending or directly involved in. As we add things – and we have a lot more left to add – it will be updated there. I’d love to meet all the Strong Towns advocates out there who are attending CNU so, please, make sure and introduce yourselves.