Every year, thousands of planners and planning officials descend upon a different city for APA’s National Planning Conference, conference veterans and first-timers alike. Personally, I have been fortunate enough to attend 16 NPC’s across the United States and Canada.
While I’m still learning even as a veteran attendee, here are five tips I want to pass along if this will be your first NPC.
Expand Your Horizons
There is no other planning event that offers up an opportunity to experience nearly every aspect and type of planning in our profession.
For younger planners, who still might be exploring an interest or career direction, you can sample a variety of session topics to learn about different projects and types of work that planners do.
For the more seasoned professionals, this is a great opportunity to learn about new tools and projects that might translate well to your own community.
I understand that attending NPC can mean a major investment in time and money; but, don’t forget, you’re in New Orleans. You can learn a lot from simply exploring the city. APA offers four orientation mobile tours as part of the conference that provide a chance to see the city with a local guide.
Additionally, the convention center is a short walk to the French Quarter and Arts District with amazing restaurants, music, and public spaces, or you can take a bus or street car to explore other neighborhoods. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and take some time to check out everything New Orleans has to offer.
Talk to Strangers
Networking is important to every planner and the conference gives you a lot of chance to meet and greet other planners. Be sure to attend the Welcome Reception, held at the famous World War II Museum, on Saturday night.
Additionally, many of APA’s chapters and divisions host their own receptions, so check with your chapter president, division chair, or administrator to see if they are hosting a reception.
Know ahead of time that some receptions may require the purchase of a ticket.
If you think you might want to be a leader in an APA chapter, division, or even at the national level, introduce yourself to the many APA leaders who will be in attendance. You can often pick them out of the crowds by the ribbons attached to their name tags. Feel free to approach them and talk to them about their involvement and how you too might get involved in furthering our profession.
Wander the Exhibit Hall
The Exhibit Hall deserves some of your time and attention. The Exhibit Hall is filled with activity, including sponsor exhibits, poster presentations, the Career Zone, and the APA Pavilion.
And don’t miss the Tech Zone, where you can geek out on newest technologies that planners are using.
This is, by far, the most important lesson I have learned.
In my experience, the conference is as much about professional enrichment as it is about maintaining my network and reconnecting with colleagues and friends. I enjoy attending the leadership meetings, checking out sessions, and seeing all that my fellow planners have done to enhance communities.
See you in New Orleans at NPC18!
Top image: Conference attendees enjoy a presentation at the Tech Zone during the 2017 National Planning Conference. Photo by Joe Szurszewski.
About the AUthor
Wendy E. Moeller, AICP
Wendy Moeller is a member of the APA Board of Directors, elected from Region IV. She is principal and owner at Compass Point Planning. Moeller earned a bachelor's degree in urban planning at the University of Cincinnati. In addition to numerous volunteer roles at APA, she served as president of APA's Ohio Chapter.