6 Things First Time Citycampers Should Know

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It is everything you think it is. And more.

Maybe this is your first year to attend CityCamp NC or maybe this is your first time to attend all 3 days – no matter your experience level, we’ve got your essentials covered.

(Updated with 2017 details.)


1. What is an unconference?

18773060571_131dc43343_oThat’s not a silly question. It’s actually a great question. By definition, an unconference is a participant-driven conference where you, the participant, set the agenda for the unconference. An unconference flips a normal “conference” or trade show a little on its head. Organizers plan the logistics just like any other event: location, food, parking, registration, marketing, etc. The only thing organizers don’t plan is the agenda. At an unconference, the agenda is created by the participants who come with ideas, challenges, or some expertise they want to share. After some type of voting process, organizers create the agenda based on the top voted ideas.

The agenda can be very low tech. It can range from a whiteboard style “grid” to construction paper and tape. The “grid” will usually have room numbers/locations on one axis and time slots on the other. The session topics are then filled-in with the most popular topics getting the larger rooms and similar topics getting merged together.


2. Anyone & Everyone can pitch an idea

Ideas can range from very niche-specific data topics to policy discussions relating to open government, and they aren’t just ideas coming from veteran citycampers. On Friday, Sept 29 at Nash Hall, pitches will start around 11:15 am following our panel and keynote. Organizers will provide a sheet of paper to write down your session topic and name, then participants will have 60 seconds to pitch their idea. Anyone doing a pitch will line-up on one side of the conference space and the pitches will be very free-flowing. This process will usually take us anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on the number of pitches/session topics.

Don’t let the minute pitch limit keep you from throwing out your ideas. To help you prep, check out this quick how-to on pitching ideas in 60 seconds by TechStars. It’s a great resource if you’re new to, or intimidated by, the pitching concept.

Have an idea you want to pitch? Submit your idea via GitHub before the event or before the pitching begins on Friday. We encourage anyone that wants to participate and has an idea, problem, or resource they want to talk about to make a pitch. The CityCamp NC environment is a safe one and our hope is that you’ll be inspired to engage in every facet of it.


3. Voting for ideas

After the pitches conclude, each attendee will have a chance to vote on their favorite topics/sessions. We’ll announce the official number of votes during the event, but 18582890680_f2cefe98cf_oeach participant will get at least three votes. Traditionally, we’ve placed the paper with session topics and names along the speaker stage and will use pens/markers to place tick marks on the topics you’re voting on.

Once voting has concluded we’ll break for lunch so the CityCamp committee can count up the votes and make the session schedule. Before sessions start, we’ll explain the unconference schedule so that you can plan the rest of your unconference time.


4. Attending sessions

Once the organizers unveil the conference schedule for the day, also called “the grid,” you’ll get to select which sessions to attend. We will start sessions at 1:00pm and end by 4:45pm. Each session will be 45-minutes long.

We encourage participants to practice the law of two feet, which means that if you attend a session and it’s not what you expect, you’re perfectly welcome to quietly leave the session and attend a different session that may be of more interest.

Ideally, each session will have a moderator in the room (if we can get enough volunteers) and we’d like to document each session in some manner as well.


5. You won’t go hungry

No matter if it’s food or food for thought, we’ve got you covered. Our menu for this year’s CityCamp NC will include:

  • Breakfast, Friday & Saturday (Sept 29 & 30)- Pastries and bagels, and of course, coffee!
  • Lunch, Friday, Unconference (Sept 29) – Moe’s Southwest Grill (Salad & Taco Bar)
  • Lunch, Saturday, Hackathon (Sept 30) – Manhattan Cafe (Sandwiches and salads)

Note: vegetarian and gluten free available, please make sure to provide this with your registration.

6. What to bring to CityCamp

Depends on your mode and style whether you want to go analog or digital, but bring something to take notes because you’re going to want to remember what was said and potentially regroup and discuss points made during sessions with small groups. Some other items to consider are: water bottle, chargers, sticky notes, laptop/tablets, business cards, personal MiFi for heavy downloading needs (we will have WiFi), seat cushion if the idea of metal chairs scare you, your lanyard and name tag issued at registration, and a light jacket if you get cold easily.

Most importantly, bring a big smile and an open mind.



Throughout the event we will be fully engaged online and we encourage you to participate in those communities as well if that’s your cup of tea. If you haven’t already, please follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and use the hashtag #CityCampNC for trending topics.

Also, we will have many announcements, discussions, and information flowing through our Slack channel. Join in on various channel conversations throughout the event.

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