unconference-how it rolls on the night !
An unconference is like a normal conference but with no predefined agenda, no predefined list of speakers, no slides, and… er… actually it’s not very much like a normal conference at all! It’s more like an alternative to a conference. If the purpose of a conference is to collaborate and communicate, then an unconference will often fulfill the same purpose in a more simple, fun, and effective way !
The unconference format, with no set agenda and an open approach to sessions, is designed to capitalize on and expand those moments. Here is a rough overview of how unconferences work, along with some tips for getting the most out of an unconference as an attendee.
Example of Timetable (evening event):
- 5.30 – 5.45 Welcome, introduction & agenda creation
- 5.45 – 7.00 Breakout sessions
- 7.00 – 7.30 Meal and networking
- 7.30 – 8.30 Breakout session
Part 1: Intro & Agenda Creation
At the unconference, the night begins with a short overview of how the unconference will run followed by a session where participants suggest and vote on the sessions they want to attend. These are listed on post-it notes and attached to a whiteboard. If enough attendees vote for the session it will be selected to run. Then at the scheduled time, people who are interested show up and participate.
Part 2: Breakout Sessions
The presenter may begin the session with a short presentation, but normally things will then shift into an open-concept learning session, where participants ask questions and shape the discussion based on their interests and needs. This is a forum for discussion, not self-promotion, no product demos and a 60 second Rant limit
You do not need to be an expert to suggest a session, nor do you need to run the session. An attendee can also suggest a session yet leave the presenter section blank, indicating that they would like to discuss a topic but may not feel comfortable leading that session. If that happens, another attendee interested in the same session might step in and volunteer to run the session.
The exact format of the unconference is decided by the organizers
An open-ended approach to connect, learn and share in business
At an unconference, attendees are both the presenter and the learner. Sessions invite the people who attend to share their knowledge and also create a conversation that can draw out and build on the initial discussion.
Depending on the number of attendees at the unconference, when the session begins you will have people show up to discuss that question. That is business owners who have all been testing and refining different marketing and advertising options in their own businesses who can then share what is working, what is not and add their own questions or concerns to the discussion. unconference formats can be changed to suit requirements, but it is suggested that a casual atmosphere be created by supplying 'truck-type" food, real coffee and maybe even wine for after the event.
The concepts that underpin an unconference are simple, and set out four principles and one rule:
The 4 Principles:
- Principle 1 : Whoever shows up are the right people.
- Principle 2 : Whatever happens is up to you.
- Principle 3 : What happens is the only thing that could have happened.
- 4th and final principle: It’s over when it’s over.
The 1 Rule : The only rule at an unconference is the ‘Law of Two Feet’ :
“If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.”