The traditional conference has followed a basic formula for many years now. You may believe that it is extremely effective. You may even think that there is no reason to stray away from what is a well-working format. However, since the late 90’s, there has been a quiet revolution in the conferencing world. The unconference is gaining more attention over time. This week, we are here to explain why it should be the new approach for your next event.
So, what Happens at an Unconference?
An unconference is an event that is completely driven and shaped by the participants. There will be no need for a pre-determined agenda or lectures from keynote speakers. The unconference is about collaboration, peer-to-peer learning, creative thinking surrounding key issues and active discussions on hot topics.
An unconference puts the participants in charge. This gives them the opportunity to focus on what truly matters to them. This is a far cry from the passive attendance at a typical conference. This makes the whole concept more exciting and inspiring to attendees!
In many ways, it is a concept that builds on the way in which we communicate with each other today. Social media has allowed “conversations” to occur on a scale that has not been previously experienced. Technology has paved the way for people to reach out to one another in a digital community pool. The Unconference encourages the same method but in a face to face environment.
The Format of the Unconference
The beginning of an unconference holds a strong indication of how the rest of the event is set to run. Attendees are invited to bring in their own ideas for the sessions and the schedule. From this point, the day will evolve. Allow 1-1.5 hours for sharing ideas and organising the sessions. Depending on the ratio of session ideas and available slots, the final selection may have to be put to a vote.
However, even ideas that only garner limited interest can still receive some focus. It could be something as simple as a coffee in a quiet corner. Participants are then free to choose which sessions they believe to be more relevant or interesting to them. Some sessions may receive more attendees than other, but this is no problem at an unconference. What does matter, however, is the quality of the sessions so that your attendees tweeting about what a wonderful experience the event was.
Those who are actively engaged in a session will learn far more than a room full of people who feel obliged to simply turn up. Naturally, refreshments and sustenance still have a key role, so drinks, snacks and lunch must still happen.
Preparing for an Unconference
Choosing a suitable venue is important. You will need a place where everyone can meet at the beginning to plan the sessions and a few smaller rooms and break-out spaces for the variety of sessions. Rooms with the flexibility to quickly change the layout are also useful as changes can be made according to the session type. Whiteboards, A/V equipment, flipcharts and marker pens are all useful items to make available for each session.
Each session will require a coordinator, so the day moves along smoothly and to ensure each session is wrapped up efficiently. There should also be a person to keep notes of the discussion for circulation after the unconference comes to an end.
Does Technology Play a Role?
Surprisingly, while we are aware of the many ways to be creative and embrace technology for a variety of corporate events, such as apps and gamification, unconferences appear to work better when we go back to basics. This is due to the organic nature of the event.
As nothing is formally planned ahead of the event, the agenda for an unconference is a moveable feast and pen and paper are the tools of choice. This means a lot of paper, post-it notes, and tape are around the event. It’s a bit of a juggle, but it works.
Saying this, technology certainly has a role in the lead up by promoting the day and raising awareness. Spreading the word ahead of the day can help encourage more people to attend. Though there are not many uses for technology on the day, a Twitter Wall could come in handy during break times as it can encourage your attendees to get talking about the event.
Talk to Social Sticker
If you want to get people talking at your unconference, then look no further. Social Sticker is here for all your Twitter Wall needs. Get in touch for more information.