Run your own [un]conference

October 4th, 2009

The past weekend I attending my third unconference.

It was a real blast, instead of the normal conference where you are there to listen, at an unconference you are there to engage.

And it’s through the engagement that REAL learning can evolve, it’s that experience, discussion back and forth.  In contrast at a normal conference you go to listen then apply.

So what is an unconference? Simple there is no agenda, you turn up and the attendees just add their own topics.

A session is more a discussion than a speech, the topic is set, a discussion point is created and you go from there.

Hang on does it actually work? Yes.  Amazingly it does.  Topics are self selected, so by definition only something someone really wants to talk about and you get to pick which sessions you attend (versus sit through a boring session awaiting the next good one).

What I suggest is that you set up your own unconference, for your industry, company or network.  Invite internal/external people from right across the board and let them go.  The less agenda the better 😉

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4 Responses to “Run your own [un]conference”

  1. Sam Farrow Says:

    This is an interesting post Ben and I have been doing some thinking about the application of unconference style decentralised discussion internally within large organisations, particularly in the context of the wider opportunities for the decentralisation of internal communication through the use of organisational specific social media platforms.

    It’s at this point; however, we hit a sizeable barrier.

    Organisations are by definition centralised, private organisation are centralised by the shareholders or the board, public organisation by a minister of the crown (or regulatory body). Organisations have a centralised budget (balance sheet) and centralised strategic planning, and this centralisation is unavoidable.

    So how can we weigh up the needs of centralised control for organisational decision making and decentralised discussions such as unconferences, to foster innovation?

    One way could be to create a framework in which the results of decentralised discussions can be placed and acted on. Something along the lines of an organisational innovation framework in which the relative merits of the creative output of things like unconferences can be agreed and the plan to implement the ideas laid out and achieved.

    Without this decentralised discussions such as unconferences run the risk of being all talk and no do.

    A recent example of using this unforence/framework model from the other end of the island is the use of the Open New Zealand Platform following the Government Open Data Barcamp.

  2. Carl Says:

    Do you still run an agenda or at least a theme, so maybe Social media or Word press ideas, travel etc or do you just advertise for geeks, and see what turns up???

  3. Ben Young Says:

    @Carl You can set a theme, like ‘taking new zealand to the world’ but keep it open ended.

  4. Ben Young Says:

    @Sam Thanks for your comment, this is true, how can you refine that balance. I think your suggestion is one that in practice works quite well (as long as their is commitment) – this is applicable for organisations that are using an unconference to stimulate innovation.

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