Have you heard of an Unconference? I had the opportunity to attend one last year and another this year and I should say that I really like it. Hence this post and sharing with you all.
An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.
It is close to a public meeting where people are welcome to attend and encouraged to participate but in a more structured way. The organizers choose a theme and set up a wiki(website that allows collaboration). They find a Sponsor and find a Venue. The Schedule and Program of the day is given. Attendees Sign-up themselves on the Wiki. Individuals post topics that they want to hear or topics that they want to present. Topics might get chosen on popular demand(by participants) with slight variations depending on the theme. If you don’t like one, you can use your two feet to move to the next one.
What if no one shows up? Since its free, what if people register and don’t come? Don’t worry. Everyone who registers attends as the sessions are generally extraordinary. These unconferences are a big hit because everyone who attends them have the same objectives of learning and sharing. Unconferences have more learning as at big conferences without the $$$ that you traditionally pay to attend. Speakers get a lot of attention and teach the community and share case studies.
Why should companies sponsor? Sponsoring is cheap and more meaningful. Companies can choose a meal or high tea to sponsor. Companies can even support the event and simply get recognition and acknowledgement at the event.
People can connect before the event(e-meet), meet at the unconference and keep in touch after that using Social Media tools or related groups.
Unconferences are very new and hence many have not heard of it. You can set up watch lists and news alerts for them and go and attend a few in your own city. You can volunteer in one of them to understand better before you lead one. It started as a Geek Community meet but have moved onto other areas as well.
If you want to do one and have more questions, feel free to talk to me here.