I was surprised when I first heard the term “unconference” because without knowing it I immediately realized what it meant. In my case, it was very easy. I was explaining to my colleague Banz Ledin from SpotMe, the kind of work that I do as a group facilitator, namely adopting Open Space Technology in our yearly event for regional healthcare leaders in Spain. When I was explaining that we do not have an agenda, just a broad theme and an opening circle where we explain and apply a few principles and the law of two feet, I was struck by him saying “you mean unconference?”
Recently I realized that I should not be immediately saying “that’s right!” The MICE sector is eager to adopt innovative approaches to meeting events and Open Space can be wrongly perceived if we do not spell out the real meaning for what “unconference” means. Perhaps instead of saying what it is we can just explain what it isn’t.
“The Death Of The Unconference” by Mitch Joel expands upon what an unConference is not and I would like to share some parts of it in the remainder of this article.
[…] Your conference is not an unconference if…
* There is a pre-set agenda. The whole point of an unconference is that the group comes together to create the agenda/slate together.
* The organizers decide on the agenda. Organizers can help organize the day in terms of logistics (when there are sessions and breaks), but should not be setting the agenda in terms of the content.
* The organizers are doing everything. The organizers aren’t there to make the event good for everyone else. The event is actually being “run” by everyone. […] * You’re charging for it. […] If this is a self-organizing event why should any one individual have a financial risk attached to it? Think about getting sponsors instead of charging for it (if you really have to).
* You’re attending but not speaking. If you’re showing up to consume and not contribute, stay home. […] * You don’t enact the law of two feet. If you’re not learning, get up, use your own two feet and go somewhere you can learn. Hallway conversations are great for this. If your unconference isn’t littered with spaces for sudden collisions of conversation, it isn’t much of an unconference.
Unconferences are an amazing opportunity!
An unconference creates an egalitarian moment in time where people from all walks of life (and all levels within an organization) can simply share, learn, communicate and grow. To run a conference and call it, an unconference is a disservice to the unconference movement. Many people don’t understand this because an unconference looks and acts nothing like their traditional definition of a conference (hence the name of it). It saddens me to see how many people start with the right spirit of an unconference but quickly get stuck in all of the trappings of what they think will create a great event (and this – unfortunately – looks a lot like a traditional conference).
If you’ve never taken part in an unconference, I would encourage you to look into it… or better yet… start your own.”
Full article here: http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/the-death-of-the-unconference/
Cartoon image courtesy of http://gapingvoid.com/change-management-consulting/
And in Wikipedia…