In February this year I attended my very first unconference in Manchester, organised through an online community @LnDConnect and I loved it so much, that I attended my second this September. “So what on earth is an unconference?” you may be wondering…. so I will use bits and pieces gathered from here and there, as well as some graphics to try and describe what I have experienced and why I think they are marvellous!
Firstly there were some great people to network with in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. There was no agenda, which was a little curious (I have been to a few conferences, so this meant I didn’t know what I was in for) but also a little exciting. We were going to co-create the agenda together as a group.
Of course there had to be some initial instructions on how the day would pan out, otherwise it would have been chaos. The facilitation team guided us and informed novices like myself about the process. There is something about skilled facilitators that create a great open space, that really draws you in and gets you thinking right from the start.
As we were invited to come up wth topics we were interested in exploring, it sparked off thoughts about which sessions I would like to attend, which I could best contribute to and what I would like to explore myself. Topics were then grouped and an agenda emerged: 4 time slots and roughly 3 or 4 different topics per time slot. Quite a choice in a very short amount of time.
So what was it actually like? Apart from the initial nerves because it was new, we had some great discussions. Rather than one “sage on the stage” to draw from, there were many views, which made it a really rich and thought provoking experience. I took from it some real nuggets, which had really disrupted my thinking. I left having made some new friends and explored ideas from a rich pool of talent. I heard real life stories and experiences from many practitioners; successes as well as failures (you don’t often hear about those in a conference!) I went away feeling listened to, encouraged and uplifted, having listened to many experts (though they may not be widely seen as these).
In the graphics I have tried to summarise briefly, what an unconference is like and what happens. What I would really urge you do to is go and attend one; be prepared to listen, share and learn! You won’t regret it!