What is an Unconference?

What is an Unconference?

May 25, 2015

An unconference is a participant-driven conference in which the participants themselves propose session topics and lead the discussions. This is the antithesis to a traditional conference in which the sessions are pre-determined prior to the event and the more formal presentations are prepared ahead of time. (Read More)

The main rules of an unconference are simple:

  • Participants propose a topic for demonstration or discussion. If you propose a topic it’s assumed you’ll lead the session. (See Types of Sessions. In general, these are informal and often impromptu discussion sessions where pre-prepared Powerpoints are typically not used.)
  • Topics are organized on a Schedule Board by the unconference organizers.
  • Participants choose which sessions they want to attend…no registration is required.
  • If a given session isn’t meeting your needs, go to another one. It’s called voting with your feet. No one takes offense if you leave mid way. The ATI Unconference is all about you!

How does it work?

At the start of the ATI Unconference, you will be invited to volunteer to facilitate a session on a topic of interest to you. So what does this mean for you at ATI? If you have something you can show people – a project, a technique, a tool, a neat trick – you can add your topic to the schedule. You can even decide you would just like to lead a discussion on an issue. The point is to get that peer to peer sharing going that is the true lure of any conference, and to help you make connections with other professionals who can help you in your daily work. The key here is that you do not have to prepare a lecture or a slide deck. In fact you may be so inspired that you something to share on the spur of the moment which is the spirit of the unconference!

Anyone who has an idea for a session can write their name and a topic (3 words or so) on a sticky note and add it to a slot on the Schedule Board. If there are more topics than time slots or there is a duplication of topics, topics of commonality may be merged into one session to facilitate greater participation. If there are more time slots than topics, participants will be encouraged…cajoled…to come up with more topics of interest. After hearing a brief description of the topics, you will attend the sessions of most interest to you. At the end of the unconference, there will be a de-brief so participants can share what they learned.

Leading a session

If you propose and lead a session, you get to facilitate the discussion in your group. (See Advice about leading a session ) Some participants may find that the topic isn’t right for them and they may “vote with their feet.” Don’t take offense! If only 2 people show up…it’s the right 2 people.

Everyone has a voice

In addition to being able to start discussions and attend sessions, we’ll use the ATI’s Twitter hashtag #usnhati to tweet about the unconference as it is happening.

Reference: Unconference.net (http://www.unconference.net/unconferencing-how-to-prepare-to-attend-an-unconference)

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