For the uninitiated, an unconference is ‘a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants rather than following a conventionally structure programme of events’ … according to the Oxford dictionary.
Do they work in the world of business?
The answer is yes … and no.
If innovation is what you’re after, then an unconference is a great way to generate ideas.
Start by getting people in the room with knowledge around a particular topic.
Allow participants to build their own agenda … anyone with an idea for a session posts it on a public wall and the agenda is created from all the suggestions.
Then … and this is real tough love … everyone goes along to whatever sessions appeal to them. But everyone is duty bound to get up and leave if they don’t believe they’re gaining from or contributing to the session.
Harsh but a sure fire way to make sure that the people in the room stay interested, the event stays focused and you exploit the fact that ‘the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage’ (according to blogger Dave Winder).
And when not to!
For a business with specific messages to share, an unconference is unlikely to work.
But you can steal elements to inject some of the energy that goes with an unconference to make your own event memorable and make those all important messages stick long after everyone’s back in their day job.
We’ve produced a useful guide to unconferences for event professionals. You can download your free copy of The Geek’s Guide to Unconferences here.