I co-hosted an unConference last Friday. It turned out pretty well. We had over 40 participants and they all got quite into it. Some lessons I learned:
– Be willing to drop about fifty bucks on food…even if it’s just coffee, muffins and bagels. It really helps create a relaxed mood, all that munching and such.
– The facility matters. It needs to have wifi, projectors, comfortable chairs, and restaurants nearby to eat lunch at. The public library we chose was really modern and nice and close to food. It worked out well.
– Stress to people that they must participate in the overall conversation. They are both the guest speakers and the attendees. If they don’t participate, you are sort of screwed.
-Also, I told people that they needed to remember the unConferences are the beginnings…it’s where conversations happen that start ideas and new things. Regular conferences tend to be end points…they are where summaries are made and conclusions are reached. That’s slightly unfair to regular conferences, but you get the idea.
– One person, who is fixated on their own problems and can’t seem to shut up, can really kill your session. There was one person who just didn’t get it. Was super negative and was internally focused. She just killed our momentum in some sessions and people got incredibly annoyed. If she ever shows up again, I have no fear of telling her to snap out of it. Terrible, I know, but she was that distracting to the overall group and turned some potentially informative sessions into ‘a day with debbie downer’.
– unConferences are a bit about the blind leading the blind. It takes the village to create the unConference. The thing about unConferences is you don’t know how they’ll go. They just kind of unfold and it’s up to the group to manage that unfolding.
– Blog it, Wiki it, Document it. Keep notes and distribute them. Create discussion boards so the untouched topics can be discussed later.
– Two words: FREE STUFF. Call around and if you can get free stuff from your association, it really helps. People got a big kick out of some of the stuff we were able to get and I was surprised and delighted by the generosity.
– Also, as I think about it, have someone to blog or take notes, a moderator, and then a “resource keeper” in each session. I think the most fascinating thing is that people kept mentioning blogs and resources and we didn’t really keep track of them as well as we should have. I’m trying to remember all the different resources I heard about and then I’m posting them to the wiki we created for follow up discussion.