Business Week reports that “Cheap, audience-driven “unconferences” are shaking up the convention biz.”
Unconferences turn the plodding, predictable business gathering inside out. They’re a hybrid of a teach-in and a jam session, with a little show-and-tell mixed in, and they are attracting hundreds in cities like Austin, Tex., Bangalore, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tokyo.
Unconferences are very informal. They are built on the assumption that the audience have brains.
While there’s no dress code at unconferences, there are rules: no passive attendees, only participants. A high-speed WiFi network is mandatory so those present can publish notes and other material. The conference Web site is a collaborative wiki.
The loose structure helps ensure that ideas being batted around are relevant to people in the room and presented with minimal pomp.
Several weeks ago, enthused by a presentation in which I had touted unconferences, a training executive told a couple of hundred people that perhaps their next get-together should be “one of Jay’s non-events.” We know what she meant, but the audience rebelled, saying they didn’t want to spoil a good thing. It’s understandable: free-form meetings aren’t for everyone.
In August 2005, I attended the granddaddy of unconferences: BAR Camp,
As I have written, I am a fan of unconferences. My notes on BAR Camp and Gnomedex, a slimmed down version of which appears in Informal Learning. I’ve participated and led not only unconferences, but unworkshops, unmeetings, and unsalons.
Unconferences are more than a format for meetings. They embrace the values underpinning informal learning and web 2.0. These include respect for everyone involved, extreme collaboration, spontaneity, rejection of learned helplessness, camaraderie, open discussion, and egalitarianism.
The photos are from BAR Camp #1.
Unconferences are now conducted the world over.