Unconference = A facilitated, participant-driven event centered on a specific topic
This is not your typical conference. An unconference engages participants without a formal agenda, instead encouraging attendees to organize their own agenda and action plans and talking up these achievements.
Planeta.com uses the unconference approach for our tentpole event: Responsible Travel Week. There is some structure, but the content, the substance of the dialogue and conversations is generated by the participants themselves.
Conferences and Unconferences
Too often traditional conferences are overly scripted without opportunities to engage one another. Participants tend to read at one another. Meetings are held behind closed doors without access for anyone but those invited. Time – and particularly face time – is too valuable to waste in such a manner.
Successful unconferences have facilitators who make everything look easy. It’s not as easy as it looks. Such events can get hijacked by people who just want to complicate matters. This is not a free-for-all. Think Open Space Technology, the pioneering methodology for getting people together over a series of questions to develop their own agenda for discussion and action.
Lessons learned: the unconference approach works best where there is face-to-face interaction. Online conferencing has many merits but the lack of physical interaction hampers engagement. It’s easy to like or share information, but collaborative efforts are tricky to develop.