15 Tips for Running a UKGovCamp Session

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With only 2 weeks to go until UKGovCamp 2019, I thought I’d carry on in the spirit of open work and open thought by writing up my own approach to getting ready for the day.

As it’s an unconference, and therefore participant-driven, and as so much amazing work goes into organising it, I like to get some plans together to bring some sort of idea along, even if it’s vague to start with.

Full disclaimer. I’m really not confident at public speaking to say the least (although usually enjoy it once it’s done), but over the years I’ve attended, UKGC has been a real opportunity to push myself, and is often my only real annual chance to stand up and blabber in front of 200+ people. The 15 tips below reflect the prep work I’ve gradually evolved as my confidence and familiarity with the event has grown.

And of course, it’s still changing. Further tips very welcome, of course.

  1. Ahead of time (usually just after the Christmas booze has just run out), think of a vague idea that interests you — maybe something you’re working on, been working on, or would like to work on.
  2. Turn it into a question, eg “what can we do to improve X?
  3. Turn into a provocative or catchy question, like “X is rubbish. What would X look like in a John Woo film?”. This is your title. “If John Woo did agile procurement.”
  4. Come up with 3 or 4 questions you have about the idea — ones that you are generally curious about. Keep these at the back of your mind, they will help guide things if you need to move the session on or get it back on track at all.
  5. Decide 1 or 2 things you would really like to get out of a discussion — this might be something you want to do as a result, or something you want to write up, or some sort of networking after the day, for example. Again, this is useful for pushing things forward if needed.
  6. Pitch. On the morning, stand up, get in line, and pitch. Personally, this is the scariest bit. Do it anyway. Be succinct and clear about your idea, using your provocative title, above.
  7. Run your session — get there on time (ie. before more than 3 other people) so you can get a good position, so that attendees know that it’s you hosting it, and so they and you have a chance to swap introductions and ideas while things are still quiet in the room.
  8. Set the scene. Use your provocative title and rough questions and outcomes as a way to introduce the session. It’s OK to be less provocative and a bit more boring at this stage.
  9. Don’t worry if things go in a different direction to what you had planned or expected — so long as people (including yourself) are finding it interesting, then there’s value to the discussion.
  10. Also don’t worry if conversation seems to get stuck or lose its way — you can refer back to your questions and ideal outcomes to get you back on track.
  11. Only take notes for things that are vital to you — it’s better to stay “in the conversation” and write notes up after, or use the “official” govcamp notes. You can always ask the note-taker to specifically jot something down, rather than write it yourself.
  12. Keep track of time, as it’s helpful to then…
  13. Attempt to draw things to a close by summarising what you’ve (personally) learnt, and what any next steps might be. And be sure to thank everyone for coming along.
  14. Chat to anyone that wants to chat afterwards, or get contact details if you really have to rush off. Remember, spin-off/corridor conversations are also just as valuable (and encouraged) as heading off to attend another session.
  15. Take a big breath and let it sink in before moving on.

Hope that’s useful to someone one there. Look forward to seeing everyone on the 19th!


Originally published at Graham’s Weeknotes.