Unconferences — Disrupting the way conferences are approached

A conference without presentations and keynote speakers? That’s blasphemous!

Well, not really. You can calm down. You just learnt a new term — Unconference

In plain English, unconference is a humble way of democratizing the way conferences are approached, planned & executed.

Unconference basically replaces ‘Hey, here is the agenda. Come down & attend if you wish. We don’t really care what you think about the agenda’ with ‘Guess what? You can have a say in what’s spoken here. Share your views, be heard & set the agenda as a team’

Unconference has emerged as a disruptive trend in the B2B & technology conferencing space. In stark contrast to formal business conferences, unconferences are informal meetings that are planned in short notice and organized on the fly with maximum participation from prospective audience

“You don’t have to slog months to run around scouting for speakers, stitch together an agenda for your conference. You could instead have thought provoking discussions with the brightest minds on the day of the conference, decided & voted by those minds themselves“

In the beginning, there was nothing

Many conferences tend to wear out the patience of attendees for 2 simple reasons

  1. They’re boring
  2. They’re super-boring
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By removing formal agenda-setting by a closed group of organizers, sponsors & speakers, Unconferences break down barriers to innovation by giving attendees a direct say.

By empowering attendees to express their opinion in a free-for-all forum, unconference formats give attendees a way to amplify their ideas & give them access to movers and shakers of their relevant industries and help build meaningful relationships

So what happens at unconferences?

At an unconference, no topics are predetermined, no keynote speakers are invited, and no panels are arranged. Instead, the event gets enlivened by the participation of its attendees.

An unconference has no agenda until the participants create it. Organizers play the role of a passive observer who curates ideas & executes what the audience decides

“At an unconference, if you aren’t speaking, you are not attending. Your value in an unconference is directly proportional to the uniqueness of ideas you share”

Elements that make unconferences worthwhile

The conversation space that emerges from unconferences enables the emergence of communities that bond over the power of ideas. Attendees could identify & engage with peer groups who share similar passion & interest & form vibrant sub-communities

“The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage.” — Dave Winer

Unconferences also act as brainstorming hubs that could bring about fresh perspectives & infinite possibilities for attendees

The secret sauce to get unconferences right

Creating and hosting an unconference is quite easy. Organizers take the role of facilitators who curate ideas, refine pitches, make audience vote for them & build the agenda, one powerful idea a time.

The result is an audience driven agenda that has concise & useful topics that make sense to everyone present in the hall

Here are some pro-tips for event facilitators to make your unconference a roaring success

Curate your invitee list: Look around for people who’re vocal & passionate about topics you care about. The most vocal people would be the ones brimming with ideas. Tap them

Innovation comes best from groups: Given that unconferences are unfiltered, the most quirky ideas come from people in such setups. People aren’t formal & don’t mind being politically incorrect. It’s proven that innovation is best when co-created by people who question status-quo & push each others’ limits

The law of 2 feet

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At unconferences, there is no place for flowery words & empty rhetoric. You don’t contribute, people move on. Unconferences are places where people can tell genuine innovators from the fake ones

Invite sponsors to join the forum and engage with hosts by donating anything from lunch to sponsoring unconference venue. Let them have a say in setting the agenda as well.

Come on. We’re democratizing conferences, aren’t we?

Unconferences are in

Unconferences are gaining wide spread adoption globally. Some of the notable unconferences in the US are Bar Camp, BIL Conference, MASSTLC’s Innovation unconference etc

Unconferences are in the forefront of driving ‘innovation economies’ that convert ideas into scalable knowledge assets & build meaningful entrepreneurial ventures

Unconferences represent organized chaos. But that’s the beauty of unconferences — they are unrehearsed and informal

One thing they are not is boring.

So, when are you hosting your next unconference on Explara?

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