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Outlier: Host an Unconference-Style Session!

Host an unconference session!

In addition to the speakers and talks we’ve already curated, there will also be the chance to speak, lead, or facilitate unconference-style sessions. (Note: you will need to be an attendee to host a session.)

We acknowledge that some folks who submitted to speak and were not selected may feel disappointed, and we totally understand that. If time and budget allowed, we would have loved to have selected many more. Unconference sessions and lightning talks (information on how to submit a lightning talk here) are an opportunity for more people to get involved and showcase their efforts, and we hope you consider being involved!

The structure of Outlier

From the beginning, we didn’t want to be limited to a typical or standard conference structure. Instead, we wanted to utilize the freedoms that a virtual event provides to create something we felt would best serve our goals of enabling attendees to:

  • make connections (e.g., new collaborators, new friends, new roles, new clients!)
  • learn from others (from both curated and unconference sessions),
  • and inspire others (by allowing them to share their expertise and experiences via a variety of formats)

There will be two types of sections within this conference: curated and open, with the schedule alternating between the two.

Curated sections will look similar to the standard “conference structure”, with a higher focus on talks, with only one or two talks at once. The open sections will consist of unconference-style sessions, will have several tracks running concurrently, and will be fleshed out based on the interests and preferences of the attendees.

Alternating between curated and open sections. This is an approximation to get the idea across; the agenda will have some variations.

Let’s dig into this a bit more, shall we!? :D

Curated sections

We had an open call for speakers in October and November of 2020. From our applicants, we curated a lineup of speakers, with a focus on including a diverse range of topics, speakers, and perspectives. (Read more about the process in this Nightingale article.)

To complement these longer talks, we are also including Lighting Talk sessions that are a group of smaller talks from our attendees on a variety of topics, picked by the attendees themselves. Note: We’re still collecting submissions for Lightning Talks. Send us your videos! :D

Open sections

The open portion will allow all attendees to create their own session. These sessions can be about almost anything. They could include talks, discussions, panels, games, or an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Most will probably be dataviz-related, but some might not! Nevertheless, they’ll all connect people from the dataviz space who have similar interests.

These sessions will be shaped by participants, giving everyone a chance to have a voice, and creating a specially-curated experience made by and for those in attendance. (Plus, we think it will be a LOT of fun!)

All attendees will have opportunities to create and/or facilitate these unconference-style sessions.

Creating a session

Signing up

These sessions are made for attendees by attendees; therefore, you will need to be an attendee to be involved. We’ll be sharing details with attendees on how to sign up in the week leading up to the event.

Although you can’t sign up yet, you can start thinking about sessions you might want to plan. :D

What type of sessions can I create?

For the most part, whatever you like! We have created the following categories to help you to clearly label your session, and to signal to other attendees what they can expect if they join. Some sample categories might be:

  • Talk
  • Panel
  • Discussion
  • Q&A / AMA (Ask Me Anything)
  • Hands On (e.g., workshop, hackathon, sketching contest)
  • Fun / Misc (e.g., games, music, etc.)

Let us know if we’re missing any!

Working together

We encourage people to collaborate and work together. Is someone else already planning to host a discussion you’re also super keen to lead? Reach out to them! Perhaps they’ll want to join forces. :D

What’s expected of me if I create a session?

Unlike a more traditional conference session, unconference sessions have less of a clear distinction between prepared speakers and audiences. Even if you present a talk, we hope you choose to leave room for discussion and questions, either along the way or following. Everybody is encouraged to participate and contribute something interesting, whether through leading a session or contributing insights to various sessions.

What should I choose for a session topic?

This is totally up to you (as long as it does not violate the Code of Conduct, of course), so we’d suggest whatever you’re excited about! We imagine a lot of the sessions will be focused around data visualization topics. However, we also encourage people to plan sessions around topics that are only minorly tangential to data visualization, as well as topics that have NOTHING to do with data visualization. We believe that two people connecting over non-dataviz topics (e.g., animal welfare, hiking, etc.) or non-dataviz activities (e.g. ,yoga, games, etc.) is also a really great thing and we want to encourage that. :)

Some examples of potential sessions are:

  • Start an interesting debate or discussion about deep issues (e.g., a discussion around the data visualization of issues such as COVID-19 or election polling)
  • Organize or suggest a panel on a popular topic
  • Lead a workshop on your favorite tool
  • Host an AMA; share your expertise!
  • Host a game, lead a yoga session, or some other fun activity
  • Give an informal talk on something you’re excited about
  • Share your obscure hobby!
  • Tell us about a niche area of dataviz you’ve fallen into
  • Share a live-coding session
  • Whatever else you can think of!

So I want to facilitate a discussion — what does that mean?

As a facilitator, you are creating a space for everyone present to share and examine thoughts and ideas together. As a facilitator of a discussion, it’s important to remember that this is not just a platform for your own voice and ideas (as great as they may be); it is also a place for others to lend their voice. We ask all discussion leaders / facilitators to be mindful of others in the space and be careful not to take over the conversation.

Do I need slides?

Nope! Unconf sessions tend to be a bit more off-the-cuff. But, if you have slides you want to share, feel free to bring them along.

Can I give a demo of our product?

Unless you have secured a clearly-marked sponsorship session through the events director as part of a sponsorship package, we do not allow product pitches. See more on this here.

Rules of engagement

We have some rules of engagement that apply to all aspects of Outlier. You can read about it in full here. See also the Data Visualization Society Code of Conduct.

Join us!

We encourage you to start planning your sessions! We’ll be sending details to attendees on how to sign up soon. If you don’t have your tickets yet, you can snag them here!



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