Two things fascinate me about the growing unconference movement. The first is the energy, the excitement and value they create for the participants, the guests, and the second is the uncertainty with which many people continue to approach them.
I’ve been to loads of conferences, a few very good ones, and a growing number of unconferences. There are two unconferences coming up which I’m taking part in, ConnectingHR on October 20th and Stop Doing Dumb Things on November 23rd, and I want to tell you about what I get from these events in the hope it may encourage a few folks sitting on the fence to join in.
In an unconference I’m able to experience and practice many different methods of sharing information. These include World Café, pecha kucha and the fishbowl method. All of these are great methods for learning and sharing and are perfectly, simply and cheaply transferrable to the workplace. At the last ConnectingHR I was privileged to run a world café session and the feedback was great. Folks found it enjoyable as a way of meeting many other people, and useful as a way of accelerating and increasing learning. Most conferences are just not laid out and set up to give you this great interaction and great learning.
At most conferences you arrive, take pot luck and sit next to someone you hope will be interesting, or stick with a colleague for safety. Many people who attend conferences say the best bits are the conversations they have with people in the gaps. Guests flow around and through an unconference in a way that guarantees you will meet many people. This increases your chance of finding interesting folks and in the event that your pot luck shot is a bit off target, it also gives you the opportunity to take aim and have another go, without awkwardness.
At most conferences you are presented at. There is often just one thing happening and you feel obliged to sit and listen, well you’ve paid a lot of money haven’t you. Unconferences give you choices and the rule of two feet applies. If you find a session is not meeting your needs or you’ve learned what you want from it – go and join another. This is not just OK, it’s encouraged.
Most conferences show you case studies, and some of these can be useful. At an unconference you get the chance to bring your own organisational challenges and opportunities and discuss them with peers and other experienced folks and find ideas and methods that are really focussed around your needs.
People I meet at unconferences fascinate me. Many have gone on to become friends and trusted advisors. Some have given me valuable work. Valuable in that it is interesting, useful and fun. Unconferences create lasting value.
I’m excited about meeting familiar and new faces at both ConnectingHR and Stop Doing Dumb Things, having great conversations, learning stuff, making work better and building even better relationships. I encourage you to join in, I’m confident you’ll be pleased you did.
As many of you know, I dashed off to the New Forest for summer camp after last weeks singing appearance at the Social Recruiting Conference. This camp is organised by a couple of friends for around 250 friends and family. It’s an amazing, friendly, wonderful event. The only fly in the ointment is that I get asked to kick off the entertainment on the Friday night. I’ve previously found this a hugely nerve racking, almost vomit inducing fright. And as a result my nerves have affected my performances. This time – it was going to be different. I decided that if people were going to watch me I owed it to them and me to have a good time. I’d also met up with Natasha Stallard earlier in the week and she’d spoken enthusiastically to me about challenging emotions more productively. So I gave it a go.
I think I did much better this year (and before you say it yep – there is still loads of room for improvement, and I’m motivated by that) and there are a few short video clips on this post for you to look at and listen to if you like. Oh – and the picture at the top of the post is me and two good buddies in a short play called The Dukes of Has-Beens, in case y’all are interested.
I plan to use this fantastic experience to think more carefully about how we integrate a sense of community into other places too. A great example of community crossing into the workplace for me is ConnectingHR. If you have any examples of workplaces behaving like a community I’d be pleased to hear from you.