When is a Conversation not a Conversation?

I had a really interesting, useful and fun afternoon at the second LnDConnect Learning and Development Unconference in London yesterday. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. Here are a few of my thoughts on the event, and unconferences in general, I hope they are useful to you.

The Venue Matters

The venue matters, but only in so far as it is clean, warm enough and accessible, and any tech needs you have are met. You can run a good event in a modest venue. Yesterday we were at Park Crescent Conference Centre which pretty much had it all, including decent break time coffee too. If I’m being really picky the Twitterfall was a bit hard to read as it was projected onto a screen quite high up on the wall, but yesterday was a good reminder that venue wise – good enough is perfectly good enough.

The People Matter More

It was lovely to catch up with some friends, and get to meet some people I’d only previously got to know on Twitter, and….drum roll please, meet some people who are not currently using social media to connect. I’m not sure how LnDConnect pulled it off – but kudos for attracting a diverse audience, more so than at your typical event.

The Technology is Becoming a Distraction

I think Twitter, blogs, and other tools are great ways to promote and market unconferences, and when the day of the event comes, I’m feeling more and more like I just want to immerse myself in the conversation and the learning possibilities. I find it too much of a distraction to engage in what other people are saying and tweet stuff at the same time. Sometimes what emerges on Twitter can be interesting and I’m hoping LnDConnect will share a Tweetreach report with the delegates. I wonder, if people are wiling, whether we need to ask folks to volunteer to curate a conversation? Sit at the edge of the chat and pick up on, and share the emerging threads.

When is a Conversation Not A Conversation?

In the wrap up before we hit the bar – opinions were sought about what worked well and what hadn’t been so good. Niall Gavin asked that in future, could we please do away with the tables. We were sat at round tables designed for about ten people – and on reflection it would have been easier to converse without these tables in the way. I think I would have preferred the intimacy over the slight inconvenience of having to rest on my knee to scribble those little insightful nuggets you want to capture. I’ll share a few of the ones I caught in a minute.

Beyond the table observation, it struck me that some of the tracks weren’t really conversational at all. Let me ask you a question – how many people does it take to make a conversation? I’d suggest between two….and maybe five at a push. Beyond that number what tends to happen is gobby gits like me, dominate the available air time and quieter folk tend to withdraw and….go quiet! I picked up on this in the bar afterwards when having a few conversations (heh heh) with people. Maybe in future – when a track gets really popular the facilitators might split it up a bit, to aid and maintain the conversation.


Here are a few things I heard that I’m enjoying reflecting on.

Stakeholders – the perception has evolved beyond just the purse string holders, to anyone who has an interest in your project/organisation/plan etc

Can we be more disruptive? Yes please!

Being bold – that came up a lot and it was fun listening to people define it. The dictionary says: Showing an ability to take risks, confident and courageous. Subtle and elegant were among the alternatives offered.

Be open to the possibilities – good learning is perhaps more about great connections that great content.

Pourable sunshine does exist. Whaddya know?!

It struck me that people aren’t big fans of happy sheets, who am I to disagree?

A lot of people said they were at the event for some ‘me time’. I’d like to see L&D pushing the case for more self determined learning in general. It’s powerful stuff.

Before the event I had wondered if together we could try and apply some theory and suggest things we might take away and experiment with. I’m not yet sure that we got there – and right now – I’m OK with that. Like I said, yesterday was interesting, useful and fun. That gets my vote.