Why I Love the ConnectingHR Unconference

Today I had the privilege of attending my fifth ConnectingHR unconference. I couldn’t stay all day but I didn’t want to miss the vibe. Here’s the essence of why I travelled an hour and a half each way to spend an hour and a half with the group.






Something else I really like about these get togethers, when we first meet, there’s no job title, no hierarchy, there’s simply your name. And the conversations flow from there.

It’s still going on – right now. If you’re on Twitter – check the #chru13 hasthtag, but be warned, there is a very high risk that you will find a bunch of people dedicated to shaping a better working future, and having a damned good time doing it.


Unconferencing in 2013

It’s no secret I like helping to run and attend unconferences. Now that 2013 is well underway,  I want to share some plans with you:

Stop Doing Dumb Things

Stop Doing Dumb Things is back again, with a different twist. This time the unconference is taking place as part of the Professional Planning Forum’s annual conference in Warwick on April 29th and 30th. You can get full details of the event here and though I’m not playing a part in the event this time around, I’m sure Peter Massey and Jonathan Wilson will co-host something useful and fun. I’m keen to learn how this merger experiment works out – I hope Peter and Jonathan will share their thoughts after the event.


ConnectingHR will be running another unconference this year and I’m pleased to be a part of the planning committee. I’m an old hand, having helped out at several of the ConnectingHR unconferences and it’s great that we have some newer members stepping into the planning space. We need to keep things fresh so I’ve decided to make this the last ConnectingHR unconference I help to plan, in future I’ll take part as a delegate. The date for this event will be announced very soon.


The 2013 LnDConnect unconference has just been and gone, so if you missed it – where were you?! I enjoyed the simple pleasure of taking part, some of my thoughts on the event are here if you’d like to know more. If L&D is your bag, then I suggest you follow LnDConnect on Twitter to catch what happens next time.


I was privileged to be a part of the inaugural Facilitation Jam in January 2013. For me this was an invigorating and powerful session of shared learning. This is how we positioned the event:

The event will be quite free flowing with no one person responsible for leading the day. Instead we invite you to take turns to prepare and run a session during the event and receive immediate feedback on your ideas from your colleagues. You may be looking to improve on some existing methods you use – you may want to try something completely new. However you choose to play, it’s up to you.

For sure there were some unconference principles mixed in to the Jam and yet it was very different too. Smaller than your average unconference (we had eight people in the first session), and deliberately so, we wanted to ensure everyone in the group had time to contribute and get useful feedback. I think there’s room for more of this type of learning event and I anticipate investing more effort into further jam sessions throughout the coming year and maybe beyond.

So – that’s a quick heads up on where I am unconference wise. How about you? If you’ve got unconference stuff coming up or unconference experiences you’d like to share, please do.

Aspirations and Anxieties

Last week at the kick off (or should that be the get go?) of the Thomson Reuters’ New York Project Management Unconference, we asked people to express their aspirations and anxieties about the afternoon ahead of them. Here’s some of what people told us:


  • Building community
  • Sharing ideas
  • Recognition
  • Excitement
  • Lead by example
  • Collaboration
  • Renew motivation
  • New ways to look at things
  • Communicating with confidence



  • Will people get involved?
  • Not enough collaboration
  • Same old same old
  • Only do this once a year
  • Don’t recognize anyone
  • How to network?
  • Dealing with change
  • 20 people won’t show because of work pressure


The bullet lists summarise what people told us and you can click on the thumbnail pics above to see and download much larger, easier to read versions if you want to digest the whole thing. I think there’s some real power in what people said, particularly around the anxieties they expressed.

What we went on to experience was one of the liveliest, most participative sessions it’s ever been my privilege to be a part of, and though I have no evidence to back this up, I feel strongly that in part it was because people were invited right at the start to make a contribution. There was no fuss, people weren’t asked to stand up and ‘incriminate’ themselves, we just created some mental space for people to get involved, gathered some scribbled notes and then Tim Casswell and his team got on with illustrating them.

We had a photographer on hand and though I’ve not seen the pics yet (apart from one) I understand that they too give a really good impression of the energy levels and the sense of useful fun in the room.

Here’s some post event follow up from Anthony Allinson. There will doubtless be more to follow about the event and our experiences as I and others have the chance to digest what we talked about and learned, but for now I just wanted to share this first thought with you. We all want to be heard. Create an environment that’s all about your guests, invite them to talk and play, and your time together will be so much better for it.