Unconferences – Why you should attend

hold an unconference

image courtesy of Hugh McLeod @gapingvoidart

Conferences.
Can be expensive.
You sign up to a timetable. You go and listen to a “sage on the stage” – sometimes a brilliant one – and you take notes, nod… frown a bit that their version of a story sounds a bit easy, but if you are anything like me, you are generally appreciative of time to think and being offered a new perspective.
You won’t talk much during the sessions.

Exhibition time & coffee…. Next Session…. More listening….Lunch & exhibition time….Next session: Workshop – you do stuff and talk through stuff, it’s more invigorating than listening… Break…. Next session, more listening….Closing Keynote. More listening….

You are kind of mostly on receive mode.

The Conference might be backed up with an Exhibition.. with bags & freebies. Good people to talk to….An idea of what is out there in the market.

This is good. You might get caught in some clumsy sales chats – but you are discerning enough to extract yourself without parting with a business card or a promise….

At the end of the conference, you have a bag of goodies, sore feet, a full brain and notepad and at least a few new people to continue talking to.
I like a good conference. I really do.

And I often feel like a visitor, a non-participating viewer.. a tourist into other people’s stories & stuff.

Unconferences.
Are cheap.
There are no expert speakers.

The timetable is: Arrive. Meet people. Decide some good topics to talk about. Find a process (Open space/Fishbowl/ World Café/ Round table/ Q&A/ just having a chat) Talk about the topics.
Use post it notes and puzzle things out. Learn. Think. Talk more. Stuff will happen. Lunch will happen.
More good topics will be decided upon. Another process will be chosen to “host” the conversation. More talk, more learning, more stuff will happen.
Gather together. Say goodbye.
You have mostly participated, not spectated.

No exhibitions. No selling.

At the end of the unconference you have a brain full of ideas, a notepad with scant stuff in it because you were too busy listening and talking to write….

And you have met good people. Great people in fact.  I’m not saying you don’t at a Conference – but as there is greater interactivity at an Unconference, you kind of get to know what people THINK rather than just what they DO… it’s a different connection.

Fellow L&D Connect-er Vicki Fletcher, Group Training & Development Manager at Hachette UK, is organising the next London Unconference (Along with Simon Gibson from NBC Universal). She summarised the experience of the folk who attend Unconferences perfectly:

“What I like about them most is that they are like-minded people but more importantly that they understand what you do and the types of pressures, concerns and issues you come across. That might be in a totally different industry to the one I work in; but that’s OK because they ‘get’ L&D.
And even on top of that – it’s not loads of Directors or senior L&D people spouting stuff – it’s a full range of levels, ages and experience.”

You get to share ideas, discover different perspectives and ways of thinking. You can ask for solutions to the relevant issues in your organisation or business. You get to try out new methodologies, or practice old ones again.

It invigorates and challenges you. It connects you and helps you stay sharp and curious…..

I LOVE a good Unconference. I really do.

So if you are interested in attending an Unconference (particularly one with an L&D/ OD slant) … read on:

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The L&D Connect Unconferences –
3rd October – Glasgow  – find out more & sign up here: and see slideshow here:

L&D Connect Unconference – 3rd OCt 2014 – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

31st October – London – find out more & sign up here:

L&D Connect is a virtual and real-life space for L&D practitioners and others in L&D/ organisational development to discuss the issues that matter most to them and their organisations.
We run on a not-for profit basis and our unconferences and informal networking events attract a wide variety of practitioners.
The aims are simple – to create a space to
• Experiment with ideas & techniques with other practitioners – get feedback and think differently about what you produce
• Talk about relevant L&D/ OD issues
• Exchange ideas and support fellow L&D professionals
• Encourage networking & best practice sharing within the learning & development community

About the Unconference
An Unconference means no speakers, no fixed agenda, no selling to or promotional activity.
We are setting aside a space to learn, experiment, network and reflect

There will be some loose facilitation to get things started but be prepared to input and make this event your very own.
There will be a focus on using Social Media to share content- please bring phones, tablets and devices.
If you are new to Social Media, we will help you find your feet a little!

And not forgetting our Twitter hashtags . . .
We are also using two hashtags on Twitter – #ldconnect for the group and #ldcu for the Unconference so please do use them.
Want to know more?

Here is the amazing work that Martin Couzins from LearnPatch drew together from the Edinburgh Unconference in Feb 2014
Review of the day blogged by Learn Patch:
Our Key Discussion Points from the Day
Storify curation of Tweets

Useful contacts:

Glasgow Unconference:
Julie Drybrough – @fuchsia_blueinfo@fuchsiablue.com

London Unconference:
Vicki Fletcher – @vickiLfletcher  – Vicki_fletcher@ymail.com

#LDinsight / Linkedin Group Queries
Sukh Pabial- @sukhPabial spabial@sky.com
David Goddin – @changeContinuum david@changecontinuum.com

We look forward to seeing you very much!

4 thoughts on “Unconferences – Why you should attend

  1. Pingback: Unconferences - Why you should attend | Art of ...

  2. Pingback: It was always going to be HR | The Resource Force

  3. Pingback: Trust the Process (aka Reflections from an Unconference) | fuchsia blue

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