In a time of growing input from guests, ever-increasing pressure to create incredible content, an expectation of the newest trends, and a clear demand for ample networking opportunities, throwing together a conference just really isn’t good enough anymore. Simply put, people no longer want to attend a stale, vendor-driven conference where they have no opportunity to offer their input or shape the agenda. We’re seeing an exciting replacement rise up: The Unconference.
What is an unconference?
Google lists an unconference as “a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.” While a traditional conference will dictate topics for talks and sessions before the event even takes place, an unconference allows attendees to weigh in on what they want to hear at the beginning of an event, and at the end of each day they can review the highlights communally and decide if they want to keep talking about the same big topics or add in some new ideas. In this way, the power for conversation is completely switched from the hands of the organisers to the hands of the guests.
Because people love to be in charge, and because it’s often far more valuable for guests to be able to talk about topics that they’re invested in, it’s not surprising that unconferences continue to see increased popularity. The driving force that first started these unconventional events was the concept that the sum knowledge of the participants is greater than that of the people running the event. Simply providing a structure for them to share their thoughts provides an opportunity for their ideas to blossom.
What are the benefits of an unconference?
One of the clearest benefits of the unconference is that your guests are generally very passionate about the topics – and when people are passionate, they’re far more likely to turn into genuine brand ambassadors. There are high levels of energy, generally generating the kind of word-of-mouth that guarantees FOMO from those not there, and an unconference fosters spontaneous conversations for your clients. Used correctly, the information you gather from these conversations can be absolutely invaluable in discovering what your guests want, what matters to them, and how you can best interact with them going forward. Because you’re empowering them to talk, you have priceless opportunities to listen, and that’s where the real value in unconferences lies.