If you’re looking for a collaborative event to hone your skills, gain new insights, and connect with other industry professionals, an unConference can be highly beneficial. Unlike standard business conferences, unConferences do not have predetermined speakers, sessions, or presentations. Event coordinators will simply set a theme for the unConference and leave it up to attendees to brainstorm session ideas and vote on their favorite topics.
Going to an unConference can be exciting and reinvigorating, but it’s common to feel a bit nervous beforehand. After all, how are you supposed to prepare or plan for an event that has no scheduled agenda? To help ease those nerves, here’s what you need to know to feel more at ease at your first unConference event.
Important Things to Know
One of the most reassuring things to know before an unConference is that there is no right or wrong way to hold a session or participate in a discussion. UnConferences are designed to spark creativity and conversations that might not otherwise happen in a structured environment. You don’t need to prepare an exact speech or presentation to host a topic discussion; you just need an idea you’re passionate about.
Another common theme of unConferences is that they’re governed by the “law of two feet.” What this means is that each person can get up and walk away at any time they’d like. If a session isn’t holding their interest, they can wander over to a different group. There’s no judgment about doing so; it’s your event, so do the things that will benefit you the most!
Types of Sessions
As mentioned above, there is no correct session type, and you may see a lot of different presentation styles during an unConference. Each presenter is free to select the format of their session, and some presenters may even decide to merge similar presentations together.
With that being said, you’ll likely see or participate in at least one of these common sessions:
- Formal presentation. These sessions tend to be longer and less interactive, but they can still provide a lot of useful information. Good session leaders should have a lot of expertise and leave plenty of time for discussion and questions after their presentation.
- Brief overview. Some session leaders like to begin their breakout groups with a quick 5 to 15 minute summary of the topic they’d like to talk about before encouraging group interaction and collaboration.
- Group discussion. This casual type of session allows everyone to share their insights and expertise about the topic at hand. However, don’t feel like you have to stay strictly on topic; if the conversation takes an unexpected turn that everyone’s enjoying, that’s valuable too!
- Show and tell. Have a cool idea, project, or demonstration you’re dying to show off? An unConference is a great place to get peer feedback and connect with people who can take your concept to the next level.
- Interactive lesson. If you have a skill that others in your industry would find valuable, hold a teaching session! Bring necessary equipment and a brief lesson plan to walk attendees through a project and give them hands-on experience.
There is no need to prepare for an unConference if you don’t want to lead a session or do a presentation. You can simply show up on the day of the event, vote on whichever topics interest you the most, and participate in various discussions throughout the unConference. However, if you happen to get a topic idea during the event, feel free to share it with the audience! Since there’s no set schedule, you have free rein of your entire experience.
Leading a Session
If you want to host a session at the unConference, a little research and preparation can go a long way. Stephen Tseng, co-founder of web development company Dminorstudio, attended an unConference for the first time in 2017. He went into the experience without knowing exactly how an unConference worked or what he should be ready for. Soon after the event came to a close, he shared some of his insights and advice for first-time unConference attendees.
- Prepare to pitch your topic ideas. If you’d like to do a presentation or host a session at an unConference, you need to think of framing your talk as a sales pitch. You’ll have to be ready to make your ideas stand out and pique people’s curiosity.
- Understand your audience. Knowing who will be attending the unConference will make it much easier to find a relevant topic to talk about. For example, if most attendees are in digital marketing, they probably won’t find value in a session about web design trends.
- Choose a broad starting question. If you want a lot of collaboration and discussion to occur, your topic needs to be general enough to encourage attendees to vote for your session, but relevant enough to spark unique insights. Choosing a narrow category can make it difficult to “sell” your session idea and might unintentionally stifle fruitful conversations.
Join Us at Unconf Florida!
Kick off the new year with an eCommerce unConference in the warm city of Orlando, Florida this January! Hosted by Wagento, UnConf Florida will be a day dedicated to professionals in the eCommerce and tech industries. Attendees can expect broad, insightful conversations about trends, market predictions, best practices, and much more. If you’re ready to challenge yourself, grow your business, or meet new business partners, reserve your UnConf Florida ticket today!