Tag Archives: unconference

What is an unconference?

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Curious about unconferences? Perhaps you’re thinking of running one? Or maybe you are invited to an unconference or open space, and the organizer sent you this link to describe how it works? If so you’re in the right place! 

This doc is a high-level summary. For more details and facilitation instructions, see the ebook How to run an internal unconference.

What is an unconference?

An unconference is basically a conference without predefined topics. There is a high level structure and theme, but actual topics are generated by the participants on the spot, and breakout groups are formed dynamically based on interest and relevance.

If you know what an Open Space is, an unconference is really just an Open Space event with some added structure at the end to make it fit for company-internal events.

This is a pretty awesome format for cases where you want a super-flexible and participant-driven agenda and structure. I’ve been using it for years at Crisp, Spotify, Lego, and other clients, and it tends to spread virally within organizations. I’ve done it mostly with groups of 20-80 people, and people often say things like “all conferences should be like this” or “best conference I’ve ever been to!”

Facilitators opening the circle and introducing the format

Facilitators opening the circle and introducing the format

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How to run an internal unconference

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An unconference is like a normal conference but with no predefined agenda, no predefined list of speakers, no slides, and…er… actually it’s not very much like a normal conference at all! It’s more like an alternative to a conference. If the purpose of a conference is to collaborate and communicate, then an unconference will often fulfill the same purpose in a more simple, fun, and effective way!

There’s lots of ways of running unconferences. I’ve written a short book (or long article) about one specific format that I’ve been experimenting with over the past 5 years, mostly at companies like Crisp and Spotify.

By now it is well tested and works especially well for 1-2 day internal conferences with 20-80 participants. In fact, participants often say things like “all conferences should be like this!” or “best conference I’ve ever been to!”. Even the most rabid meeting-haters seem to like (or at least not hate…) this collaboration format 🙂

  • Slides (from my Agile Evening presentation on how to run an unconference)
  • Minibook (LeanPub – work in progress)