Editor, HRzone.co.uk Sift Media
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Live* from truLondon

19th Feb 2010
Editor, HRzone.co.uk Sift Media
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What a day yesterday was at the trulondon conference - an experience. Chaotic? Disorganised? Confusing? All of those. But that is the point, partly. And besides, although timings weren't being run strictly and 'tracks' or 'streams' were pretty free-flowing, everyone was well looked after and catered for - so what more 'organisation' is strictly necessary? That's the message of the unconference. So having been here for a while, let me present some notes on how it all works...

An unconference is...

  • No 'speakers', no presentation, although people do speak and present ideas, but in an informal way
  • disorganised, on purpose
  • More Q&A and discussion based than presentation focused
  • Inevitably involves more networking - at the last conference you went to, what proportion of the delegates did you meet? And did they come from all over the world? Although we didn't have thousands at the conference, there was a lot more opportunity to meet people. This was especially great for me because I have been able to meet a lot of people in real life who I have had some correspondence with only on Twitter or by email
  • Sponsors of tracks, 'leaders of tracks' - facilitators and  and practitioners mix (after all, they are in the same community - but often at conferences they are kept away from each other)
  • The idea is that over the years and several conferences later, many people have found that the Q&A panel sessions and questions at the end of a presentation are most useful and valuable - once they get going. At an unconference you can interrupt, question, make a point or move between streams without any issues. It's also more informal although participants are incredibly professional.

Although perhaps on a less professional note, I took part on Steve Boese's HR Happy Hour on talk blog radio last night. It was fun, and it's only half an hour actually. You should be able to play it on the embedded player below. It's a whole bunch of very cool HR and recruitment people from all sorts of different places who you may not have heard of - so give it a listen. Let me know if you like it and I'll make sure we link to it and remind you when it's happening (and maybe HRzone can get in on it and call in...)

So it's been really fun, although more difficult to find time to write blogs as there's so many people to connect with, having not had the opportunity to meet before now (you can expect some new contributors on the site from this too, just watch this space). However, the next question has to be; will the unconference model take over from the traditional conference? This is one of the things we chatted about on the radio show, by the way.

Bill Boorman immediately said no when asked this, and I think he's right. I do, however, think it would be beneficial to apply a hybrid model in the near future. I don't know if there's a bit of conference fatigue in the community but I feel sure that it would be interesting to try having a few more traditional sessions with plenty of time for questions afterwards and use them as a starting point for an 'unconference breakout' either in the afternoons or dedicate the whole of the second day, depending on the type, size and length of conference planned, of course.

The idea would be to maintain extremely high quality content from speakers while enabling the valuable networking, questioning and interaction of the unconference. It also gives feedback to the organisers who will gain insight from the type of questions asked in the sessions: the best of both worlds?

It's certainly worth thinking about...

*as in the blogging is live - the radio show was broadcast live but is now available on demand.


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