Editor, HRzone.co.uk Sift Media
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ConnectingHR - when the community came together

26th Oct 2010
Editor, HRzone.co.uk Sift Media
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ConnectingHR was possibly the most eagerly-awaited date of the year for certain HR and social media enthusiasts. Having experienced the #TRU unconference format, I think I almost thought I knew what I was talking about.

However, having joined the Yammer group set up in advance to discuss the day (after we bored all of our non-HR Twitter followers to death with talk of ConnectingHR) it was clear this was to be a bit different. And why not - after all, it's a slightly different audience to the recruiting unconferences Bill Boorman runs so well.

The venue I had been warned about, but having spent many happy hours as a teenager in community centres and alternative spaces I felt confident it would be great: and the space was, but it was far too cold for someone in a short-sleeved cardi, miniskirt and tights - whoops. So, first things first, we 'organised' the grid.

Sounds like Spooks, how exciting - but actually, 'the grid' is a timetable, where you all put up your ideas, merge them with other peoples' and create your unconference. We all had sharpies and card (colour coded) to make sure we got a good mix of subjects and covered everything. There's no excuse for not getting what you want out of the day - you have to bring your ideas and communicate them to others - it's the point. I 'sponsored' a discussion on the skills gap, talent and the political situation with Mervyn Dinnen (who is easily as big a political animal as I am).

The grid took a little time, and I think it was a little bewildering at first. I also think I had to be pushed away from the grid at one point... Once we had filled the grid it was time to begin.

So the idea was: pick your group, join it, feel free to leave, change the subject, interject, disagree and join in other groups and as when you please. This allowed participants to experience as many sessions as they wanted.

There are many formats we could have used and although Jon explained a few, the discussion groups remained open discussions as far as I could tell (there was no fishbowling, for example) but there was pecha kucha (PK) - the quickfire slideshow which makes powerpoint fun. Doug Shaw produced not just one but two - including a musical PK.

Lunch was awesome vegetarian fare, and a chance to catch up with people and continue specific discussion points with others.

By the afternoon, everyone was well settled into the format, and I was enjoying the session round ups too, it's good to get a wider perspective from different people on the sessions, in my opinion.

The last session was all about action points. I joined a group to form another blog for the series on XpertHR  - my Fierce offering is already up but I couldn't resist sitting in as we created a group one to reflect the day. It's here if you'd like to read it.

Afterwards we held an 'undrinks' reception and continued talking about the day - the format, what we discovered and social media was some of the conversation but we also took the chance to get to know each other a little better.

Jon has said on his blog he was criticised for the unconference being too structured: and although I also take the point that HR generally loves structuree, I also think that in some ways it was actually less structured than some events I have been to - it just felt more structured. Perhaps as the unconference format becomes more mainstream this will be less of an issue, perhaps it isn't an issue at all - all I know is that feedback has been very positive, I had a great day and I would love for you all to be at the next one.

Here's what Doug Shaw made of it:

Thanks to Alan Whitford for filming this.

  • Speaking of the future, the next ConnectingHR tweet up is going to happen on 31 January 2011. Be there, at the Square Pig. We will be.

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By Gareth Jones
26th Oct 2010 19:49

Nice post Charlie - thanks.  One question though - just where was this structure people keep talking about??! I didnt see any!  It was the most unstructured event i have ever been too!  The only structure was the Grid, and perhaps the fact that we split the day into hour sessions.  Perhaps people were referring to the toilet breaks and lunch?! ;)

And to harp on about HR people liking structure etc etc its just more stereotyping from people who dont understand the profession or the diverse people in it.


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By Charlie Duff
27th Oct 2010 23:06

I couldn't agree more Gareth - I literally think it was a case of the grid organisation - whereas by having a pre-arranged track list you are actually enforcing more structure, but as it happens behind the scenes it appears less organised.

Neither approach is worng, but I can understand that there was in this particular case a desire to create something transparent and community focused - which is exactly what was achieved.

Thank you for all your hard work in creating, arranging and promoting this event Gareth, and we hope to be able to continue to support ConnectingHR in the future.


Kind regards


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