The UnConference

Much like Alice learned when happening upon the unbirthday party in Wonderland, everyone wins when events become inclusive - it's more about the group than one single person. This idea, as fantastical as it sounds, is truly making its way into the event world. We wrote earlier this year about events without speakers as well as how streaming technologies are allowing attendees to broadcast event content themselves. But these are isolated tactics. What might a complete unconference look like?[Tweet "What might a complete unconference look like? #GovEventsBlog"]

We may get our answer this May when the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) launches their new program, Xperience Design Project (XDP). This program replaces the association's long running and wildly popular Springtime conference. This event ran like a typical tradeshow with keynote speakers, break-out sessions, and a trade show floor, but organizers found that attendees were ready for something different.

ASAE's research showed that association professionals wanted events that help them make relevant connections. They wanted to have new ideas sparked as well as learn practical tactics for implementing programs. To do this, XDP will run over the course of two days with three main components:

  1. The Lab. On the first day attendees will enter the Lab, a room set up using a hub-and-spoke concept used to address six key meeting trend topic areas. Each spoke will focus on a topic with a thought leader to "ignite the conversation" as well as a facilitator to guide the discussions.
  2. Connections. An evening reception will be held following the day at the Lab.
  3. Business Exchange. The second day will open with a TED-talk-inspired recap of the first day's highlights. Then participants will take part in a series of one-on-one conversations between association professionals and supplier partners about their specific upcoming events. Attendees identify their needs during registration and then ASAE will match them with appropriate industry solution providers for these conversations.

We're excited to see how this concept works in May 2017. In the meantime, it got us thinking of other unconference tactics that could be employed at any event.[Tweet "A look at unconference tactics that could be employed at any event. #GovEventsBlog"]

  • The Unbooth - Instead of a traditional booth set-up think about creating a conversation area. Use the booth space to set up chairs and even a bar or activity area. This will encourage people to "stay a while" and have deeper conversations than they may if they are just standing staring at a looping demo. The idea is for your booth to provide an experience, not just a sales pitch.
  • Longer Breaks - Give people the time they crave to catch up on emails, etc., so they'll be fully engaged once sessions start. For those already caught up, these longer breaks and comfortable room set up can facilitate more one-on-one discussions. Arrange furniture for breaks in conversational groups with plenty of outlets for charging devices. People can meet easily at your event without having to leave the venue to find a coffee shop where they can talk.
  • Use Data - Ask your attendees what they want to get out of the show then match up their answers with exhibitors that have a solution. Facilitate networking (as ASAE is planning on doing) and make suggestions for what sessions would be most beneficial. Make sure people leave your show getting exactly what they want and need.[Tweet "What are your thoughts on unconferences and unconference tactics? #GovEventsBlog"]

We'd love to hear your thoughts on unconferences and unconference tactics. Share your thoughts in the comments.


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