To Conference or UnConference.. That is the Question

​​So on Friday last week I attended my first UnConference. It was one of the best learning events I’ve attended in quite a while.

The L&D Connect UnConference, Friday 31 October 2014.

For those of you who have never heard of and/or attended an UnConference, the simple BUT key idea is that the delegates decide on the agenda and the topic areas for focus. There is no formal agenda, no schedule of speakers and no PowerPoint presentations.

Here are some of my reflections:

I was very quiet during the first session.
I am used to attending learning events and conferences with specific agendas and very structured learning objectives. The beauty of the UnConference is that you are free to build the conversation as you wish, no one will critique your contribution or force anyone to ‘stay on track’. This was great as it meant the discussions took really interesting turns.
It took me a while to shift my mindset into this open flexible thinking approach.

Style over substance can often creep in if you’re not careful but it definitely didn’t here (in a good way!)
Frequently at learning events, much time and effort is spent on the topics, and getting the right speakers and having nice pens etc.. that we lose sight of the important point of delegates learning from each other, networking, having challenging conversations and creating new ideas.
This UnConference definitely was in a great venue with lots of ‘style’ but when it came down to it, the ‘substance’ was chief on the agenda and remained so all afternoon.

The friendliest bunch of people I’ve met in a whileSweets
As I was heading home on the tube after the UnConference, I realised a key component of the day for me was how welcoming and friendly everyone had been. There was no ‘hierarchy’ or cliques of people. Everyone made an effort to engage and chat with each other throughout the afternoon, in person and via social media! 🙂

I have a number of other reflections but I’m going to stop there for now. I definitely will be looking forward to the next opportunity to attend an L&D UnConference. I would totally recommend it if you haven’t attended one and are thinking about doing so. You will only find:

  • lovely people
  • great conversations
  • flexible format for learning
  • excellent use of social media
  • many ideas and new ways of thinking to take away
  • possibly lots of sweets (there were A LOT at this one (see my photo).

If you attended this UnConference and would like to add your reflections, please don’t hesitate to comment below!

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  1. Claire-Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Great summary Fiona it was just as you’ve outlined -a really beneficial experience.

    • November 8, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Claire, Thank you for your comment. Good to know someone agrees with my thinking. 🙂 It was good to see you at the UnConference – here’s to next time!

  2. Tony Stredwick-Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Nice write up, UnConference sounds fun and different.

    • November 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Hello Tony, Thank you for your feedback. It really was fun and different, I would definitely recommend you trying to attend one in the future.

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