So,  getting your head around the complexities of conference?  Whether to go, where to stay, who will I know, what if I pick a session and it is all wrong, is presenting a paper the challenge I am seeking right now?  Well, here is something else to get your head around

The UNCONFERENCE…there is going to be one at this year so here is a taster of what you might expect, or not, such is the nature of the unconference.

After trying to come up with an understandable description myself I wandered into Wikipedia and found what I think is a very accessible explanation.

‘An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centred around a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations. ‘  So, according to this description it looks like we are aiming for an ‘unconference’ style session at our conventional conference.

Chatting to Elizabeth from CPIT library who attended the unconference conference session in 2008, shed some light on what it is all about.  Kathryn Greenhill and Constance Wiebrand from Australia ran an unconference session  enthusing the participants through energetic and personable facilitation plus their wealth of  experience.  The unconference makes real, the fundamental law of conventional conference – ‘The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage’and allows everyone to have a say, share ideas and generally get involved.

The four principles of ‘unconferencing’ (if there is such a word) are

  • Whoever turns up are the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When its over its over

There are lots of ways to run or facilitate a session using a variety of formats like

  • Appreciative Inquiry- the positive approach using ‘Discover, Dream, Design and Destiny/Deliver’ to focus on what works rather than finding problems and trying to fix them.
  • The BarCamp – open participatory workshops that have content provided purely by the participants.  Basically, bring along a pet subject, discussion or problem you want to talk about and away you go.
  • Knowledge Cafe – again a workshop which hopes to provide an open and creative place where collective knowledge, ideas sharing and insight of a subject or issue are provided by the participants.

Hopefully this has given you some idea of what you might expect from an unconference session.    I know a lot of people love the ‘talking to others’ aspect of conference so this could be the thing you are looking for, worth a try I think.   I have seen the outcome of such sessions and it looks like the kind of things librarians will be into in a big way – layers of post-its, whiteboard scribblings and enthusiasm captured in one place in one time, or not.  What will be will be.

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