ChipsAs a bit of a conference newbie (I’ve only been to one and seemed to spend most of the time being either frantic or tired) I’m a bit confused by this conference/un-conference stuff.  Sally’s post earlier in the year helped some but I thought going to the source (or as it turns out, sauce) might be a good idea.  And so it was that Elizabeth Whyte and Paul Sutherland, facilitators of a “partcipant driven event” at this year’s conference, over a pint and some chips (see sauce-laden picture), gave me the lowdown on an their un-un-conference session.

Unconference, as I rather feebly understand it, is an unstructured, interactive approach to communicating that breaks with the traditional “speaker at the front, talking to a powerpoint” kind of session.  The idea of unconference is to be freeform and for the topic of discussion to be guided by the interests and ideas of those who turn up on the day.  In this way the Tuesday afternoon session that Paul and Elizabeth are involved with definitely has some “unconferencey” qualities.  However Paul is very keen to let me know that it’s not really an unconference session, pointing out that there will be some structure.

For instance a loose theme of What would you do? – Doing more with less, has been decided upon.  Also the session will be “seeded” with a few speakers who each give short (2-3 min) “presentations” to get the ball rolling.  Paul says that they will have to “distill an idea or issue but not dwell on it” which is very much in the tradition of Pecha Kucha and should hopefully generate conversation and ideas amongst the session attendees.  As Elizabeth puts it the idea is “to throw it out there, let it bubble and let everyone discuss it”.

Paul also feels it might be a good session for people who are too intimidated to put their hands up in the Q & A sections of the more formal sessions that conference offers, as “everyone will ask questions”.

So, a few quickfire presentations as well as an interactive, brainstorming sharing of ideas component?  Well, I think I might just have got my head around this un-unconference…and also had some chips which is a result as far as I’m concerned.