Tips and Tricks

What is an Unconference?

Unconferences are events run by participants. Attendees set the agenda for what’s discussed, lead the sessions and workshops that fill the schedule, and create an environment of innovation and productive discussion.

Every unconference is different, but there are some common tips and tricks that you can use to have an awesome experience — whether you’re attending TransparencyCamp or any other event like it.

Leading a Good Session

The best unconference sessions are led by people who see themselves as facilitating a conversation, not giving a presentation. Sure, you can start by sharing your experience, challenge, new idea or thesis, but remember to be inclusive of your attendees. Set clear goals at the top of your session, make sure all attendees introduce themselves, assign a notetaker, then let the conversation unfold.

A Note on the Importance of Notetaking

Most unconferences keep a wiki or other web page for notes. Be sure to use it! Assign a notetaker at the start of your session so folks outside the room (and the event) can benefit from your conversation and those in the room can keep track of the dialogue later.

Being a Good Attendee

Every attendee contributes to the environment and thought-leadership of an unconference. When you walk into a session, remember that you are a participant and not a member of the audience, so be sure to contribute your voice. Ask questions, raise ideas, be brave. If, however, you find that you are contributing a lot and the people around you are staying quiet, step back and give them space to speak. Listening is just as big a part of conversation as speaking.

The Key? Creativity + Comfort

Have fun. Be comfortable. Bring a power point, but go off script. Take your session to the park. (Literally.) Speak to strangers. Go to a session about something you know nothing about just to learn. Open your mind. Listen. Enjoy yourself.

Participating in a session
Voting with your feet
Transparency Camp 2012 Day 1
Transparency Camp 2012 Day 1

Bonus Reading

For more on the particulars of unconferences and unconference organizing, check out these resources:

DIY TransparencyCamp

The Sunlight Foundation’s detailed guide to organizing unconferences based on our experience with TCamp and a view of what goes into creating this unique conference model.

CityCamp: Start a Camp

A how-to guide for getting started with CityCamp, an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations.

Wikipedia on Unconferences

If you’re still scratching your head.