Posted by: conferencebay | September 3, 2008

Unconferencing Some Elements of Mainstream Conferences

Matin Brown of Isite wondered if it could be “The future of conferences?”. He was refering to the BarCamp a form of unconference that’s gaining a lot of popularity among the tech savvy conference-goers. Pam Broviak has so interestingly reported her Barcamp Chicago event in a post entitled Barcamp, Social Media and Pizza.

In a previous post, we have pointed out a few shortcomings of the unconferences and to read that you may hop in here. All these notwithstanding, we understand how innovation is so crucial to the growth of the conference industry thoughout the world. While we do not think mainstream conferences will take the form of Barcamp and other unconference types on the whole, just the same, we are of the opinion that the way future conferences are organized may consider a lot of the elements of uncoferences in it. Here, we came up with this list of what mainstream conference organizing can learn from those who calls themselves “unconference unorganizers”:

1. No Spectators. That’s the Barcamp motto, and is reflective of how a conference, ideally, ought to be designed for maximum participation.

2. More Participant-focused. A regular conference can evolve from the speaker-centered events to an exciting mix of experts engaging the delegates with the more participatory workshop type where the audience are active co-creators of content.

2. Networking Value. Pam Broviak tells of how “I retained more from this conference than I normally would at a more traditional event and met more people”

3. Pricewise. Its low-cost if not totally free. While it certainly cannot be duplicated by high-fee corporate mainstream events for the infrastructure and preparation they mount for every event, it can make organizers re-think pricing models and innovations that gives conference-goers options for smart conference going at less price.

4. Social Media rules! “Because many of us were following each other on Twitter, we could post comments or converse online with others in the room or even with people we knew who were not there.” Pam Broviak on Be2Camp.

4. Real global interconnections. Pam Broviak recounts “I sent out a Twitter about the online tool with a link. Martin Brown picked up on this, as we follow each other on Twitter, and he visited the Web site noticing that it was run by someone in Hungary….So within hours, information from a presentation given in Chicago reached London and then Hungary resulting in the participation of a professional in Hungary at a future barcamp in London.” That’s lightning speed in today’s interconnected world and emphasizes how important connectivity is to a well put-together conference.

5. Conferences can be “fun”. “The basis of the conference seems to be that it is totally informal and completely engaging “. While a lot of conference goers are keen to go about their events in style–urban tastes, exciting destinations– there can be ways to make the rmainstream events features more spontaneous, fun and stimulating.

6. Persistent conversation. Unconferences run attractive wiki pages prior to and after an event where ideas for topics are welcome prior to the event, and collaborations are made persistent and structured long after the event is over. This can be adopted as a way of incorporating social media softwares as a way by which new conference learning styles can be constructed and propagated.

7. Don’t forget cuisine. A specially prepared, full course meal that caters to variety of tastes is part of the entire conference experience that organizers must never fail to consider. Please, no cold, boring lately-served meal that looks like you ought -to -pray -it will be tasty. Otherwise, we’d have to say Barcamp’s “coffee and doughnuts in the morning, pizza for lunch, and a get-together at an Irish bar” sounds far more exciting.



  1. Conference 2.0 Defined:

    • Building Community is a primary goal. This is done by developing professional social capital. Social capital has many broad definitions but for the purposes of social networking, conferences and associations, social capital can be defined as the actual and potential perceived aggregate networking value of a person and his/her connections (and their resources). One dimension of social capital is reputation and perceived knowledge and access to resources in and outside one’s field. Social capital doesn’t have to be earned only online but “Given the importance of developing professional social capital, before during and after the conference, attendees want to know they are going home with the most optimal list of contacts possible. In a sea of hundreds or even thousands of strange faces at events, how do they know they are meeting the right people, the ones with whom they are most likely to develop a meaningful connection?”
    • Is the person next sitting next to you a potential research partner, a prospective employee, or mentor?
    • My company, (Omnipress) will provide services, group moderation, marketing services that further the engagement of attendees on the Online Conference 2.0 tool. Engagement of attendees before the conference will “break” the ice and be a catalyst for better networking and conversation at the conference. Conference 2.0 will ultimately be an “economy” for conference attendees to earn and spend social capital.

    So, Conference 2.0 is both a new concept, and a solution to the same ol’ same ol’ conference.

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