Unconferences are fantastic! I’ve met totally amazing people at unconferences and learned all sorts of things … for free and without being bored stiff by a rotation of speakers and uninspiring powerpoint presentations.
My first unconference experience was on a Saturday in Birmingham in April 2012, when the Talk About Local team organised an amazing event, building on their experience of running annual unconferences for the previous 3 years. I was astonished that everyone introduced themselves, despite there being about 100 people present. I was inspired by how quickly things moved from a blank ‘un agenda’ to a self-organising event with a diverse and fascinating array of discussion options, clearly timetabled and easy to navigate between. And as if to prove how much fun the whole things was, nearly everyone continued connecting and conversing at the pub afterwards.
I got the unconference bug, and following the Talk About Local unconference I have taken part in:
- CommsCamp in 2013 and 2015. Kate Bentham’s charity cake table is awesome and now legendary.
- The first GalleryCamp in 2013 at Walsall Art Gallery
- VCSSCamp (for people from organisations like CVSs and Volunteer Centres) in 2013 and 2014 in Brum and 2015 in London
- LocalGovCamp in 2015 in Leeds (and I’ll be there this weekend in Brum)
- Numerous unconferences online via twitter using the event hashtags e.g. LibraryCamp and CityCamp Brighton
(I also gatecrashed a health-related unconference in Brum once. When I saw people tweeting about it I hopped on a bus and just joined in the second half of the day!)
I don’t work in communications, or a gallery, or local government … but one of the delightful things about people who organise unconferences is that they welcome anyone with an interest in the broad focus. Which means that you can reach way beyond the edges of your networks and make connections with people who know all sorts of interesting and useful things.
By the end of every unconference my brain has been exploding with ideas – like fireworks. I feel truly content that I have been able to take control and power over what I learn about, which conversations I join and stay in, how the flow of my day is shaped. And I totally LOVE that twitter comes into it’s own and all sorts of connections and sharing happen in the online space as well as the physical space of the unconference.
I can’t wait for Bostin Summer Camp in Dudley, it will be a fantastic opportunity to learn all sorts of things and will no doubt help me to shape my work over coming months. I hope to see you there.