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May 08, 2006

Re-conceiving the Unconference

This article on Unconferences and the value of participatory events on got me thinking deeper about unconferences. Of the unconference experience, one of the attendees, Microsoft's Chief Architect, Kim Cameron, said:

participants floated in and out of sessions that self-organized around an ongoing three-day hallway conversation - the hallway actually being the main conference room and event! So we got to engage in all kinds of one-on-one (and few) conversations, meet new people, work out concerns and above all work on convergence
Sounds great. I love the hallway track. The pictures, though, got me thinking deeper about unconferences. Look how few people are in those rooms! Because there are so few people around the table, and because they're opting into rooms around a topic of interest, I also get the feeling that they had a lot in common in terms of the problems and issues they grapple with. In short, they have a high degree of shared context -- those rooms are high context environments.

I keep thinking about an unconference for the association community. But it's becoming clear to me that it probably wouldn't work. I don't share enough context with professionals in government relations, public relations, education, etc. to truly provide value to them, or get value from them in a high context environment.

An unconference for association professionals, as I'm beginning to re-conceive it, would be most valuable for people with a great deal of shared expertise. An unconference would be perfect for Membership Directors at manufacturing trade associations, Government Relations Managers in the legal field, etc.

And I'm not saying that meetings of professionals in unrelated fields aren't valuable. I certainly believe they are. But I don't think an unconference format would be the best way to elicit the best experience from those meetings.

As you can tell, I'm still trying to work this out. Got any feedback for me?

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