“An unconference is where there are no set topic or speakers. The idea is that we all have the answers to all our questions in the room here already”, said Melina. The format of an unconference is about unlocking answers and sharing them. Here, all the members of the conference have two roles, audience, and speaker. Interestingly enough, the programs distributed did not mention any speakers or topics, there were 25 slots (opportunities) for people to host sessions. If you wanted to be a speaker, expertise was not mandatory, the range of topics varied. For example, you could have shared the challenges you face in your coworking space.
The aim was to ensure that everyone got the most out of the day, specific rules of engagement were set in place. People were asked to be aware of jargon, complicated words, acronyms; and respectful of different opinions and understanding towards different perspectives. She stated, “The spirit of this conference and this gathering is all about collaboration, not competition.” Another cool aspect of the unconference was that they set a grid at the beginning of the day and nobody was allowed to leave until it was filled. Melina encouraged members to self-organize by using Facebook to search for co-collaborators to co-host a session with or to just invite someone who might be an expert or valuable in the discussion.
Melina first got introduced to an unconference idea at a conference in Europe. She loved it for two reasons; one, being a conference organizer meant having to work for only one day. The second reason was the fact that it provided a platform to reveal new ideas, perspective, new development and address big-picture questions that will come up and get everyone thinking.
She ended the session with the following inspiring words, “The unconference session can be about something you want to share, or a question you want to be answered, even something you want to get help on; that’s the idea of an unconference – it’s all for you.”