Tuesday, June 06, 2006


This article on "unconferences" - hastily prepared, informal conferences - has triggered a few thoughts on programs that work and those that fail.

Unconferences simply sound like well planned conferences. A classic conference planning group can also tap into the interests of the audience. Often, there is a disconnect between the planners and the audience.

There are also different reasons why conference topics are selected. Some do relate to audience interest. Others involve cutting-edge subjects that might not be on anyone's radar. Still others are "take your medicine" sessions where the groups hears something it needs but will not necessarily enjoy.

The informality of unconferences is appreciated because in many cases more rigid formats get in the way of the information. I loathe panel discussions due to their tendency to stifle the informaiton flow just as it starts to get interesting.

One format that is helpful: The speaker surveys the audience as to subjects of interest within a particular range of topics, then answers their questions on those subjects. [I've used this approach with small groups and it has worked very well. It taps into the expertise of the audience and ensures that the speaker is precisely addressing the areas of interest.] There's no reason why that couldn't be done in conferences or "unconferences."

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