written by: Ruby Sinreich
A lot of people still don’t know what “unconference” means, so I get excited about spreading the gospel. I never fail to have people who looked at me skeptically in the morning come up to me afterward to say how much they loved it and that they will suggest their own organization or community try unconferencing.
Please read my blog post I <3 Unconferences that explains the history and how they work. NCT4G is a simplified hybrid of traditional and “open space” (ie: unconference) event so I will explain our unique methodology here.
Before the conference:
- Organizers solicit session proposals, invite public voting, and, then hand-curate about 2/3 of the day’s sessions leaving several of the rooms free.
- Speakers whose sessions are not selected are invited to attend and pitch their session at the beginning of the day.
- The classic “unconference grid” (see right) is pre-populated with cards from sessions that were already picked by the organizers. The grid lets us see which sessions are in which rooms and at what times.
- Anyone who is interested in convening a session as well as everyone who is already on the grid stands up in front of the group and gives a 30-60 second pitch for their topic. This needn’t be an organized presentation, although Powerpoints are welcome and projectors are available, but can be any form of panel, talk, conversation, demo, Q & A, or even a code sprint!
- Cards for new sessions are added to The Grid, and then we work out any conflicts or special requirements, and Voila! We have a schedule.
As you can tell, I am very skeptical of the whole idea of messing with unconference process, and I wasn’t completely sure it would work at first. But it has a resounding success for several years in a row and everyone came away satisfied. This year we’ll be doing the same and I expect it to go even better. If you are in central North Carolina, I hope to see you there!