Convening a Session

There are several key points about an unConference:
  • You do not need to do any preparation in order to convene a session. If you get an idea the day of the event, call a session.

  • There is no 'right way' to lead a session. However, there is a bias towards interaction and discussion.

  • Choose a format for your session that will help you achieve your goals.

Types of Sessions
  • The longer formal presentation
    This is tricky because it's difficult to make a formal presentation interactive. But if you have a big, well-developed idea you can pull it off.

  • A short presentation
    Five to 15 minutes of prepared material/comments by the session leader to get things started, followed by an interactive discussion.

  • Group discussion
    Someone identifies a topic they are interested in, then others come to join the conversation and an interesting discussion happens.

  • My Big (or Little) Question
    You have a question you want to know the answer to, and you think others in the group could help you answer it. This format could also just be the seed of a conversation.

  • Show and tell
    You have a cool project, a demo, or just something to show and let people play with that is the springboard for all the conversation in the session. Alternatively, you can invite others to bring their own items to show and tell (perhaps with a theme), and everyone takes a turn sharing.

  • Learn how to do "X"
    If you're inclined to teach, this can be simple and effective. Bring the equipment that you need, and have a plan that will let you teach five, 10, or 15 people how to do something all at the same time.

Do take photos of different elements of your program so you can share them with others either at sessions you lead or in other sessions.

Session Inspiration

Why Agencies Need to Make Things

Things I've Learned Founding 4 Technology Companies

Digital First isn't an option for media, it's the only way Forward

Think Like a Start Up, Forbes, April 2012

Top Tips for Thinking Like a Start up, Guardian UK , April 2012

Advice for Leading a Session

If you convene a session, it is your responsibility to "hold the space" for your session. You hold the space by leading a discussion, by posting a "first question," or by sharing information about your program. Be the shepherd – stay visible, be as involved as necessary, be a beacon of sanity that guides the group.
  • Ask for help holding the space if you need it. You might, for example, put a session on the board and know that you are so passionate about the topic that it would be better if someone else, someone more objective, facilitates the discussion. Choose someone from your team, or another participant who is interested in the topic.

  • Don't assume people in the room know more, or less, than you do. You never know who is going to be interested in your session. You might want to start by asking people to hold up their hands if they've been involved with the topic for more than five years, for one to five years, or for one year or less.

  • Don't be upset if only two people show up to your session. Those two people are the ones who share your interest.

  • Don't feel that you have to "fill" up an hour of time. If what you have to say only takes 15 minutes and the group has finished interacting—then the session can end. At the start of the conference, we will discuss guidelines for how this can happen.

  • Don't feel pressure to have everything take "only" an hour. If you start with a short presentation, then a group conversation gets going, and your discussion needs to continue past an hour—find a way to make this happen. You might be able to keep talking for awhile in the room you are in, or move to another part of the conference area, or post "Part 2" on the agenda for the next day of the unConference (continue right then or put a "Part 2" on the board). At the start of the conference, we will discuss guidelines for how this can happen.

  • Be Brave! Others are interested in making your session work.

  • Do think about the ideas that you want to cover in your session, and how you want to cover them. But don't feel as though you need to prepare a great deal. (If you're over-prepared, your session might lose energy.)

  • Experiment with the kind of sessions you lead. There is no such thing as "failure" at an unConference.

Advice for Everyone at the unConference
  • Go with the flow. This event is intended to help you find the time and space to talk with and learn from each other.

  • Follow your passion. Go to the sessions that interest you.

  • Take responsibility for your own learning. If there are topics you are really interested in that don't appear on the agenda at first, you need to put them on there.

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