Stefanie Butland has been writing about unconferences.
In November, she shared six tips for running a successful unconference.
An ‘unconference’ has no schedule set before the event. Participants discuss project ideas online in advance and projects are selected by participant-voting at the start.
Stefanie’s six tips are:
- Have a code of conduct.
- Host online discussion of project ideas before the unconference.
- Have a pre-unconference video-chat with first-time participants
- Run an effective ice breaker
- Have a plan to capture content
- Care about other people’s success
Stefanie notes that Aidan Budd and his colleagues (2015) have a list of ten rules for organising an unconference.
In a second post in December, Stefanie wrote about the value of welcome in preparing new community members for an unconference.
An unconference of 70 participants had 45 people attending their first unconference. Stephanie wrote an introductory email to these 45:
Stephanie used the free Calendly tool to schedule meetings. She sent some questions in advance of the online conversations (appear.in) and used a Google Form questionnaire to compile responses (individually and collectively).
The online conversations enabled Stephanie “to prime people to connect on day-one of the unconference with others with similar interests or from related work sectors”. She noticed that: immediately after our conversation, first-time participants would join the online discussion of existing project ideas, or they themselves proposed new ideas. My conversations with two first-time participants led directly to their proposing community-focussed projects – a group discussion and a new blog series of interviews!
An unexpected benefit was that questions people asked me during the video chats led to actions I could take to improve the unconference. For example, when someone wanted to know what previous participants wished they knew beforehand, I asked for and shared example resources. One wise person asked me what my plan was for having project teams report out at the end of the unconference and this led directly to a streamlined plan (See Six tips for running a successful unconference).
I think Stephanie’s posts are great resources for anyone contemplating an unconference or hackathon. Earlier this year, I was involved in a hackathon in Ireland (#abbotsthon17). One of the issues that did arise then was how to connect a community that was emerging.
Stephanie’s introductory, welcome email resonates strongly with my interest in first-in-family initiatives in higher education. It resonates too with Nancy White’s stewardship practices.
From each of these inspirations, I am very clear about the importance of inducting people into a community and supporting them once they have made the decision to engage (or even participate peripherally).
Stefanie Butland (Twitter)
P1580274 (David Haberthür, CC BY-NC 2.0)