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FreePint BlogAn unconference approach can revitalise meetings and training

Thursday, 9th February 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Michelle Boule


Abstract:

For the past few years, unconferences have been gaining traction in everything from business to higher education. However unconferences can teach us more than how to hold a better, more relevant conference. They can also teach us how to run better, more relevant companies and organisations.


Item:

For the past few years, unconferences have been gaining traction in everything from business to higher education. However unconferences can teach us more than how to hold a better, more relevant conference. They can also teach us how to run better, more relevant companies and organisations.

Organisations and businesses can use the ideology and facilitation methods of unconferences to revitalise training and meetings. An unconference is a group of people who gather together without an agenda to discuss a topic, solve a problem or learn a new skill. There are many different styles of facilitation that are used at unconferences that can be adapted by businesses and organisations to revive boring meetings and apathetic training sessions.

Each unconference is as unique as the individuals who attend the event. Organisations and companies also have unique personalities that should be taken into account when trying something new. Whether it is technology, change implementation, training or meeting facilitation, the culture of the organisation should be considered during the planning stage.

As an ever increasing amount of our work is being conducted online it is becoming increasingly natural to move meetings and training into an online environment. The informality of the web makes it easy to implement unconference principles to online gatherings. Unconferences hinge on the idea that the people at that particular gathering, at that particular place in time, are the people that should be there to share, learn and solve the problem at hand. The internet provides ample opportunity to put this idea into motion every day.

Two unconference approaches worth learning more about are knowledge cafes and fishbowl discussions. Knowledge cafes can be especially helpful when the challenge faced by the organisation occurs across departments or working groups. Fishbowl discussions can be employed to explore a known problem or when you need to limit the participation of certain individuals in a discussion in order to provide an opportunity for more voices in the discussion.

Many organisations are change averse, but not to worry, small steps can be taken to implement some unconference approaches within organisations of any type or any culture. Even online meetings and training courses can incorporate unconference elements. Knowledge sharing can happen in any place and time, including online. People have the power and the passion to make their organisations and businesses better; they just have to be given the space, freedom and trust to do it.

From fishbowl discussion and knowledge cafes to Open Space Technology and crowdsourced agendas and lesson plans, there are lessons to be learned and tactics to be leveraged from unconferences to transform unproductive or uninspired meetings and training, and help reinvigorate learning within your organisation.

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Michelle Boule is a geek librarian who loves unconferences so much she wrote a book called Mob Rule Learning: camps, unconferences, and trashing the talking head. She can be found online at A Wandering Eyre.

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