Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The 3 Best Ways to Prepare for an Unconference

We’ve all been there: stuck in a room for hours listening to speaker after speaker. We say we are there for work, professional development or networking, but we’re actually just horribly bored and unengaged. You guessed it; we’re at a typical run-of-the-mill conference. 

Sure, the concept of a conference is a great one.  But too often, traditional conferences are poorly executed. That is where the unconference concept comes into play. What is an unconference, exactly?  It’s a lot like a conference, but less structured and more participatory. The attendees have just as much to do with what the agenda looks like as the organizers. While one says he or she is at a conference to network, the unconference is where it actually happens.

An unconference is still a fairly new concept, but it may just be the future of professional development events. With that in mind, and with iKC: The Unconference right around the corner, here are the 3 best ways for you to prepare for your next unconference: 

1.    Keep an open mind

The unconference model doesn’t work if you walk in with preconceived notions of what should or shouldn’t happen. A true unconference is not a super structured event and therefore, those who attend shouldn’t be either.  In other words, keep an open mind throughout the entire unconference--no matter what sessions you attend, speaker you engage with or networking experience you have. 

An unconference should also be a safe space where people should feel comfortable to freely share their ideas and receive feedback from others. This way, ideas keep flowing and innovation and connections are allowed to happen (after all, that’s the point!). 

2.    Be prepared with ideas to share and questions to ask

Now that you’re ready to meet and speak with anyone and everyone at an unconference, you’ve got to have something to say! Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or provide idea is a bad idea at an unconference.

For example, if another attendee presents a new product or idea to you, let them know your honest opinion. If someone brings up a topic that you don’t understand, ask him or her to clarify. An unconference is not an event where you let the speaker’s words flow in one ear and out the other. This is your chance to discover new ideas, get feedback and take action on those ideas.

3.    Practice your listening skills

We love industry disruptors and innovators, but please don’t be an interrupter! An unconference is a great place for real collisions to happen and relationships to form. Listen carefully to what the speaker or fellow attendee is saying so you can provide thoughtful comments or feedback. An unconference is anything but fluff or saying something just to say something. An unconference is the ideal place of meaningful action – and listening to others lets that occur.   

Anyone who’s a quick thinker with an open mind, who also knows when to shut up and when to speak up, is the best kind of unconference attendee. Now that you know what it takes, why not get in on the unconference action?

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