UnConferences

I am the lead organizer of PodCamp Philly, a New Media UnConference being held at Drexel University September 7, 8, & 9, 2007. I got the UnConference bug after attending PodCamp Boston in September of last year, and my world was largely transformed by the people I met and the things I learned there.

A post about PodCamp Boston 2 that came through my google alerts identified an Unconference as meaning “unorganized conference”. As someone who is putting together an unConference, “unorganized” is the last thing I can afford to be. In fact, putting on an event like this tests all of my organizational skills to their limit on many days.

I wonder whether there’s a better name than Un Conference for these events. Unconference in some circles is pseunonymous with Unorganized and UnProfessional. But my experience with Unconferences is not that in the slightest. The best part of PodCamps are the informality, peer to peer conversations, and sharing of knowledge and new ideas that happens both inside and outside of the presented sessions.

I don’t need a big name to KeyNote and get me to show up. Sure, I’d love to hear what Andrew Baron from RocketBoom has to say about things, and I’d be simply blown away to hear Seth Godin speak. I love hearing CC Chapman talk; I love to hear Mark Blevis show me tricks of editing that make my productions values higher every time I podcast. These guys are names in Podcasting, but through UnConferences, they are now my friends as well. While the sessions are important and even worth paying for, the   people you meet on the New Media Playground (to quote CC) is the real payoff.

I don’t know whether a name like “peer to peer” conferences  or Conference Conversations, or In-conferences, meaning informal conferences might be a better name than an UnConference.     I hate the impression that an Un-Conference is Un-important or un-professional or not worth the time.

In fact, UnConferences have totally changed my opinion of the  bloated corporate conferences I’ve been to as an attendee, speaker and Spouse of an attendee in the past.  Those conferences that are the functional equivalent of a several-days long golf outing.

I like the fact that there are not barriers between presenters and the audience at unconferences.  It’s more conversational, more participatory, more collegial. I think everyone- presenters and audience a like learn at unconferences- it is not a one-way conversation at all.  And this is how everyone learns best- asking questions, developing a dialog, making everyone think a bit harder about what they do and how to apply the knowledge in new circumstances.

If you haven;t attended an Unconference, I urge you to come check out PodCamp Philly at Drexel Sept. 7, 8, & 9.  The “new media playdates” or networking/social events are going to be terrific, as well as the content of the conference itself.  And if you miss it, you’ll be able to hear some of the content when it’s posted on our site after the fact, but you’ll have missed the most important part of an Unconference- You and participating in the experience itself.

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