What is an Unconference?

By Liz Elam On February 16, 2015 In CoworkingConferenceCommunity

It feels just like yesterday when I first attended the Coworking Unconference in Austin, TX way back in 2011. I’d never heard of what an “unconference” was at the time, but went with an open mind. If you’d have told me that four years later I’d be the Executive Producer of GCUC, I would have told you you were crazy. And those of you who know me, know that’s the truth!

We know there are some questions out there about the unconference and are really happy that y’all are so engaged online and excited for May! No two unconferences are the same, but they certainly do have similarities. So, let’s use my first experience in 2011 as an example:

We were given paper and asked to tape up on the wall a topic we would like to talk about. People were posting all sorts of topics like:

  • Forming a Coworking association
  • How to design your space or How big should my first space be
  • What technology do I need to run my space

The organizers then curated all the submissions, grouping some together when it made sense and assigned places and times for each of the topics to be discussed. I chose the topics and discussions that were relevant to me at the time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The ability to meet people (that were just like me!) and explore ideas and topics in a meaningful and engaged way forever changed the way I would view events. My mind was blown. It was so simple, so effective and and so valuable. Here was a “work event” that didn’t feel like those awful trade shows and conferences I’d been to. I had the ability to get to ask questions that had been on my mind for months, and peers were excited to help by offering different perspectives and advice. I made some life changing connections there that have grown into dear friendships I couldn’t imagine not having today.

In 2012 we created a mixed format conference/unconference which became the first ever GCUC and we’ve been doing that ever since. Every year we ask attendees what we did well, what we can do better and what we should do next year. We use that data to form the next years’ conference. This year we heard loud and clear that everyone wanted more time to engage and connect with each other. That’s why we now have unconference time every single day this year!

I hope you’ll be joining us in Berkeley, just keep an open mind and participate. The magic of the unconference will happen all on it’s own.