Unconferences and Open Space events are exciting alternatives to standard conferences. They are highly interactive, simple to set up, and they are happening around the world with increasing frequency.
Unconferences and Open Space events have important differences, but the main characteristic of each is that they let participants shape the agenda by deciding which topics will be discussed in which breakout sessions. The primary role of the host/facilitator is to get the word out with an invitation and then to welcome everyone and explain the process. Here’s more info about Open Space by Michael Herman, one of the very generous thought leaders in that community of practice.
There are several advantages to letting participants decide which topics should be discussed:
- participants feel empowered
- discussion topics are more timely
- the event is easier to plan
QiqoChat makes it easy to organize online unconferences, because it has a built-in tool for live audio & video events with breakout rooms. Each breakout room has collaborative notes, screensharing, and a way to embed other collaborative online apps.
Here’s a video interview of Sabrina Apitz, an event organizer who hosted an unconference on QiqoChat:
To make an unconference highly collaborative, here are some suggestions:
1. Create a Qiqo circle (if you haven’t already) so that people can sign up, add information in their profile, and browse other people’s profiles so that they can get to know each other.
2. Although the day of the unconference is the most exciting part, you can built momentum by letting participation begin 2-3 weeks ahead of time.
- Invite people for a lunch hour chat or a happy hour chat. Each circle has a “online Zoom garden” created by default, and it’s a great place for informal and impromptu gatherings; it’s open 24/7. Here’s an example of the gardens; notice there are many breakout gardens. You can customize the names and photos of your online garden as the admin of your circle.
- Encourage people to start a new written conversation. This is similar to a mini-listserv or email discussion list. The difference is that the author can post a few separate questions or statements as “conversation starters.” This provides a little bit of structure and keeps the conversation organized, especially as the number of participants grows.
- Encourage participants to write a new article on a topic that they will want to address in a live video session on the day of the event. This is similar to a blog post, and other participants can reply in the comments. Under “More Options” when they edit their article they also have the ability to add a collaborative notes section in the comments. This is similar to having a wiki or Google Doc embedded in the article where multiple people can type on different lines of a document. This is very helpful for sessions where the purpose is brainstorming.
- Try using any of the other tools on Qiqo which may be appropriate for your participants.
3. To organize all the sessions during the unconference, create a live event on Qiqo in your circle. Everyone will join the main room when they arrive. There are 10 simultaneous breakout rooms by default, and you can have up to 100 breakout rooms. Each breakout room can have up to 300 participants each. If you need more than 300 people in your opening circle, we can connect a webinar there which can hold 10,000 people. If your event will have more than 100 people, please let us know in advance (email@example.com).
From the main room, you can use the collaborative notes section to list the breakout rooms and time slots, and then let everyone add their topic in the appropriate time slot. Visit this example to see how we recommend setting up the notes. Everyone else can jump to the appropriate breakout room when the sessions begin. Stay in the main room to greet newcomers and to answer any questions. As the admin of your event, you’ll be able to label the breakout tables when you enter the event and click on “Admin Options.”
4. Keep the conversation going after the unconference ends. A Qiqo circle is a perfect way for participants to stay connected through the peer-to-peer weekly newsletter, written conversations, articles, additional live events scheduled by the participants, and all the other tools on Qiqo.
5. To learn how to charge a fee and earn money for your events, check out this post!