Unconference Structure and Prospective Sessions

Alrighty then. 

Now that we know that we are are doing this, time now to talk about how exactly our unconference will work and what we all can do in the run-up to June 4th.

First, some details about how an unconference works.

The day is structured by “the grid”: Basically a blank board/way with the rooms and timeslots marked off. Something kinda like this.

Then, participants who want to hold a session place their session card/post-it in an available spot. This goes on for awhile and there is some negotiation: sessions that might be usefully combined might merge, sessions that need A/V get placed in the right spot, and new sessions might be added as people talk about the day. 

It is organic, kinetic, messy, and fun. 

Participants at an unconference are expected to take part in running at least one session. No one is going to come around and make sure you did, but this is a give and take experience. 

Sessions can take a variety of forms, and it’s up to the session runner(s) to decide which session fits their topic best. Here are some templates (via):

  • The longer formal presentation
  • This is tricky, because it’s difficult to make a formal presentation interactive. But if you have a big, well-developed idea you can pull it off.
  • A short presentation to get things started
    5-15 minutes of prepared material/comments by the session leader followed by an interactive discussion
  • Group discussion
    Someone identifies a topic they are interested in, others come to join the conversation and an interesting discussion happens
  • My Big (or Little) Question
    You have a question you want to know the answer to, and you think others in the group could help you answer it. This format could also just be the seed of a conversation.
  • Show and tell
    You have a cool project, a demo, or just something to show and let people play with that is the springboard for all the conversation in the session. Alternatively, you can invite others to bring their own items to show and tell (perhaps with a theme), and everyone takes a turn sharing.
  • Learn how to do X
    If you’re inclined to teach, this can be simple and effective. Bring the equipment that you need, and have a plan that will let you teach five, ten, or 15 people how to do something all at the same time.

Next steps:

1.It’s a good idea for participants to get thinking about what session(s) they might like to lead ahead of time. 

2. We need to get the word out to make sure that anyone who might be interested in attending a)hears about the event and b)understands what it is and feels welcome.

I think we can kill two birds with one blog post here. If you are willing, post on your blog about a session you might like to lead with a link back to this site so people can find out more. (Do let us know if you do a post. We’ll collect them and link them up for all to browse and be inspired by).

I’ll go first. Here are a couple of sessions I would be interested in and willing to lead

As always, thanks for your help. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with. 


13 thoughts on “Unconference Structure and Prospective Sessions

  1. I love the UNconference idea!
    I would like to get involved in a discussion about book bloggers, social media and library outreach. I just started a MLIS program, and I’m feeling very new and very curious to learn as much and often as I can.

    • Elizabeth, I encourage you to put together a blog post – it doesn’t have to be long or fancy – and tell us about it. I’m very interested to see what it is you’re thinking about. – Cassandra

  2. Hi Jeff –
    Is co-hosting a session allowed? For those of us not used to or comfortable with public speaking to pair up with a fellow blogger & then host the session together?

  3. Pingback: Unconference Structure and Prospective Sessions | edcamp | Scoop.it

  4. I would definitely be interested in collaborating with Amanda (Dead White Guys) on leading a session about negative reviews/how to be critical without being snarky. I’ve been approached by various online publications to review for them, and then they mention, “oh, only positive reviews.” Like, glowingly positive reviews. I hardly see the point in that, given that no book is perfect, and (good) book reviewing isn’t supposed to be a marketing scheme.

  5. Pingback: FAQ and Other Miscellany | Book Blog UNCON

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