Stowe Boyd: Unconferences: But Aren’t There More Dimensions?
Stowe has some interesting thoughts about the idea of unconferences – efforts to get away from the general mediocrity of traditional top-down ways of doing events. I like his point about there being more dimensions to this than podium height. There’s all sorts of ways in which conferences vary one from another in size scope, technology etc etc.
Still, the more I think about this, and the more events I attend in a variety of guises, the more I think the metaphorical loss of podium is a good place to start, nine times out of ten. Although there are tons of variables in what conferences try to do, I basically resist the idea that it’s the special task of a small number of people to direct the larger number in what to do – either by hogging the talking or directing how the talking should be done. Of course as a facilitator I do have a job to do and I do get to exercise influence over structure, but my ethos is go for approaches that devolve power and responsibility to participants.
Stowe hates fleabag hotels. Actually, some fleabag hotels are kind of inspring in a weird way. The ones I hate are the pseudo-luxurious ones with loud carpets and a plethora of daylight-free, marble-lined dungeons which pass for meeting spaces. But I think environment becomes secondary if the process you use gives the participants the greatest flexibility to determine what they want. I’m talking about Open Space Technology (Chris Corrigan explains it well) and hybrids of it.