Unconference sessions create an opportunity for conference attendees to share ideas, solve problems, and participate in discussions in different ways than we can on the main stage of the conference.
If you’ve never attended an unconference, expect to interact closely with others from the community. Anyone can suggest and lead a session on a topic – sessions can be organized around a presentation, a group discussion on a particular problem, or anything in between.
Leading a session¶
There is no stage in an unconference, and sessions instead focus on small group interaction.
Whether you have a topic in mind, or a problem you would like to pose to the rest of the community, there is no wrong way to lead an unconference session. Good sessions emphasize group participation, however, so if you choose a format that includes a lot of your own ideas or material, be prepared to dial it back and use what you have as a starting point, not as the focal point.
Here are a few ideas for how to structure an unconf session, borrowed from Scott Berkun’s post on unconference sessions:
- Group discussion - Pick a topic and facilitate a group discussion
- The semi-talk - Use a short presentation to lead into a group discussion on a topic
- Show and tell - Show off your latest project, a new tool, or anything else you are excited about
- Presentation - Because sessions are meant to be small and inclusive, this is a difficult format to lead a session with. You cannot rely on slides, because you will not have a screen to present with. Feel free to present a longer talk, but expect more interaction from others joining the session and break often for questions and discussion
Scheduling a session¶
If you want to lead an unconf session, sign up on the board in the room designated for the unconference. You propose a topic and pick a time; unconf sessions are scheduled for the same time slots as talks on the main stage
The first chance you will get to post your presentation is on Sunday, at the Writing Day event and welcome reception. If you don’t make it to the Writing Day event or reception, be sure to find the board when you first arrive at the conference to post your topic.
We will start promoting the unconference sessions early in the day on the days of the conference, so post your topic early if you want a particular time slot, or to make sure that there’s room.
Because the unconference has become so popular in recent years, we ask session organizers to bear these guidelines in mind:
- Keep your sessions manageably small. If attendance starts to spill into neighboring tables, consider asking folks to attend an additional session on the same topic.
- If you’re leading a session on a popular topic (notably API docs in the past), consider scheduling an early time so there’s room to schedule overflow sessions as needed later in the day, or even the next day if the first session is on Monday.
- Ask unconf organizers to help wrangle logistics. Lola’s Room can get crowded especially when a popular topic is scheduled.
Unconf organizers and a dedicated volunteer are available to help at any time during the conference. Ask about a topic, ask about the schedule, ask about multiple instances of the same topic – we want to help you make your unconf session the best it can be. If you can’t find us in Lola’s room, feel free to seek us out elsewhere.
Unconference sessions are held on each main conference day. Exact timing information is available on our Schedule page.
During the conference¶
Check out the Unconference Cheat Sheet for a quick reference that you can use during the conference to make the most out of Writing Day.