What is an unconference?

What is an unconference?

An unconference is driven by the participants, who prepare presentations or discussion topics beforehand but announce and schedule them the day of the conference.

Session announcement and scheduling will happen in person, on paper, during the conference. In the morning we’ll give each host an few seconds to announce their topic and post it to the wall schedule. Then we’ll give everyone a some time to view the wall schedule and mark the sessions they are interested in – this will let us know if any sessions might need to use a bigger space. The session slots are first-come, first-served, but we may rearrange before the sessions begin for space/equipment needs.

Hosting a session is not required but everyone is welcome to become a session host.

The sessions don’t have to be rehearsed and they don’t have to be presentations. Session spaces will be equipped to display posters or to take group notes (think post-its and flipchart paper and colorful markers) – some spaces have projection equipment but have a plan B if you want to show slides. You can be creative with your session content and format. For instance, you could…

  • brainstorm an idea
  • solicit feedback on a design
  • organize a panel/co-host a topic
  • present research findings
  • have a short workshop
  • guide a debate on a controversial topic
  • discuss solutions to a problem
  • discuss a common interest

To help session hosts and attendees prepare, we’ve created a space to Suggest a Topic. Here you can review and vote on topics that have been suggested by others, you can offer to host or co-host a topic, or you can add a topic you’d like to host or learn about.

If you don’t have an idea for a session, please participate, ask questions, and be involved in other sessions! You have an opinion, knowledge, and information to share with others.


The guiding principles for the sessions:

  • The people who come are the best people who could have come.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
  • Give back to the conference by participating actively. “Active participation” might mean giving a presentation, helping with a presentation, blogging or podcasting the event, or whatever other creative ways you can find to contribute.
  • The session: It starts when it starts; It’s over when it’s over. Feel free to use extra session time for other discussions or activities.
  • The Law of Two Feet: If you are not learning or contributing to a talk, presentation, or discussion, it is your responsibility (and privilege) to find somewhere where you can contribute or learn.
  • No commercials/selling.

About the Poster Session & Reception

Poster sessions provide a way to shared summarized information about research or work in a relaxed social environment. Participants have an opportunity to discuss their interests with community members and to build connections for further work and information sharing. You can participate by bringing a poster or by walking around and speaking to the people who have brought posters.

You can easily make a poster using Powerpoint that can be printed at print or copy shops at a size no larger than 40″ by 32″ (landscape or portrait). See a sample below.