NetSquared organizer Judy Hallman shares her experience running North Carolina’s Tech for Good camp.
In 2010, we had a regular conference with scheduled sessions. In 2011, we tried a regular conference on Friday with an unconference on Saturday and that didn’t work very well. Not many of the people who attended the structured conference attended the unconference. They didn’t know what it was or what to expect and our description wasn’t adequate.
So for 2012 we tried a hybrid — We had a call for session proposals, selected some and scheduled them. Then we had pitches during the opening session and had everyone, including the preselected presenters, pitch their sessions. People who came loved it. Many went to unscheduled sessions. But we still got feedback that indicated people didn’t know what we were doing. Some didn’t come to the conference because they didn’t see enough content. Attendance was down from about 100 in 2010 and 2011 to about 75. So we’ve really got to find a better way to describe what happens. For 2012 we also avoided the word “unconference” and used “design-your-own sessions” instead.
We have a Drupal website and are using the conference organizers distribution modules (COD) which has capabilities we haven’t tried yet including voting for sessions. My thoughts for 2013 are to request proposals early and have them posted online and use the voting capabilities. Hopefully that would help people understand the process and get them involved before they come to the conference.
Our unconference facilitator (for both 2011 and 2012) was excellent. She’s run unconferences before and gets excited about it and gets people involved.
In the menu across the top, there are links to the 2011 conference and 2010. The home page for each of them has a link to the evaluations. For all conferences, the feedback from attendees has been very helpful.