Unconferencing: Um, What Is It?
I recently had the experience of going to a conference, and not actually attending any of the sessions. It's what's called "unconferencing": you hang out at the hotel the conference is being held at, go to the parties and network with people but don't actually have a ticket for the sessions.
I can't speak for others but I can tell you why I did it at this year's Podcast Movement. I love attending conferences but they can get expensive. Add up the cost of the ticket, the airfare, the hotel and food (I'm tiny but I eat often so it adds up) and often it's close to $1500 or $2k.
So I factor in the cost and what my goals are for attending: am I there to network, spread the word of Show Notes Made Easy? Get new clients? Am I there to learn? Is it a combination of these?
So Why Unconference? And How Exactly Is It Done?
For this year's PM when I asked myself those questions my answer was networking. I love the world of podcasting and the opportunities it presents for people but for my business I don't learn about show notes by going to Podcast Movement. None of the sessions were specific to podcasting show notes, so my primary reason for attending was networking.
And I opted not to buy a ticket to the event and instead use that money to pay to attend another upcoming conference, FinCon. FinCon is a conference all about finances: it's tagline is Where Money and Media Meet.
I've been interested in going to that particular conference for awhile and when Nev Medhora recommended it to me as a place to learn about SEO I was ALL in!
So I decided to unconference at PM15 and it worked out well. By this point in my podcasting show notes career I know enough people that I could fill my nights with parties and networking. I made plans to meet with friends (new and old), clients and potential new clients throughout the weekend.
And that's what I recommend doing if you opt to unconference: set yourself up by finding people to connect with at night, during the meal breaks and before/after the conference.
Odds are good there will be plenty of meetups for various groups (Smart Passive Income and Podcasters' Paradise both had meetups at PM15) and you can attend if you're part of those groups or have friends in attendance.
And you can usually find a Facebook group or two related to the event, join it and make connections before you go and then make plans to meet IRL at the event.
If you're going to unconference I find it's best to pre-plan, strategize and make time for some good old-fashioned fun! Network with the vendors during sessions, make plans to have meals with people, go to the various parties. Make it worth your while to have been there, even without the event ticket!