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Day 35: on Unconfs

Posted on 3 mins read

Last week, from Wednesday to Friday I was at my first Unconference, HolidayCheck’s All Devs Meetup 2018. The days before we departed, I talked with Tobias to come up with an action plan and have some session for the event. And his answer? Well, it went something like this:

That’s not how an Unconf works. Things should be mostly spontaneous and dynamic. The whole idea is that there’s no idea. There’s no such thing as a plan or a schedule, things just flow naturally.

This was a shock at first, but I decided to wear the White Belt and forget everything I thought I knew about conferences. Doing this was hard, but ultimately worth it. I went in, completely unprepared and at the same time with the best of preparations. Since I allowed myself to have no plan, I could take things as they came, build my own roadmap around the sessions and improvise freely, which proved to be exactly the right thing to do.

Inspiration

For me, conferences and meet-ups are all about inspiration. Meeting people with different mindsets and hearing what they think on specific subjects is always refreshing. In normal conferences, this happens in a very structured way. A speaker goes on stage and inspires the audience with a very prepared and practiced presentation. This gets flipped upside down in an Unconf. Sessions happen in parallel and the only thing a host has to motivate the attendees to go to their session, is a title. This title needs to tickle people’s curiosity enough that they decide to spend their precious time in any given place, and what happens inside looks more like an open debate than a practiced presentation.

Everyone fulfils 2 roles at all time, as audience and presenters. The flow of information goes in multiple directions at all times, and inspiration is given, not only by the main speaker but also by everyone present at any session. And there’s nothing like a heated debate on a controversial topic to kickstart and challenge our collective brain.

And getting to meet a lot of people from HolidayCheck I would probably not have met otherwise was just the icing on the cake.

Questions

I came back from the All Devs with a lot of things on my mind. One topic that stuck with me in particular is: how can we measure the quality of life of a specific product? How can we keep the people working on it from hating it? It’s so easy to grow bored of a single topic and leave it for new and shinier things, so where’s the balance?

I will do my own research on this topic in the following days and come back when I have something tangible. As for the impression of my first Unconf left on me, I have nothing but fond memories and an overloaded mind. ✨

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