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Unconference Formats

Deep Dive Sessions (8 slots 55 min each)

Appreciative Inquiry

- AI is based on the assumption that organizations change in the way they inquire and the claim that an organization which inquires into problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same but an organization which tries to appreciate what is best in itself will find/discover more and more of what is good.

- The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn't. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing on gaps and inadequacies to remediate skills or practices, AI focuses on how to create more of the exceptional performance that is occurring when a core of strengths is aligned.

- Basically a glass-half full brainstorm focusing only on the positives of the product and how to continue moving in that direction.


- Four to five chairs are arranged in an inner circle. This is the fishbowl. The remaining chairs are arranged in concentric circles outside the fishbowl. A few participants either volunteer or are selected to fill the fishbowl, while the rest of the group sit on the chairs outside the fishbowl. In an open fishbowl, one chair is left empty. In a closed fishbowl, all chairs are filled. The moderator introduces the topic and the participants start discussing the topic. The audience outside the fishbowl listen in on the discussion.

- In an open fishbowl, any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair and join the fishbowl. When this happens, an existing member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl and free a chair. The discussion continues with participants frequently entering and leaving the fishbowl. Depending on how large your audience is you can have many audience members spend some time in the fishbowl and take part in the discussion. When time runs out, the fishbowl is closed and the moderator summarizes the discussion.

- In a closed fishbowl, the initial participants speak for some time. When time runs out, they leave the fishbowl and a new group from the audience enters the fishbowl. This continues until many audience members have spent some time in the fishbowl. Once the final group has concluded, the moderator closes the fishbowl and summarizes the discussion.

Knowledge Cafe

- The knowledge café begins with the participants seated in a circle of chairs (or concentric circles of chairs if the group is large). It is led by a facilitator, who begins by explaining the purpose of knowledge cafés and the role of conversation in solving problems. The facilitator then introduces the café topic and poses one or two key open-ended questions. For example, if the topic is knowledge sharing, the question for the group might be: "What are the barriers to knowledge sharing in an organisation, and how do you overcome them?"

- When the introduction session is complete, the group breaks into small groups, with about five people in each group. Each small group discusses the questions for about 30 minutes. The small group discussions are not led by a facilitator, and no summary of the discussion is captured for subsequent feedback to the large group.

- Participants then return to the circle and the facilitator leads the group through - the final 30 minute session, in which people reflect on the small group discussions and share any thoughts, insights and ideas on the topic that may have emerged.

- A knowledge café is most effective with between 15 and 50 participants. Thirty is an ideal number of people.

Nominal Group Technique

-(NGT) is a decision making method for use among groups of many sizes, who want to make their decision quickly, as by a vote, but want everyone's opinions taken into account (as opposed to traditional voting, where only the largest group is considered). The method of tallying is the difference.

- First, every member of the group gives their view of the solution, with a short explanation. Then, duplicate solutions are eliminated from the list of all solutions, and the members proceed to rank the solutions, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.

-The numbers each solution receives are totaled, and the solution with the lowest (i.e. most favored) total ranking is selected as the final decision. There are variations on how this technique is used. For example, it can identify strengths versus areas in need of development, rather than be used as a decision-making voting alternative. Also, options do not always have to be ranked, but may be evaluated more subjectively.

Musical Chairs Wonder Wander

- Using music (1 min clips) to break up and/or randomize group interaction in space.

- Participants wander around (law of two feet) without talking until the music stops. 

- When the music stops participants take a seat at the table they are closest to (chairs are not removed, there is no such thing as 'out' in an unconference). 

- Participants discuss the same pre-determined topic at each table.

- Randomized interaction ensures high-flow of diverse ideas and even thought difusion throughout the group.

Lightening Rounds (24 slots 15 min each)

Speed Geeking (Speed Dating, Speed Data-ing)

- A large room is selected as the speed geeking venue. All the presenters are arranged in a large circle along the edge of the room. The remaining members of the audience stand at the center of the room. Ideally there are about 6-7 audience members for each presenter. One person acts as the facilitator.

- The facilitator rings a bell to start proceedings. Once proceedings start, the audience splits up into groups and each group goes to one of the presenters. Presenters have a short duration, usually 5 minutes, to give their presentation and answer questions. At the end of the five minutes, the facilitator rings a bell. At this point, each group moves over to the presenter to their right and the timer starts once more. The session ends when every group has attended all the presentations.

- Speed geeking is a great way to quickly view a number of presentations and demos in a short while. For example, one hour is enough time to view 12 presenters if you spend 5 minutes at each presentation. The 5 minute limit also keeps presentations short and interesting.

Pecha Kucha

- “peh-cha koo-cha", is the onomatopoeic Japanese word for the sound of conversation. The equivalent English term is "chit-chat".

- Events consist of around a dozen presentations, each presenter having 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. Each presenter has just 6 minutes 40 seconds to explain their ideas before the next presenter takes the stage. Conceived as a venue through which young designers could meet, show their work, exchange ideas, and network, the format keeps presentations concise, fast-paced and entertaining.

- Most events consist of design professionals showing their creative work, but presenters often speak about such topics as their travels, research projects, student projects, hobbies, collections, or other interests.

Ignite Sessions

- Similar format to Pecha Kucha, basically a rapid fire series of talks.

- 10-15 min discussion to choose a topic or topics lead by the unconference moderator.

- After the topic is introduced, attendees will have short presentation slots, one right after the other, in front of the group.

- The length of talks are usually between 1 and 10 minutes with a 5 minute limit being common. In order to allow rapid changes between speakers, slides may either be discouraged or a single computer running a presentation program is used by all speakers.

Recess/Ideating Fun and Games

Carnival Games

- Darts: Ideas posted on cork board then each idea is covered with an inflated balloon. Participants are chosen one at a time to throw a dart at the board. The idea beneath the popped balloon becomes the topic of discussion for the next talk period.

- Same idea with ideas in bottles. Toss a ring to select.

Telephone Story

- Each participants sit in front of a camera and get 20 seconds to tell a section of the ‘group story’. The catch is that they only get to hear/see the 20 seconds of the story that came directly before theirs (i.e. they are in the same room). 

- Then they must continue the story without knowing what came before so that the end result is a grammatically/semantically correct story with wacky adlib-like content.

Show n’ Tell

- Create slide deck 'showing and telling' what you like most about apps or a certain app.

- Give a concrete classroom example or come up with an apps centric lesson plan.

- Possible Apps vs. Apps competition format.

Red Light, Green Light/ Wonder Wander

- Using music (2-3 min songs) to break up and/or randomize group interaction in space.

- Mulling around, law of two feet

- Participants could use chair arrangements to facilitate particular numbers of groups.