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How To Unconference Your Birthday, The Book


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How To Unconference Your Birthday, The Book

  2. 2. INDEX HI INDEX HOW TO UNCONFERENCE THERE We, Elmine and Ton, know a lot of really great people. Friends, family, clients, and peers from around the internet. A lot of them fall into more than one category. They form our personal global village. While all of them know us, they often do not know each other. So every now and then we throw a party to get them in the same place. Not just a party, but a combination of a conference with a barbecue party. One day of intensive interaction, followed by a party on the next day. It’s exciting to bring all those different people together, and see how well they get along. 3
  3. 3. HI THERE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEFor Ton’s 40th birthday we It doesn’t end with the partyhad about forty people on though. Connections gotthe conference day, a dozen build, which lead to new andnationalities coming to our different things. We ourselveshome from seven different ended up with a long listcountries. Forty more joined of social ‘obligations’ such MY FIRST MEMORY WOULD BEus for the party the next day. as return visits. One gift PEDRO’S TALK ON “BENIGNFor them to make the effort to provokes another. In a sense MISCHIEF”. IT MADE MY LIFEcome, to participate, it keeps on connect with each other MUCH MORE FUN. I THINKwas the most amazing gift The theme of Ton’s birthday IT’S THE BEST “LIFEHACK” I’VETon could wish for on his un-conference and party HEARD (AND IMPLEMENTED)birthday. Being a host to it, was ‘Working on Stuff That TO DATE...providing the reason and Matters’, or in other wordsplace for it, was only a small ‘Do Epic Shit’. During the un-gift in return. The really great conference there was talk ofgift that everybody gave to all an ‘Epic Shit Multiplier’.others and themselves was to We hope this e-book is there, to engage, and tobuild surprising connections. Ernst Phaff 4 5
  4. 4. WHAT WE WHAT WE DRAW UPON HOW TO UNCONFERENCE DRAW UPON There are many ways you can organize a conference Blogwalk BarCamp or a workshop. Over the years we’ve visited many Blogwalks were a series of Barcamps are workshop events, from the overpriced mass conferences to the workshops Ton organized days where the participants budget-less workshop. We not only visited them, we together with Lilia Efimova create and give the sessions actively participated in them as speakers or facilitators, and Sebastian Fiedler. themselves. At the start and organized our own events. That’s how we gained Inspired by the online blogger of the day participants experience with various formats and that’s where we communities they started suggest presentations and pick and choose from. to organize face-to-face discussions. They put together meetings in 2004: one day the program which is thenBACK TO INDEX where participants would followed throughout the day. engage in discussions around The first Barcamp took place themes such as education, in 2005 in California. Soon social web and bohemian Barcamps were taking place work styles. all around the world. One person would arrange First the topics were web and for a location for free, every tech related, now it can be participant chipped in for about anything. drinks and lunch. Weather permitting there would be a walk after lunch to have more movement during the day, hence the BlogWalk. 6 7
  5. 5. WHAT WE DRAW UPON HOW TO UNCONFERENCE Open Space In Open Space there is no Whoever is here are the right program, just the time and people. Whatever we talk the place to really interact about is the right topic. with each other. Structures are (Or in other words, focus on tools to aid the interaction, who is here and what they and can be introduced and have to say, go where the thrown out when appropriate. conversation is taking you. The people present are the That’s apparently what you ones you focus on, and you have curiosity and energy for.) let your feet carry you to the conversations you want to be The law of two feet. in. Being in the here and now (When you find yourself in a is key in Open Space. conversation that you can’t contribute to and you can’t Open Space has some get anything from, feel free to principles and one law. move on. Attention and face to face time are scarce. It starts when it starts. Use it well.) It ends when it ends. (Or in other words, as long as Be prepared to be surprised. there is energy. And we don’t (Be curious about the others fret about what we didn’t get and what they have to say. to do.) Different backgrounds may yield observations and experiences that surprise you. Really listen.)8 9
  6. 6. WHAT WE DRAW UPON HOW TO UNCONFERENCEDone it beforeThis time around it wasaround Ton’s 40th, but twoyears ago we did the samething, on a slightly smallerscale, for Elmine’s 30th.Back then we booked aproper conference room and TALKING WITH A PROFESSORa restaurant lunch. Although WHO JUST HAD TO LAUGHit was a great day we also WHEN I TOLD HIM MY SON ISnoticed what impact the NOT YET ALLOWED TO PLAY ONlocation can have on theatmosphere throughout A COMPUTER...the day. Brigitte van Dulmen 10 11
  7. 7. PRE- PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE FUN JUST PICK ONE There are several things to do before you have an actual Pick a date and pick it well in event on a certain day. But they are mostly simple things advance. It should be a date really, like choosing a date, location, and some sort of that suits you or that is related theme. But you do really need those to tempt people to to a special day, such as in our come to your event. And don’t forget to actually invite case Ton’s birthday. People people. Without them it’s less fun. from abroad need to negotiate with their family, book flights Pick a date and lodging, so communicate The most important thing is It may be that your birthday the date at least half a year inBACK TO INDEX that you pick a date, and pick is at a less practical time of advance as an early warning. it early. When that date is, is year. At Elmine’s birthday less important. As long as you in August e.g. we noticed pick a date that suits you and that especially many of our you start communicating it Dutch friends weren’t able early enough, any date is just to come since they were still as good as any other. on summer holiday. It didn’t Of course combining the matter though. Focus on the event with something personal great people who are there. like Ton’s 40th birthday adds Even without some of our a lot of extra spice. long time friends we had It combines the ‘serious’ with loads of fun. ‘fun’ and a festive mood, and you make it easier to mix different people from your social network. 12 13
  8. 8. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE Choose a theme Choosing a theme for your for everybody individually on event is important for several a human level works well. reasons. A good theme will It also helped to pick a theme make people curious, or that really meant something trigger their imagination. to us personally. If you are hoping to bring a very diverse group together What better place than a your theme cannot be too conference on a birthday to narrowly defined, it needs discuss “work-life balance”? to be able to appeal to all So that’s what we made participants. A theme also the theme for Elmine’s 30th needs to leave enough space birthday conference. so that ‘anything’ is still possible for the event itself. In the months leading up to At the same time try and Ton’s 40th birthday, he was make it specific and tangible thinking a lot about choosing enough so it establishes and finding projects and enough context for the activities that have some participants to feel they are meaning beyond the actual there for a reason. work itself, and how to Too broad a theme becomes pick the places, clients and meaningless. Too narrow a colleagues with whom that’s theme isn’t inclusive enough. possible. How do you make sure you can “work on stuff We found that choosing that matters”? So that became something that has meaning the theme.14 15
  9. 9. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCEBROAD ENOUGHPick a theme that is broadenough to engage all peopleattending. They may havevery different backgrounds sochoose a theme that allows forconnecting on a human level,regardless of profession or NEVER MET SO MANYbackground. At the same time FAMILIAR STRANGERS INthe theme needs to be specific SUCH A STRUCTURALenough to create an inclusivecontext for the event itself. OPEN AMBIANCE! ENERGY WITH OUTCOME!!! Guus Vrauwdeunt 16 17
  10. 10. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE ABOUT USING YOUR HOMEChoose a location Doing a conference in yourFor Elmine’s birthday we We were assuming to pay for home brings a special dynamic.arranged a decent sized the whole thing, including A living room is a personalconference room. We didn’t conference room and nice space and therefore it signalsknow how many people we lunch and barbecue food. people to be more informal,could expect, so we chose Then we realized that we’ve and it invites people to havea location that could host pulled off BlogWalks without more personal conversations.up to 60 people conference any budget at all, so whystyle, and would still be cozy couldn’t we do this now Unlike in a conference venue,enough for just twenty. as well? in a home there are no cuesWe arranged for a lunch on that things are taken care Set on the spacious and The only real expenses we There is no personnel runninggreen university campus, it had during the conference around to make more coffeewas the perfect environment would be the conference and tea or to refill the water.for deep thinking. room and the lunch. It is clear that people are So we dropped the venue responsible for their own well-For Ton’s 40th, we had reservation (thanks to flexible being and that makes peoplea whole other issue and booking policies) and thought more active throughout the day.that was lack of budget. of alternatives. ImmediatelyRemember the economic we thought of doing it in ourcrisis? It hit us hard in home. We envisioned howthe months before the we could repurpose and useconference. We had already the various rooms around theannounced the event, but we house and calculated howwere seriously considering many people could fit.canceling the whole thing. We concluded it could work! 18 19
  11. 11. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCEIT WILL FIT!Our home is spacious for Inviting the righttwo, not for forty. That meant peoplepeople could not avoid It’s your party and usually you Of course we invited oldbumping into others and invite friends to a party. friends from university, andtalking to them. How’s that That is exactly what we did, friends from our home town.for a conversation starter? except that friendship in an But also clients and online world works family members.However, spreading the slightly different.conference out over three floors You’ll be amazed whatand four spaces meant there We both operate in an happens if you bring thosewas plenty of room for sessions international network, grown various circles together.and to move around. It was from blogger networks andonly tight when everybody thus we invited many of those. Bringing a diverse groupneeded to be in the living Most of them we’ve met face of people together meansroom at the same time. to face at conferences and they need to come with workshops throughout the an open mind and with years. Some of them have curiosity towards the others. become close friends even Invite people in a way that though they live thousands of ensures self selection. Be kilometres away. The online both completely open in interaction keeps us in contact your invitation, by blogging between the times we can an open invitation, as well meet face-to-face. as completely selective, by sending personalized emails. For some you stress the conference with minor 20 21
  12. 12. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE SELF-SELECTING MECHANISM You can choose your tools to be self-selective. We used a wikiattention to the BBQ, for Don’t try to decide for your for keeping track of attendeesothers you put the BBQ friends if they will come. and where people could readfirst while mentioning the Even if you think there is and build the program. Peopleconference as a side event, only a slight chance they will unfamiliar with this will eitherfor yet others it’s worded as a actually come because they contact you personally to figure‘complete package’. live so far away or are always out whether to attend andThat way people will interpret so very busy, do invite them. what to do, or dropping theyour invitation the way that They may very well idea as too fancy. There youfits them best without you surprise you. go, the group selects itself.having to exclude people Surprise may also comepurposefully. Now you get from your open invitationwhy we sent out on your blog. Someone youpersonalized emails. overlooked or didn’t think of may take you up on it. Again this is self-selecting and for us it always worked out positively. 22 23
  13. 13. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE Communication is key Six months before the We provided details for conference we sent out traveling. The exact venue a general message, wasn’t know at the start, but communicating the dates. stating in which town it will take place, is good enough Two months before the at this point. conference we sent out personal e-mails. Yes, e-mails We suggested places to stay, still work, especially with so such as hotels and B&B’s, or many people in our network even private options. We also striving for Inbox Zero. offered to host several people Making the e-mail personal is in our home, a special spot important to us, so we added for those on a tight budget. a few personal lines and adjusted the invitation text We blogged about the event, where needed. with an open invitation to our readers. People who think We communicated the theme they should have been invited we thought would be cool will use this to get in touch. and set up a wiki page where And it actually worked that everyone could discuss the way this time with one person! theme. It gets people involved and people start imagining what could be.24 25
  14. 14. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCELet goAnd then… let go. People cansearch the web for themselvesfor a place to stay. IF I CAN LIST ONE “MEMORY”They know what they’re IT WOULD BE ALL THE SEEDSlooking for. Some like asimple hotel room, others love THAT WERE SOWN. IT’S JUSTan artsy B&B. Some stay for NOW THAT I’M STARTING TOjust one night, others extend FIND TIME TO LOOK MORE INTOtheir stay and make it a THE ETHICS OF FAB LABS ANDmini-break. OPEN GOVERMNENT, BUT THATPeople will start imagining CAN BE DIRECTLY TRACED BACKwhat they want to talk about TO DISCUSSIONS HAD AT YOURduring the conference day.They might contribute to UNCONFERENCE.the wiki, they might not. Ifnothing happens it doesn’tautomatically mean peopleare not involved. They are,but simply aren’t ready toshare yet. Johnny Søraker 26 27
  15. 15. PREP- PREP-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE FUN People confirmed that they’ll be coming to your event, Things you can’t do booked trips and lodging and the conference is two without weeks from now. It’s time to make sure you can host Stickies forty people in your home for an inspiring day. Those yellow (or blue or enough to hold for a day green) pieces of paper you and doesn’t rip off paint from can stick on any smooth your walls when you take the surface. You need them for sheets down. building the program, you need them for taking notes. SeatsBACK TO INDEX You probably don’t have forty Markers chairs in the house. We at To write on the Stickies. Duh! least didn’t. You don’t need Make sure you have enough, to have proper chairs for but people can share their everyone. People can dig in markers as well. on the couch, use pillows on A social object! the ground, you can even use a spare bed as a couch. Large paper sheets We calculated the number of Also called flip-chart. We people that could be seated don’t own a holder/tripod for in each of the spaces and them, but the large sheets concluded that we needed come in very handy for all twelve seats extra. Long live sorts of workshops. Ikea. We bought twelve cheap yet decent stools. Don’t ask us Tape how many screws came with To hang the sheets. We use them, please ;) painter’s tape, that sticks just 28 29
  16. 16. PREP-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCEDO YOU REALLYNEED IT?Don’t overdo the buying. Only Foodbuy stuff that you can use Such a conference day is To cut down on the budget weyourself or repurpose (or sell inspiring and exhausting at arranged for a typical Dutcheasily on E-bay). The stools we the same time. People start lunch: bread with slices ofbought come in handy at any the day early, some need cold meat and cheeses, someparty or meeting in our home to travel a few hours and soup and salads. Of courseoffice (want to borrow a few?). they are alert all day long. you could arrange for a Therefore they need plenty of caterer, but it had a nice DIYWe both facilitate workshops energy throughout the day. feeling to it. People love toso we have a whole box filled help you out setting the tablewith whiteboard-markers We bought most of the food and prepare the salads.and stickies. It’s part of our for both the conference onstandard toolkit. We always Friday and the barbecueonly use whiteboard-markers, party the day after on thesince they write well enough on Wednesday before. We wouldpaper AND can be washed off have preferred Thursday,from any surface. Just in case. but it was a national Holiday meaning that all shops were closed! We almost forgot about that…. 30 31
  17. 17. PREP-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCESWEET TOUCHProvide snacks for the Drinks Spring Cleaninginbetween moments as well. As much as people need to Or Summer cleaning, WinterFruit is a healthy option, like nibble they need to drink. cleaning, Autumn cleaning.bananas and apples. We also The tap water in our home is Depending on the date ofprovided every conversation just as good as bottled water, your with a bowl of candies. so we provided pitchers withYou can do without them, water and cups to drink from. Use the big event to cleanbut doesn’t it give a sweet We added a bottle of juice for every corner of your home.touch to the space? those not a fan of drinking And you won’t believe how water. The coffee machine many corners your home has! was on permanent duty. Make sure that everything is It’s all about leaving cues clean and neat, so you won’t to remind people to keep have to feel embarrassed if drinking. someone opens a door they weren’t supposed to open. In the end we used every single space in our home, including our own bedroom as a baby change and sleeping room. It might seem invasive, but remember, you invited your friends so what are you worried about? 32 33
  18. 18. PREP-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCEBUY WHAT YOUNORMALLY BUYYou probably are just asannoyed as we are with allthe left-over bottles with softdrinks you normally don’t drinkyourself after a party. Someshops are willing to take backunopened bottles, but we take ...THE EFFORT TO LEAVE MYa different approach. We onlybuy drinks we like to drink ANALYTIC BRAINS BEHIND ANDourselves. It may however take GO OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONEa month or two to work through TOGETHER WITH STRANGERSthe left-overs, depending FEELS GOOD, THEY ARE NOon your estimation skills :) STRANGERS ANY MORE! Janine Swaak 34 35
  19. 19. AND THEN AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE THERE WAS A CONFERENCE Facilitating is a professional skill Very important during a If you are relaxed your It’s the morning of your event and you get up early to workshop is its facilitation. guests will be too. Explain arrange the last details. You’re a bit nervous and wonder Facilitating is a thing you the expectations (like giving if you’ve got everything you need. Then the first guests need to learn. We both have everyone permission to get arrive and it has begun. experience with organizing their own things from the workshops so we know what kitchen and the fridge, or we need to do. Here are asking them to keep an openBACK TO INDEX some of the things a mind), explain the rules of facilitator does. engagement. It helps to articulate the fears or doubts Facilitation is not about you suspect some might have content, and all about context (“what are we going to do and process. But most of all today, will it be fun?”), by it’s about letting go. acknowledging them you Trust people. make it easier for people to create a great time for You invited lots of people. each other. They know you, but most don’t know each other. So make people comfortable when they arrive, help them become part of the group. At the start set the context, set the pace of things. 36 37
  20. 20. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEChoose your role Leaving cues and cluesYou need to decide A house lacks the cues Stick the Open Space rules tobeforehand what role you a conference venue has. the wall in the conversationare going to take. If you will Normally signs in your house spaces. Don’t forget tofacilitate the day, than it’s not where the lavatory is and practice what they preach.really possible to participate. where the office is don’t makeIf you, as the party-boy/ sense. But for this special day,girl, want to participate the make those signs. Print themwhole day, make sure you ask out on paper and stick themsomeone else to facilitate. on the doors and walls. That way people don’t have toTon chose to mainly facilitate guess which door to open tothe day. A role he feels find the toilet.very comfortable with, eventhough it meant that he wasn’t Give people access toable to participate in many your internet. Change theof the sessions. Just listening password to something easyin, knowing that you’re the to type if you can and stick theperson that brought all these name of the network and itsgreat people together is a password to the wall in everyfeeling that lasts for a long space people will be. Justtime after the party is over. being in a conversation in theAfter lunch, having made sure room doesn’t mean they havethat everyone was having a to be disconnected all daygood time, he participated long. They might even want tomore actively in the sessions. show something online. Let them. 38 39
  21. 21. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE ALTHOUGH OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING WE WERE JUST IN AN OVERCROWDED FAMILY HOME, IT FELT LIKE WE WERESupply chain IN A HUGE AND SPACIOUSWe had time to serve the first CONFERENCE CENTRE. …guest, but the fifth person to THE BUZZ OF ALL THOSEarrive already had to look EXCITING AND EXCITED PEOPLEafter himself. So make sure EXPRESSING AND COMPARINGyou have the first round of THEIR MULTITUDE OFcoffee ready and give the first OPINIONS, MADE US LITERALLYfour guests instructions where FORGET WHERE WE find everything. Your cues Aldo de Mooron the walls come in veryhandy here.Before people bustle into thevarious rooms, make sureevery space is supplied with I WAS HEAVILY PREGNANTstickies, markers, water, juice, THEN WITH MY DAUGHTER,cups, sweets and chairs. That ANNA. ... THE EFFECTS OF THEway people can immediately UNCONFERENCE WOULD BE Ajump into their conversation. BIT LIKE PREGNANCY - IDEAS THAT GROW INSIDE FOR A WHILE AND ARE STARTING TO TURN INTO SOMETHING TANGIBLE ONLY NOW. Lilia Efimova 40 41
  22. 22. PRE-FUN HOW TO UNCONFERENCE THIS UNCONFERENCE ILLUSTRATED THE STRENGTH OF WEAK TIES AND SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR LEARNING. BRING PEOPLE, PASSIONED Kick-off / Kick-ass ABOUT THEIR STUFF AND We took our time for the and set the work shop rules INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED TO first round of coffee. People explaining both the Open SHARE KNOWLEDGE, TOGETHER wanted to greet us. Some Space laws and how we AND LEARNING WILL TAKE people we hadn’t seen in would set up the program in PLACE. a while. People want to BarCamp style. acclimatize to the room and Wilfred Rubens the other participants. They Then two of the participants had been driving for a while led us through an introductory or sat two hours in a train. So networking game so that inviting everyone from 9h00 people would get to know and not starting before 10h00 each other. gives everyone ample time. And it gave us just enough time for the finishing touches. OF COURSE THE END OF IT ALL WILL BE REMEMBERED BY OUR Slightly after 10am Ton FAMILY FOR YEARS TO COME AS gave an introduction to the OUR CAR BROKE DOWN JUST AROUND THE CORNER AND WE day: welcoming everybody, HAD TO RETURN AND STAY THE explaining who is here (don’t NIGHT. THANKS A TON FOR THE do a general introduction HOSPITALITY SHOWN. of each person: wasted time!), why we’re here and the theme. Ton gave some general household-rules,Harold van Garderen basically that people had to look after themselves, 42 43
  23. 23. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCECONNECTINGSTRANGERSWe invited people from very At last: the Content! Building the programdifferent circles, so to make Up until this moment we togethersure we got people out of their didn’t talk much about what Create a blank canvascircle of comfort they had to was on the program. with time slots for eachconnect with someone they’d Except for the general theme conversation space you have.never met before. At the start we didn’t negotiate with Use those big pieces of paperof the day, two by two, they speakers or visitors to give a you bought.had to talk about themselves talk about topic X or Y. Thisand explain what they do and was all done on the morning In the morning we only put upwhat they’re interested in. itself. Some participants the schedule for the morningOne person filled out a profile announced what they might sessions. One: with fourfor the other. By looking at want to talk about, but on the rooms and three time-slots,all the profiles (we put them day itself, that could the schedule was alreadyon the wall), and based on have changed. rather big. Two: people mightthe conversations throughout suggest different sessionsthe day everyone then had to This is the moment in the day in the afternoon based onfind at least two conversation that together the participants the discussions during thepartners for the other, based build the program. To create morning. Therefore we builton common interests. a schedule with sessions, the afternoon program mainly conversations, in after lunch. smaller groups. 44 45
  24. 24. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE TRICK OF THE TRADE You’re probably all too familiar with conferences runningProvide people with sticky behind schedule, most likelynotes and markers to write right from the start. We leftdown their suggestions and plenty of ‘free’ time betweenthen give them five minutes to the sessions, without mentioningthink and write down in a few them in the schedule as such.words what session they want We didn’t communicate theto suggest. time-schedule in full detail and therefore no-one noticed thatThen let people stick their during the day we both ran 10session to the canvas. Let minutes ahead and 30 minutespeople choose a time-slot behind schedule, and endedthemselves. First come, first exactly on time. As long as theserve. If there are more major things like start, end,topics than time-slots, don’t lunch and afternoon drinksworry. Some discussion will are done at the promisedemerge, which can lead to the times, everything is fine.combination of suggestions,or other changes in theprogram. Other things youcan keep in reserve forthe afternoon. 46 47
  25. 25. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE BLOW THE WHISTLEStarting the program Following the program Ever noticed how many peopleOnce the schedule was all Obviously we set an amount don’t wear watches anymore?filled up with sessions, we of time for each session. After one round we found outgave a short summary of what In our case 30 minutes per that it was useful to signalwas on there. It gave people session. We left 10 minutes when the 30 minutes were upa first notion what they could between the sessions so and that it was time to movebe interested in and therefore that we didn’t have to rush to the next session. A whistle,they needed less time to read through the program. We a bell, playing a song on thethe schedule to decide where didn’t worry too much about stereo, it all works, as long asthey wanted to go. sessions taking a little bit you don’t force people out of a longer. The 10 minutes in discussion and let people decideThen it was time to let between gave people time for themselves after hearing thepeople look at the schedule to take another peak at the signal to go somewhere else.themselves and make a schedule and decide where todecision. After a few minutes go next and grab somethingwe encouraged people to find to eat or drink on their way.the right room or space andlet people start their sessionwhen they were ready for it. 48 49
  26. 26. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE FOOD FOR THOUGHTLunch When we were both involvedTake your time for lunch. (in several varieties), lots of with a group called IFCCC weThis is the moment various toppings (cheeses, experimented with how topeople engage in deeper meats, jam, sprinkles etc.). run pleasant and intensiveconversations one on one. Also there was plenty of soup workshops. An important (we had two kinds, both component was the foodKnowing how we react vegetarian). The not so typical we served the participants.ourselves on not having eaten Dutch touch was to add Normally you see a big dip inenough after an intense several salads to the mix, for attention after people stuffedmorning, and after attending those not a big fan of bread. themselves during many conferences where Instead of serving just onethey serve lunch not before Of course we asked people big meal in the middle of the13:30, we scheduled the beforehand if they had any day, we served food duringlunch shortly after noon. special diets. You never know the entire day, with specific if someone has allergies nutritional value, good for yourWe made sure that there was you’d never think of. As long mind and body. It was just thefood to nibble before lunch as as you vary enough with what one time we did this, but itwell, just in case early risers you put on the table, you seemed to work really hungry earlier. We bought don’t have to create specialplenty of fruit to serve plates for people. Especially However, this was a ratherthis purpose. if you leave the salads meat- intensive thing to do. It involved and cheese-less. one person to prepare theWe didn’t cater lunch, instead food all day long. Instead, we(remember the low-budget chose a different approach forthing) we served a typical overcoming the after lunch dip.Dutch lunch ourselves.Ingredients: fresh bread 50 51
  27. 27. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE WALK FOR THOUGHT Science has proven that people think better while moving their bodies, but besides science a walk provides a very nice opportunity to talk one on one, or just enjoy the fresh air and views and be alone with your thoughts.52 53
  28. 28. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEWalk Program part two ClosureUnless it’s raining cats and In the morning we only So often we were at a We gathered everyone afterdogs, there is no excuse scheduled the pre-lunch conference where the the last session (mind you,to not go outside. We took sessions. Now that we were organizers didn’t know how that was even half an hourthe whole group for a walk back from the walk, we to create a proper end to it. before the official end-timearound the neighborhood. started to plan the rest of the Either they’re too shy to take we set) and Ton made someIt used to be a traditional part afternoon sessions. credit for what they’ve pulled closing remarks, the mostof the BlogWalks and it’s a We followed the same off or they assume that most important of which wasvery nice break after spending procedure as the morning- people left already and the ‘thank you!’.a whole morning indoors, scheduling, except that we end of the program is the lastas well as a good way to get also drew from the sessions speaker to be on stage. Last action of the day wasenergized after lunch. that didn’t make it to the closing the networking game schedule at first. On a new Closure is important. we started in the morning: piece of paper we built the It doesn’t have to be long, building a network map of schedule again. Some people it doesn’t have to be a closing the new connections that were had new ideas after having keynote, but it should serve as made during the day. discussions and conversations a focal point for everyone to earlier on the day and added end the day and give them an Obviously this was the time to those to the program. opportunity to thank you as a open up a few bottles as well. group, not just as individuals. People peeked at the schedule, chose where to go and the sessions were on again. 54 55
  29. 29. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEParty-time And then there was aDrinks at the end of the day proper partygive people opportunity to The real reason people are Don’t ever compromise on thepick up on conversations they willing to stay for a weekend quality of the food!had earlier, give them time to in a nondescript provincialexchange contact details with town in Eastern Netherlands Family is important, fortheir new friends and digest is that people love to gather everyone. Kids were welcomewhat happened during around food. So on the at the conference and theythe day. Saturday after the workshop were welcome at the party. we threw a barbecue party for We already cleared theWe had drinks and nibbles, even more people than were rooms in our home for theplayed music on the stereo present at the workshop. conference, so all we had toand arranged for a big and This time around for about do was repurpose the rooms.varied Chinese/Indonesian eighty people. We created a kids’ playroomtake-away dinner for with Lego and other toys andthose who wished to stay. We hired a big grill from a our office became the Wii/DSRemember that this was just local butcher (permanent gaming room. We don’t havethe pre-party to the proper outside grills are rare for this kids, but we do like to the following day. Many often rainy area, so almost all We showed the kids theparticipants stayed the night butchers have grills for hire). rooms when coming in (mindin town to join that as well. We (you could also read: Ton) you, most of them we hadn’t marinated the meat ourselves met before) and left the rest and added a lot of vegetable to the many parents present. dishes and salads (also with As far as we could see, they rice, pasta and couscous) to enjoyed themselves. go with the meat. 56 57
  30. 30. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCE SECRET TRICK OF THE TRADE Go to a self-butchering butcher in Germany to buy your bbqWith eighty people in your sausages, as they are excellenthome it will be a mess and and very tasty. Germany too farthe only thing you can do is for you? Ha! Not so far for accept it will be a mess.Except for our bedroomswe have laminate andstone floors. Plenty of stuffended up on the floor, butsurprisingly enough nothingwas permanently damagedand nothing got spilled onthe furniture. A mob was allwe needed to get rid of theevidence the day after.Good friends we have, eh? 58 59
  31. 31. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEAftercareThe conference is over, the For Elmine’s birthday we NOW GO AND CREATE YOURparty is over, the last guests shared a document withleft, and the house is clean. impressions (a Google doc OWN EPIC SHIT MULTIPLIER. did the trick). It contained aWe were left with a warm picture from everyone there ADD YOUR PERSONALITY TO IT.feeling inside of being able with contact connect so many of our DON’T ORGANIZE IT EVERYfriends from various circles. Ton made sure we could do YEAR. something with the networkBut the real connections start chart we created at the end of KEEP REPEATING HOW SPECIALafter the event. Conversations the conference and THE EVENT WAS AFTERWARDS.on Twitter start between digitalized it.people who connected at our DON’T TELL ANYONE WHEREparty, people report back to And we captured the Grandus with the same warmth as Theory of Unconferencing YOU BOUGHT THE SAUSAGES.we felt and others are coming Your Birthday in a proper (e)up with inspiring blog posts. book, explaining how we did MAKE IT A MYTH.Return visits get planned. it and spice it up with pictures and anecdotes from theThis is the time to start participants. Which you’ve justsharing about the event. finished reading.Blogposts, pictures, videos. Ton & ElmineIt’s also time to collect whatothers post online and to sendout a thank you e-mail toall participants. 60 61
  32. 32. AND THEN THERE WAS A CONFERENCE HOW TO UNCONFERENCEA special thank you to:Patrick Willemsen for makinga significant part of thepictures in this book.All unconference participants, Wilfred Rubens, Aldo deErnst Phaff, Johnny Søraker, Moor, Simon Koolwijk, PatriciaHenriette Weber-Andersen, Wolf, Frank Oxener, MarcThomas Kristiansen, Gabriela Coenders, Siert Wijnia, YvetteAvram, Patrick Willemsen, Veninga, Guus Vrauwdeunt,Brigitte van Dulmen, Tjores Hans Thijs, Mirjam ten Dam,van Dulmen, Harold van Kim Spinder, Davied vanGarderen, Lilia Efimova, Berlo, Peter Kaptein, PedroRobert Slagter, Tony Quinlan, Custodio, Patricia Custodio,Paolo Valdemarin, Monica Heinz Wittenbrink, AnuLoredan, Abdul Advany, Peter Määta, Janine Swaak,Troxler, Keith Fortowsky, Marc Otte. All those others that attended the barbecue party. You all being there was the best birthday gift. Ever. 62 63
  35. 35. ColofondesignBUROPONYburopony.nlphotosPatrick Willemsen, Ton Zijlstra,Elmine WijniaeditorsTon Zijlstra & Elmine Wijnia2011 68