An Unconference for Association Executives

Ben has some concerns about how an unconference for associations executives could work.

I love the hallway track. The pictures, though, got me thinking deeper about unconferences. Look how few people are in those rooms! Because there are so few people around the table, and because they’re opting into rooms around a topic of interest, I also get the feeling that they had a lot in common in terms of the problems and issues they grapple with. In short, they have a high degree of shared context — those rooms are high context environments.

I keep thinking about an unconference for the association community. But it’s becoming clear to me that it probably wouldn’t work. I don’t share enough context with professionals in government relations, public relations, education, etc. to truly provide value to them, or get value from them in a high context environment.

One of the commonalities among the unconferences going on is that they typically have a high-level focus of some sort that will attract the right audience to discuss that set of issues. I get the feeling that Ben is envisioning ASAE’s annual meeting with all the topical structure stripped away. This isn’t how I’ve been looking at it. I think the traditional annual meeting format is the complete antithesis of an unconference. It is too huge of a content tent. There has to be some focus around which to gather people.

One possible idea: How about an Association 2.0 unconference as a grass-roots event? Find some donated space, put together a blog, and get people talking about how associations can increase member participation beyond the limitations imposed by the traditional models?

7 thoughts on “An Unconference for Association Executives

  1. Just calling it an “un-workshop” or an “un-meeting” would give this idea more traction in the association world. An unconference tightly focused around a particular grassroots issue would work well for a number of associations. We can count on members to do the legwork — but something like this can help get the background and education work done efficiently, without another overnight stay at the airport hotel. I’ll be interested to see what use associations make of this.

  2. Mike, I agree, a smaller scope/size meeting makes much more sense for an unconference, both in selling it to organizers as well as participants.

    Kevin, I like the idea too! I’ll see what I can do to get it rolling. Stay tuned…

  3. This un-conference, how long would it last? A typical conference last a day or so (by which point I am absolutely exhausted). At that conference I get food, drink and interactive networking. Since the un-conference can’t provide any of this. How long are people’s attention supposed to last? 1 day, 1 week or some undefined amount of time? If it were the latter a blog would work, but if it were only a day I don’t see how that would really work too well.

  4. I’m not sure we have the same definition of unconference, Zach? I don’t see those as significant issues at all.

    The face2face portion would probably be a single day. Food and drink can be solved without a huge investment by either having a location with easy access to quick serve restaurants or charging a fee and providing box lunches. And the whole thing is intense networking!

    I would see the blog used for planning the event and then reporting on what was discussed.

  5. David,

    Well using your comments, the additional post, wiki entry and a little help from fred (thanks fred; I think I have much better understanding of what you are talking about. My initial thought was that this unconference was something that was totally virtual, but that isn’t it at all. It seems like it just breaks the mold of the traditional conference where you go from station to station and listen. This sounds like it would actually be a lot more interactive and social than a normal conference. Plus, you’d really get to hear what your colleagues views/opinions were on issues.

    Thanks again!

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