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What’s An Unconference And Why You Totally Need It In Your Life

What’s an unconference and why you totally need it in your life

It was towards the second day of the unconference when I finally felt I’m getting a clue of what is happening. Matthias, as German as he is, managed to bring structure to this event which was meant to be unstructured on the first place. Uwe implemented this structure perfectly – a German and an Austrian make some hell of a team!

Despite their flawlessness I still managed to take a short nap in the hammock during one of the sessions. As soon as I woke up (merely out of fear I might start snoring and the others would hear) I thought to myself: this is, hands-down, the best event I have ever attended.

But what is an unconference?

It’s the opposite of the conference, yet I’m sure this doesn’t tell you much (didn’t mean a lot to me either). The concept is simple: you get a bunch of people together and instead of having pre-assigned speakers you have the attendees themselves pitch sessions. Multiple sessions are organized at the same time and each person who isn’t a session leader gets to choose what to attend. When the session is over people either become session leaders or simply attend another one.

The format is up to each session leader. Ellie and I, for example, did not feel ready to present but we did have questions. We asked and drew knowledge from people’s personal experiences. Sort of like making your own mastermind focus group 😀

What makes the unconference cooler than the conference?

Despite of the occasional free goodie you can get at a conference the other benefits are usually a master headache, a bunch of useless business cards, plenty of meaningless buzz in your head, and the after-effect: a flooded email box with offers of people who want to sell you crap you will never need in your life. Truth be told, conferences are based on their formal glory – back in the day they were indeed useful. Not anymore.

The unconferences, however, are yet to be flooded by the ruthless salespeople who (much like the mystic king Midas) may turn everything into gold but ultimately make it unusable. These are the kind of events who attract colorful souls that do not fit in the regular box. The type of people who make their own boxes. And will likely be making yours one day.

The attendees of the unconferences are…

…unique.

There was something which melted my heart during this first unconference I was attending. Used to people constantly telling me how to live my life and what is right or wrong, I was totally unprepared to hear the other attendees say “I can tell you everything from my own experience, but it doesn’t mean it will suit you. Nonetheless, I hope you find my knowledge useful.

Not once did I feel lesser than the people I was there with, despite them having achieved what I dream of. Not once did they look down on us when we openly said: “We’re not where you are yet, but we want to be”. They didn’t even try to force their expertise on us. Simply answered our questions in great detail, doing their best to address our specific needs and wants. Not the status quo. I loved them all.

But why do you need to attend an unconference?

A quote I love says:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with friends.”

Finding friends who are inspired, motivated, knowledgeable, understanding, and empathetic these days, however, is nearly impossible. In most social circles people connect to either sell something, or pick someone’s brains without ever intending to give something in return. And the ones who attended this specific unconference were the exact opposite of that. They were there to exchange knowledge, and as a good friend and writer Anna Pelova says – to give you a piece of their mind gold.

If you’ve ever felt unsure about your personal projects, job, future, or even relationships you will likely find a solution at an unconference. And if not the solution, then most certainly the path to it. All you have to do is go there open and communicate your truths. Do not be afraid to share your mind – no one is there to judge you.

Are all unconferences the same?

Well, I have to be honest and admin that I don’t know. I have only attended one and it was awesome. As the responsible wrterojournalistoblogger I aim to be, however, I did research the topic. Guess what – all feedback sounds much like mine. I guess it’s then safe to say that as for now, 2017, all unconferences are worth visiting.

But do mark the one organized by Coworking Bansko in your calendar – you can’t miss it!

(Actually, since the date hasn’t been announced yet just like their Facebook page and they’ll let you know when it’s on)

I am still pleasantly surprised by the organization and everything we were provided by Coworking Bansko during the conference. Aside from the coworking space itself being flawless, Uwe TheSailor’s barbecue was everything a meat lover like myself can dream of. As a matter of fact I am still trying to lose the couple of pounds I gained simply because I could not stop eating.

Our accommodation was brilliant and the whole thing went smoother than I could ever imagine (thank you, beautiful and talented Irina). But most of all: we learned a lot, had great fun, got rid of quite some many or our limiting beliefs, and got inspired unlike any other time.

Oh, there were some side effects, too… I now know that:

  • Germans are not cold – they’re sweethearts, but it’s in very sophisticated way, so you need to be at least as smart as us to appreciate them ;).
  • Germans and Austrians are indeed very well-organized.
  • Italian moms allow their sons to dress without assistance – as soon as the kids turn 35 (not a typo).
  • IOI is a dangerous thing that we, women, occassionally show unconsciously and it gets us into trouble. Thanks for recommending “The Game“, Mathias 😀

Nina Alexander

Nina is the big sister. She's a marketing professional by day, traveler by heart, tech geek, bookworm, beer lover and an amateur photographer. Her motto is Friedrich Nietzsche's famous quote "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

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