I went to my first unconference this past weekend, AnalyticsCamp, held at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. I really enjoyed the format. For those of you unfamiliar with the unconference/barcamp model, there's no schedule in advance. Speakers propose their sessions on a wiki, then on the day, they stand up and pitch their ideas, then post them to a board. If you want to go, you make a mark on the sheet. Some of the sessions were packed, some had only a few people, but it was very democratic. It's also handy in that you get a sense of the speaker before you commit your time to his or her session.
I also just registered for IgniteRaleigh, which follows the same format but allows you to vote online. The topics range from social media marketing to what zombies reveal about society and psychology. So far it looks like the most creative and unusual topics are getting the most votes, which is great. If there's one thing I'm tired of, it's hearing the same old thing at conferences.
Once again I'm reminded why I love my job. My colleagues and I are breaking new ground every day, and finding new ways to communicate that people enjoy and want to participate in, not just endure. Unconferences are the real-world equivalent. If we all keep this up, we may never have to read another boring, jargon-filled press release again, and we may never again have to fight to stay awake while someone reads their PowerPoint slides to us.