Like the bumblebee, which I am told is technically not able to fly based on its wing geometry but seems to have done just fine for the last few millenia, the MassTLC UnConference should not work. I participated in my first UnCon this year as part of a team of bloggers made up largely of public relations people who know their way around an industry event. I have certainly slogged through my share of stultifying business get-togethers in 25 years of PR work but I've never seen anything like the agenda-free, planless, exercise in productive anarchy and populist coordination that is an UnConference.
Nor, have I been so bloody energized by an event before. From witnessing the Herculean cat herding of the first hour's real-time agenda creation which brought forth a full day's worth of compelling sessions to the utterly democratic sessions themselves, I found this to be the most fun and most useful event I've attended in years. With an audience approaching 1000 attendees that was equal parts young entrepreneurs, old pros, start-up stars, established companies, media types, VCs, coders, marketers, CEOs, interns and every title in between, the ability to network widely and learn deeply from a range of perspectives was invaluable. The session topics covered a spectrum of relevant issues like advertising, finance, PR, public policy, edtech, SaaS, mobile, team building and much more. The "rule of two feet" was the order of the day. This means that any attendee who found a particular session less than riveting was encouraged to get up, politely leave, and find another session in which to participate. Open participation is the key to making this type of event work. The attendees own this event entirely from setting the agenda to driving productive conversation in each session. I met a host of new people from across the business landscape of New England, and I saw a number of people who I know well engaged and participating in a completely different context. It all worked beautifully and as much as I was there to record the proceedings for MassTLC's blog, I became fully involved myself and felt professionally strengthened at the end of the day. I'm looking forward to the 2013 Innovation UnConference already ... or at least another gathering of this kind in the near future.