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TeachMeet is an unconference, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't need organising. Early on, get a small group together to get everything sorted out for your event.


scotedublogslogos.ppt - Use these templates to brand your event.


1. Get started on your (cool) terms

"Right, if I can have your attention please. Just a minute. Great. Now, I would like to introduce to you..." Oh dear. We all know it. It's like being back in the rows at school, waiting to see someone very important attempt to hold our attention for an hour with more bullets than you could point at the Sundance Kid and that drawl we remember from the adults in Charlie Brown (it was actually a trombone, did you know?).

Unconferences are all about taking away the bits of conferences nobody likes. If you want people's attention to get your unconference underway, don't let someone else bring you down before you even get started, and don't start by effectively telling off your participants. Take control and set out the rules for presentations (see below). Learn from the way jazz concerts get started. Get some music playing out loud as people mingle and get settled (the nervous ones who don't want to network yet can pretend to be listening). Your favourite, most energetic track comes to an end. Begin.



2. Rules are rules


We all need some guidance to make an event a success, no matter how 'unconferencey' you're trying to be. Some rules might be: no PowerPoints, micro-presentations must last no more than seven minutes, nano presentations no more than two, no selling of products, everything must be happening in a classroom now. Or how about setting a theme for one section of the evening: gadgets, free stuff, games, my favourite online reads... The MC of the evening (you) needs to keep a good eye on the time and spot when people need a break. See the Rules suggested by the TeachMeet community.



3. Make the coffee break the conference

We all know the best parts of conferences are, of course, the coffee breaks and social events, where you get a chance to pore over someone's laptop for 15 minutes and learn one new really cool thing you can actually use, have late-night discussions over serious stuff, helped along by a few drops of amber. Why not just make this the conference itself? Provide coffee and tea all day long, lots of muffins and biscuits like they did at Reboot and, even better, open a bar



4. Conference participants, not bystanders

In the six weeks before the unconference even takes place get your attendees to start suggesting topics they would like to talk about or hear someone else talking about. It's the participants' opportunity to spread the word and market the conference to their friends and colleagues, by displaying a logo on their website or taking part in Facebook groups, for example. It doesn't matter if they're not sure yet how they might contribute - it's just about getting some ideas brewing, and they can always change their minds on the night.


The worst thing that can happen for a conference or training event is for people to go home actively disagreeing with what one (or all) the presenters had to say. You've got to provide an opportunity for people to make their views known and give the presenters a fighting chance of bringing them around.

Q&A is one way to do this but people haven't really had time to digest and come up with a good question. Instead, have a section later in the unconference where anyone can take the stage themselves, refuting or adding to what they've heard. Get a bit of a public debate going if it suits.

Back-to-back shorter presentations (like two-minute nano-presentations) or soapboxes are often entertaining, always interesting given the divergent views and let people get it off their chest. It also opens up the conversations in the more informal parts of the conference, since people know who they want to go to talk to.



5. Flat pack your conference

Let people make up their own conference. One of my favourite parts of BarCampScotland and Reboot9.0 were the large blank sheets of paper as you walked in - the participants plan what they want to hear and when, by putting up what they are going to talk about next to a time and a location in the venue. Make sure you offer a number of large, medium and small rooms, tables or floor space for the large, medium and small egos ;-)



6. Don't hold yourself to one sponsor

A good unconference does cost some money although if everyone pulls in it needn't cost a fortune: food, drink, space, projection facilities, audio visuals, publicity beyond the web. Getting a good sponsor might seem the answer to your dreams, but it might end up being a noose around your neck. Do not take all the funding from one place, and then be held to their publicity, their terms and their way of doing things. Some BarCamps put an upper limit of £150 per contribution to have a feast of many, not a gathering for one. Once you've had a successful event or two under your belt the sponsors will come to you.



7. Encourage speaking at the back of the class

It's essential to have a place where people can extend the discussion beyond whatever the presentation is about. This is called a backchannel. You can use a blog set up to receive mobile phone messages, but it's easier to get everyone onto a Jaiku channel, or display messages left by people from the mobiles or computers on Twitter (Twittercamp is lovely to do this).

In some conferences this backchannel is displayed behind the speakers. Much better, in my opinion for what it's worth, is to equip the stage with a large monitor so that speakers can take a peak and have a chance to respond to criticisms or misunderstandings before they're picked up by too many other people. Presenters also need to be aware that there is a public backchannel in the first place.



8. May the wifi be with you

You need wifi. Ideally you have electricity in abundance, too, for bloggers to blog, photographers to Flickr and for the backchannel to survive. Good wifi is a must, but make sure everyone knows about it so that they actually bring their laptops and cameras.



9. Tag, tag, tag - and tell people about it

Make sure that everyone coming to the conference, everyone who wanted to and couldn't and all the major events sites (e.g. Upcoming.org) know what the conference tag is, otherwise all that online coverage is going to be lost. Tags identify what your post is about ('curriculum', 'assessment', 'blogging', 'TeachMeet07'). Tags need to be short, memorable and mean something to the people at your event. SLF2008 is how we will be tagging the Scottish Learning Festival blog posts, photos and videos this year. By tagging your posts SLF2008 they will be picked up by others at the event, and by websites including Learning and Teaching Scotland's Connected Live.



10. Cover the event yourself - but get young people to do it

At every nearly every conference I organise I make sure that I have some young people producing the podcasts, the videos or some blogging. This isn't because I want cheap labour, it's because of the angle they take on it and what they are able to contribute in this way to the arguments given in the conference. Their legacy is also far more long-lasting than that of the adult participants


TeachMeet Tips

After a very successful TeachMeet at the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2010  David Noble (@parslad)   tweeted these TeachMeet Tips:

TeachMeet tip #1: Use fruit machine at ClassTools.net to select who presents next. Ensure by whatever means that all presenters get to speak

TeachMeet tip #2: Encourage participants to bring a colleague. You could enter them into a draw for a free meal at TeachEat after the event.

TeachMeet tip #3: Emphasise the nature of un-conferences eg encourage use of mobile ICT throughout, and 2/7 minute presos.

TeachMeet tip #4: Sponsorship is harder to attract.What can you offer sponsors while retaining right ethos? How would you run event with £0?

TeachMeet tip #5: Between presos are useful for table chat or online activity. Pauses could be punctuated with quiz, music or edu-challenge.

TeachMeet tip #6: The social and conversational side of the event is important. Spaces for this can be planned for or facilitated in advance

TeachMeet tip #7: Ways of reminding presenters that their 'time is up' - fling a camel, display a timer, blow a kazoo, hold up a soft toy.

TeachMeet tip #8: Break event into several distinct parts, including refreshments/TeachEat. Make it easy for folk to leave when they want to

TeachMeet tip #9: A Twitter backchannel can be useful but can exclude some participants. Broadcast online using Flashmeeting or CoveritLive.

TeachMeet tip #10: Set-up an event @posterous blog.Participants can create text, image, audio from discussions or presos, to share or remind


Here are some more hints and tips for budding unconferencers:


Additional resources:

  • Cracked Teachmeet font for creating your event logo
  • Class Tools Random Name picker for selecting speakers 
  • Visible Tweets - Display your Teachmeet #hashtag on a screen while the presentation goes on. This encourages crowd participation from the audience at the event and beyond. Please note this requires Flash to work properly
  • Twitterfall - Another way to display your Teachmeet hashtag during the event that does not require flash. A little more complex, just put the hashtag in as a search term on the left hand side, then once the tweets start flowing, select "presentation mode" in the top right corner to go into full screen



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Comments (4)

James said

at 3:57 pm on Aug 17, 2011

Matt Esterman said

at 1:29 am on May 23, 2011

Great page! We're organising a TeachMeet for Sydney, Australia. http://tfcsydney.wikispaces.com/ Thanks for the advice.

Mojca Jamnik said

at 3:31 pm on Mar 9, 2011

We would like to organize a teachmeet in Slovenia - can we post our event on this website: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/19975349/FrontPage? THX :-), Mojca

Guest User said

at 11:39 pm on Apr 11, 2010

Awesome! I love the concept. Out with the old and in with the new! I can embrace this kind of change. Bagad.

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