Unconference? Wha? Huh?

John Sumser's Recruiting RoadshowI outdid myself today explaining to a potential sponsor that the format for John Sumser’s Atlanta Recruiting Roadshow was modeled after the increasingly popular “unconference” format to which my would-be benefactor replied, “Unconference? Wha? Huh?”

Having confused the issue by contrasting a traditional conference where sponsors expect something in return for their “investment” with sponsorship for this event — more like to making a donation — I tried to explain that sponsorship dollars should be given expecting nothing in return, at best in anticipation of a boomerang effect.

I tried to rebut “What the hell are you talking about?” by referencing the network economy   — “No, no, no! Not Kelly Services!”  — and abundance theory. After going at it non-stop for 30-minutes my patron-in-waiting was ready to give it up for Atlanta. Phew!

The discussion turned to money. Oh, dear.

“What do you mean I can give any amount that matches the value I place on supporting the network?”

“What do you mean my logo will be the same size as everyone elses regardless of how much I choose to give?”

“What do you mean I can’t pass out brochures or offer discounts or promote my stuff or tout for business?”

“Does Sumser know what you’re up to? What about his accountant?”

So, rather than try and explain it all again and confuse the dickens out of everyone let me simply ask:

If you would like to sponsor the Atlanta event or would like to support us in some other material way please send me an email at recruitingroadshow (at) gmail.com. The only thing I can promise in return is hero’s welcome on September 25th and a uniformly-sized logo on the sponsor’s page [in the works]. Maybe a press release or two. For sure, we’ll love you for it.

If on the other hand you think there are more deserving causes thank you for making your contributions there in recognition of this call for support. If you want a more deserving cause but can’t find one, visit Kiva.org and consider supporting them instead.

For my bamboozled benefactor I found this article in a recent BusinessWeek called Take Your PowerPoint And… It explains better than I ever could what unconferences are all about and why its perfectly okay to keep your money in your pocket:

Free classified ads on Craigslist threaten newspapers. Open-source software is gaining on Microsoft and Oracle. Now the convention business faces its own Web-inspired competition: the “unconference.”

Unconferences turn the plodding, predictable business gathering inside out. They’re a hybrid of a teach-in and a jam session, with a little show-and-tell mixed in, and they are attracting hundreds in cities like Austin, Tex., Bangalore, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tokyo. Unlike traditional, $1,000-a-head and up conferences, they’re totally unstructured—the agenda isn’t determined until the opening day of the event. Everyone who shows up is a potential speaker, and those who don’t speak contribute by posting photos, blog entries, podcasts, and video clips of the proceedings. Neckties and heels are noticeably absent. And attendance is almost always inexpensive or free.

See you at the Roadshow!

Posted by: Amitai Givertz


  1. Lavinia Weissman

    As a self-generated blog presenter, who will not appear physically in Atlanta (more likely on the West Coast), I found this posting somewhat humorous.

    What Ami, describes here, is an excellent example of this “futurists” predication that a new economy is emerging and we have no idea how the chaos will settle out—what is clear after reading the recent posts here and on Linked In, we are growing into a time where intangible assets, e.g. social networks are forming into value and that value will eventually translate into a P4P model of a value network.

    What I mean by this is that as Amitai, Don Ramer and Jon Sumser are sensing along with my very long time opinion in virtual space is that employment is moving into a new model that is not based on “the full-time life-long job.”

    In Germany there is now a basic income movement very alive where tax dollars will assure no German starves and is assured good health. This means that people are in essence funded by the State to be entreprenuers. Now you ask how do entreprenuers earn a living. They earn a living by delivering something of value to the marketplace that people are willing to pay for in forms of products, knowledge and service.

    Recruiters are now the “gatekeepers” to these associations and Amitai’s facilitation of this blog is truly defining what this term, first described by Karen Stephenson, http://www.workecology.com/thoughtleadership.html first gave definition to. For more on this thinking, go to
    http://www.workecology.com/resources.html and scroll down mid page to the articles listed under the discipline, “Social Network Analysis”.

    WorkEcology original view was that “like competent professionals” would emerge into professional associations that set wage levels, benefits and assured sustainable employment methodologies for today’s workers, where their portfolios could be view, a la http://www.linkedin.com.

    Our view today has shifted. WorkEcology is becoming a conversation whereby we will be investigating the new forms of employing talent and rewarding this talent as an indicator of value for investment in the sector of investments we now refer to as Social Responsible. It is my prediction that this growing sector, which now measures $2.3 Trillion of economy will rename itself Sustainably Responsible and by doing so will declare itself an economy where people and intelligence and competence are valued.

    Ami, I am sending you a check. WorkEcology is now happily a sponsor of The RoadShow! in all cities. Our logo is on its way to you in email.

    In support of the unconference, let WorkEcology be the first group to offer its free sharing knowledge to participants at this roadshow through our website.

    A new WorkEcology Practice, Applied Systems Thinking will launch by the end of this month. It is the first archived site on the application of Systems Thinking in any sector – commercial, government and NGO. As our curriculum grows we are more than pleased to offer it to the Roadshow.

    WorkEcology blog is now in design and will be previewed no later than January with a list of contributing authors who are part of our practice and reports that grow out of our Core Group Annual meeting to begin next Fall.

    Best to all,

  2. Thanks, Lavinia. I shall reply in a post and link to it here.

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