Unconferences and tea camps

I have yet to attend an unconference or a tea camp but people I know and admire have either organised or attended them. In my view, this is the way forward if you are looking for audience participation and high energy. I give it the Knowledge Maverick stamp of approval and one day soon, calendars permitting, I will attend in person.

I personally find traditional conferences less attractive these days, not least because of the cost to attend. These events are more about broadcasting and lecturing.

Unconferences and tea camps, on the other hand, lend an edge because things happen on the day. There is risk involved and as an attendee, you are party to its success or failure.

So what is an Unconference and a Tea Camp?

They appear to have originated with the technology sector and with the advent of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS), have been adopted by the cool kids working in the public sector.


unconferenceAn unconference, like UKgovcamp, is:

  • fun to attend
  • focussed on attendee participation
  • relentlessly positive, constructive and creative

The rules are:

  • have fun
  • vote with your feet
  • let everyone speak
  • follow their code of conduct

On the day:

After a quick introduction from the organisers, anyone can pitch a session. This is how they create the session grid (the agenda). All the sessions can be viewed online.

You get the idea. Only, things don’t always go according to plan. To see how it works in reality, I recommend the blogpost on “The unconference where we learn from unconferences“.

Insights at a glance:

Here’s another viewpoint, this time from one of the top civil servants in the U.K. Government on the valuable experience for senior management of unconferences .

You can also find out more by searching Twitter for #unconference.


#teacampA tea camp is held in a pre-booked corner of a coffeeshop. Just turn up on the day; it is open to everyone. It is very informal and friendly. If you are there for the first time or on your own, ask for the organisers and they will introduce you to some teacampers.

4.00 – 4.30pm:  free tea and cake, kindly provided by some lovely sponsor
4.30 – 4.40pm:  introductions and you can plug any events, projects, etc.
4.40 – 5.10pm:  speakers slot
5.10 – 6.00pm:  Q&A, group discussion
6.00pm: #beercamp in nearest pub

To find out more and see it in action online, #teacamp on Twitter.