unconference top tips

10 Top tips for running an Un-conference

There's loads of information on the web about running a successful Un-conference. Here's 10 top tips that we learnt, did, or would do next time.

Invite the speakers to be part of the day

Having a series of short (30 minutes) presentations really helped enable the conversations on the day but one of the hardest parts of leading the un-conference is having to interrupt people's enthusiastic conversations to fit them in. If speakers are part of the group discussions and so present for the whole day then there's more flexibility in when they present and so more chance to adapt to the flow of conversation.

Start the social media early

People were really keen to stay in touch after the event. Next time we will start the social media early so that this is already in place before the day. This might be something like a twitter hashtag or facebook group.

Invite the hosts

If hosting the event on hospital property, even though you might be independent, people might be interested to know what's happening on their turf. Invite the members of the audit department, clinical governance, and so on to see what's going on. They're likely to be impressed!

Pizza and coffee

Catering is a really important part of the day and something we had the least experience of. We bought loads of nibbles, pastries, and then got takeaway pizza deals. It keeps in with the spontaneity of the day, and may be cheaper than hospital facilities. Be sensitive to allergies, veggies, etc. And the filter coffee went down really well!

Space out the topics

If you get lots of suggestions for the live agenda, space them out through the day. A rough rule of thumb for the number of topics per session is (number of delegates) / 5.

Time vs Venue

Whilst it's nice to time your un-conference to coincide with people's maximal availability, the availability of the venue is likely to be the deciding factor.


A really successful aspect of the day was bringing together people from different specialties as well as clinical and non-clinical staff. Try to get a variety of attendees.

Finish the day with a day dream

At the end of the day we asked the delegates what would be their ideal outcome to the day and in response to the burning question. It sounds a bit airy fairy but really helped to finish the day on a high.

Plan ahead for the live agenda

Some people feel less comfortable talking in front of a large group than others. Invite people to send their questions in ahead of the day for someone else to deliver, or to just give people chance to mentally prepare. Also, it doesn't hurt to plant a few juicy conversation starters with delegates you might know just to help get the ball rolling. We found just chatting to people before the day got started, people would say they had no ideas and then just come up with a brilliant item for the live agenda as the day rolled on.

Be brave!

It's scary worrying that people won't turn up and it's scary worrying that people won't contribute to the live agenda. Have faith! Also, don't over schedule presentations just in case. We had three 30 minute talks and this seemed about right.